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Russian border guard to STT: Russian security service behind northeast asylum traffic

Finnish news agency STT reports a Russian border guard's confession that the transport of asylum seekers to Finland’s two northeast border crossings is being orchestrated by the Russian Federation’s Federal Security Service, the FSB. Families with children are given priority, the source said. Finnish authorities have suspected for some time that the transfer of asylum seekers from Russia to Finland has been part of a carefully organised operation.

Afganistanilaiset Nazirulhag (vas) ja Rahmatullah odottelivat puomiasemalla 3 kilometriä Alakurtista itään lauantaina 23. tammikuuta 2016 Venäjän rajavartiolaitoksen lupaa päästä jatkamaan matkaansa Suomeen Sallan Kelloselän raja-asemalle.
Afghan nationals Nazirulhag (left) and Rahmatullah wait at a boom station three kilometers east of Alakurtti, Russia on January 23, 2016 for permission from the Russian Border Guard  to continue on with their trip to Finland's Salla border crossing. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

The Tampere-based newspaper Aamulehti reported on Saturday that a Russian border guard told the Finnish news agency STT that the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) has arranged asylum seeker access to the Finnish border. The FSB organises the traffic in concert with the Kandalaksha district administration of Russia's Murmansk region and the Russian Border Guard.

The board guard source says the FSB decides which car moves at what time and how it can proceed to the border. The state-sponsored organisation gives priority to families with small children, the source reveals.

An STT photographer who visited the Russian side of the Salla border crossing told the Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat that he had seen asylum seekers waiting in their cars in the Russian city of Alakurtti, located about 70 kilometres from the border. The photographer said there were dozens of cars with asylum seekers waiting there, cut off by a boom that allowed other cars to pass.

The Finnish commercial television station MTV says the photographer later picked up a Border Guard employee whose car had stalled in the cold. During their journey together, the Russian guard told the Finn about the Russian asylum seeker operation.

Finns suspected organised activity

Several Finnish authorities have gone public recently with their suspicion that the transfer of asylum seekers from Russia to Finland is an organised effort. On Yle’s morning programme Saturday, MEPs Jussi Halla-aho and Petri Sarvamaa said they believe Russia is using the migrant crisis to gain foreign policy leverage.

Foreign Minister Timo Soini met with officials at the Lapland border stations early Saturday morning and said the visit confirmed his suspicion that the asylum seeker traffic there is arranged by Russian enablers.

“The impression that someone is organising and regulating things on the Russian side is probably true. Border guard employees don’t play politics, they jointly take care of cross-border traffic. It is quite obvious that activity like this is a managed effort,” he said.

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