Border patrol guards checking the land border of Vaalimaa, between Finland and Russia, one of the most important land border between the two countries (Picture: Giulio Paletta/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Finland has erected barriers at four crossings on its border with Russia in a bid to stem an increase in migrant crossings.
Officials in Helsinki say the the higher numbers of those seeking refuge has been deliberately orchestrated by Moscow.
Finland has directly accused Russian authorities of funnelling migrants to the crossings in retaliation for its decision to increase defence cooperation with the United States.
The assertion has since been dismissed by the Kremlin.
Barriers went up at midnight last night at four of the nine crossings with Russia, at Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala in its southeast.
The stations will remain closed to all traffic until February 18, the Finnish Border Guard said.
The first physical confrontation between border guards and migrants took place at Niirala border station before 7pm local time, more than an hour before the station’s closing time, Finland’s public broadcaster YLE reported.
Border patrol guards at the small village of Nuijamaa, around a three-hour drive from Helsinki, another land border crossing between Finland and Russia, where the two countries are seperated by water, by a canal (Picture: Giulio Paletta/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Four barriers have been set up at crossings between the two countries (Picture: Giulio Paletta/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
YLE witnessed one migrant being stopped with a chemical irritant and others being pushed back by border guards.
The incident happened after a group of some 30 migrants arrived at the Niirala station and tried to storm through the entry point from the Russian side.
‘Our aim is to use barrier devices to prevent entry,’ the Border Guard’s head of international affairs, Matti Pitkaniitty, told reporters.
The measures were a response to changes in Russia’s border policy, he added.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Finland was making a ‘big mistake’ by choosing a path of confrontation with Russia, state news agency TASS reported.
A view of border cross area in Imatra, Finland while construction of a fence was ongoing (Picture: Jakob Johannsen/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
‘(One can) only express deep regret that the Finnish authorities have taken the path of destroying bilateral relations,’ TASS quoted Peskov as saying.
Some 300 asylum seekers, mostly from Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria, have arrived in Finland this week, according to the Border Guard.
Nearly 100 had entered Finland from Russia by midday on Friday alone, officials said.
Finland shares a 1,340-km (833-mile) border with Russia that also serves as the EU’s external border.
Helsinki angered Moscow when it joined the NATO military alliance in April following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, after decades of non-alignment.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday thanked the Finnish authorities for protecting the bloc’s external border. ‘Russia’s instrumentalisation of migrants is shameful,’ she added.
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