When they reopened a small portion of Finland’s border with Russia on Tuesday, Finnish authorities said that they would be on the watch: If Moscow resumed funneling migrants, they would shut it again. Two days later, they announced a plan to close it, saying dozens of migrants were arriving.
“Illegal entry on the Finnish border has immediately resumed,” Finland’s interior minister, Mari Rantanen, said at a news conference on Thursday. “It is imperative that we close the eastern border.”
They said all crossings would close on Friday evening and stay closed until January 14.
The friction along the 830-mile border between Finland and Russia has become the flashpoint of the strained relationship that the two countries have had since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and Finland’s joining of NATO earlier this year.
Finland had progressively closed the border starting in mid-November, and sealed all its land crossings for travelers at the end of the month, after accusing Russia of helping hundreds of asylum seekers mostly from Africa and the Middle East reach the border in an attempt to destabilize Finland.
Finnish authorities said a large influx of refugees would put their reception facilities under stress, polarize society and add to the risk that criminals or “radicalized people” could come in.
Russian authorities called these allegations unsubstantiated.
Finnish public opinion largely supported the closings, polls showed, although some left-wing opposition politicians objected that Finland was not fulfilling its obligations to provide international protection.
But after weeks of increased security, Finland announced on Tuesday that the influx had stopped, and that it reopened the border to check if Russia had ended its “operation.”
The border will close again from 8 p.m. local time on Friday.
Poland and Baltic countries have in the past also accused Belarus of helping migrants enter, using them as a political weapon. Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, deployed staff to support security at Finland’s border. The agency said that the security at the border between Russia and Finland, which is part of the bloc, was “a matter of collective European concern.”