Light Wave


Finland closes last Russia border crossing, alleges ‘hybrid operation’ by Moscow

By Jake Beardslee · November 29, 2023

In brief…

  • Finland closed its last border crossing with Russia for 2 weeks over a surge in asylum seekers it blames on Moscow
  • Russia condemned the move and vowed counter-measures against the NATO member
  • Over 900 migrants entered Finland from Russia this month alone after a previous near-zero flow
  • It's unclear if Russian security services actively facilitated the migrant movements
Finland shut down its final border crossing with Russia, alleging a “hybrid operation” to channel migrants into the country and prompting Russian threats of retaliation.  Tuomas Vitikainenderivative work: Bonus bon/Wikimedia

Finland has shuttered the Raja-Jooseppi border checkpoint, the final crossing point with Russia, for two weeks starting Wednesday. The move brought condemnation from Moscow, which called it an “absolutely redundant measure,” BBC reported.

Helsinki justified the closure by claiming Russia has deliberately routed asylum seekers to Finland, calling it a “hybrid operation.” Around 900 migrants have entered Finland from Russia this month alone, drastically higher than the prior daily average of approximately one. Finland’s border guard says Russia had previously barred foreigners without proper visas from the border area.

Interior Minister Mari Rantanen defended the closure as “a matter of national security.” Poland’s National Security Bureau chief announced Wednesday that Polish military advisers will travel to Finland to share “on-site knowledge of border security” at Finland’s request.

Russia has vowed unspecified “counter-measures” against Finland since it joined NATO in April, ending decades of military non-alignment. “The Finns should bear in mind that this will represent a threat to us,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, referring to bolstered Finnish border security.

Temperatures have plunged to -30°C (-22°F) along the frontier, which is now covered by 20cm (8 inches) of snow in many sections. The EU border agency Frontex will deploy about 50 additional officers to assist with surveillance between checkpoints in the densely forested borderlands.

Migrant flows from Russia appeared to slow at some crossings after the initial shutdowns last week. RBC reported that around 200 migrants were bused from the Salla crossing to St. Petersburg after gathering there, some apparently holding soon-to-expire Russian student visas.

It remains unclear whether Russian authorities have directly facilitated the recent migrant movements. Last week, the EU Home Affairs Commissioner noted the situation’s similarity to Belarus’ 2020 effort to push asylum seekers into Poland and the Baltics.