Chaos on Finnish border as travellers rush to cross before closure

Cars stand in lines as traffic jams towards Russia at the Vaalimaa border check point between Finland and Russia in Virolahti, Finland on December 15, 2023. The check point was re-opened on December 14, 2023, but will be closed again in the evening of December 15, 2023, because of the continuing influx of third country migrants via Russia. (Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP via Getty Images)

Huge lines and hours of waiting for the people trying to make it across the Russian-Finnish border ahead of today’s indefinite closure. Among the travellers is also a big number of migrants without valid travel documents to Finland.

“Between Torfyanovka and Valimaa is a huge line towards Finland. Both cars and buses in the line. Migrants with bicycles move outside of the line,” a Russian man waiting to cross the border reported on a Telegram channel on Friday shortly before noon.

Photos from site show a major number of cars in the area between the Russian Torfyanovka border-crossing point and Finland’s Valimaa.

Judging from the images, the many cars and the migrants have created a chaotic situation

“There are very migrants here. I counted about 100 people along the road. They do not slow the line on the Russian side. Most of them are from Syria (I have talked with them myself),” the Russian traveler said.

It is the last day open border between the two countries. After only one day of operation, the Finnish Government in the evening of the 14th of December announced that the two border-crossing points of Valimaa and Niirala would again close. The closure comes into affect at 8 pm on the 15th of December.

Russia allowed almost 100 new migrants to pass to border on Thursday 

The decision comes after Russia’s FSB border guards let almost 100 migrants without valid documents pass through the Russian side on December 14th.

“This is a sign that the Russian authorities are continuing their hybrid operation against Finland. This is something that Finland will not tolerate,” said Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen at a presser in Helsinki.

Finland will close its eastern border with Russia, its interior minister said on December 14, 2023, hours after reopening it following a spike in migrant crossings that Helsinki has labelled a Russian hybrid attack. (Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP via Getty Images)

Finland had held the border-crossing points closed for almost three weeks when the country’s government early this week announced that the Vaalimaa and Niirala crossing points would reopen on the 14th of December. But Prime Minister Petteri Orpo underlined that it was part of a test.

“We cannot tell whether things have changed for the better without lifting some restrictions. That is why, after careful consideration, we are opening two border crossing points in a controlled manner.”

That test now appears to be completed with a negative result. The border-crossing points will again be closed. Indefinitely.

Bid to de-stabilise country, says Finland

The situation comes after more than 900 migrants in only few months made it from Russia to Finland. On November 18, the government announced the closure of four checkpoints in the south. Only four days later, three more checkpoints were closed, including the Salla border-crossing point in Lapland. On November 30, also the last remaining border-crossing point, the far northern Raja-Jooseppi, was closed.

Finnish authorities are confident that the flows of migrants are orchestrated by Moscow as part of a bid to de-stabilise the situation in the neighbouring country. Normally, people without valid visas are not allowed into the Russian border zone by the FSB Border Guard Service. Now, however, the border guards let migrants through the checkpoints without the travel documents.

Normally, there are eight border-crossing points open for travellers between Finland and Russia.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: U.S. report claims Trudeau told NATO Canada will never meet military spending target, CBC News

Finland: Finland announces new Russian border closure, Yle News

Norway: British & Norwegian F-35s scrambled in North to intercept Russian military plane, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Putin beefs up naval nuclear arsenal, promises more subs, The Independent Barents Observer

United Kingdom: UK urged to bolster Arctic defense as grey-zone threats rise: report, Eye on the Arctic

United States: First U.S. deep water port for the Arctic to host cruise ships, military, The Associated Press

Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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