Defence Minister: Up to one million migrants could leave Russia

Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö says he’s concerned about the number of illegal migrants crossing the border from Russia into Finland. Niinistö told a meeting of NATO defence ministers that the situation is challenging and could see up to one million people crossing the eastern border.

Jussi Niiinistö
Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

Speaking at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels Wednesday evening, Finnish Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö said that the movement of asylum seekers into the country across the Russian border is Finland’s biggest challenge.

"The illegal migration via the eastern border is undeniably our most serious challenge," the minister said.

Niinistö noted that so far the number of people who have crossed the border into Finland has been small, but he said that the numbers could continue to grow.

"In practice the potential is limitless. From hundreds of thousands to a million people, who are ready to move out of Russia. In that sense the situation is worrying. Not just for Finland but for other European countries," he added.

Niinistö stated that if the movement of people spreads beyond Finland the challenge would be pan-European. He said however that he does not see a role for NATO in calming the eastern border situation, but said that the military alliance could influence the security situation in the Baltic Sea.

The minister said that he hoped that increased NATO activity close to Finland would stabilise rather than add tension to the situation.

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