Finland Temporarily Closes Border with Russia Amid Migrant Crisis and Accusations of ‘Hybrid Warfare’

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A view of closed gates at the Raja-Jooseppi crossing, in northern Finland on Friday. (Emmi Korhonen/Lehtikuva/Reuters)

Finland has announced the temporary closure of its entire 1,340-kilometre border with Russia. This unprecedented step comes amid allegations from the Finnish government that Moscow is orchestrating a ‘hybrid attack’ by directing a surge of asylum seekers towards Finnish borders.

Unusual Migrant Influx and Government Response

According to Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, more than 800 asylum seekers, mainly from countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia, have arrived at Finnish border crossings in November alone, marking a significant increase from previous months. In response, the Finnish government has shuttered its border crossings, with the Raja-Jooseppi checkpoint, Finland’s northernmost crossing with Russia, being the latest to close.

“This is Russia’s influence operation and we do not accept it,” Orpo stated in a press conference. He emphasized that the influx of migrants is a coordinated effort by Russia, aimed at destabilizing Finland following its NATO membership.

From left: Maj Gen Matti Sarasmaa of the border guard, Prime Minister Petteri Orpo, and Finland’s interior minister Mari Rantanen at a press conference in Helsinki on Tuesday. Photograph: Lehtikuva/Reuters

Accusations Against Russia

Finnish officials, including Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen, have accused Russia of ‘instrumentalizing migrants’ as part of its ‘hybrid warfare.’ “Finland has a profound reason to suspect that the entry [of migrants] is organized by a foreign state,” Orpo added, explicitly blaming Russia for the situation.

In contrast, Russian officials have denied these allegations. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the claims “completely baseless,” asserting that Russia “has never in its recent history threatened Finland.”

Finnish border guards escort migrants at the Raja-Jooseppi checkpoint, which will be the last of Finland’s border crossings with Russia to close as a result of a recent increase of migrant arrivals at Finland’s eastern border. (Emmi Korhonen/Lehtikuva/The Associated Press)

International Reaction and Concerns

The closure of the border has raised concerns about its legality under international law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Nordic and Baltic countries warned that a complete closure barring asylum seekers would contravene international law and the principle of non-refoulement.

However, Prime Minister Orpo maintained that the measure is a “necessary and proportionate” response to the situation. He referred to intelligence indicating ongoing movements of people towards the Finnish border, despite the closures.

Migrants arrive with bicycles at the border crossing between Finland and Russia, in Salla, Finland, on Thursday. (Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva/The Associated Press)

Wider European Context

The situation in Finland mirrors concerns in other European countries. Estonia’s Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur described a similar influx of migrants as a “fully state-orchestrated” operation by Russia. In contrast, Norway, sharing borders with both Finland and Russia, reported no irregularities.

The crisis is seen as a broader threat to European democracies, potentially pushing nations to reconsider their commitments to providing asylum and highlighting the fragility of democratic systems.