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Interior minister: Finland should examine eastern border fence proposal

"No one thinks that the entire 1,300 kilometre-long border should be fenced off," minister Mikkonen noted.

Värriö Strict Nature Reserve in Lapland, with Russia in the distance. At more than 1,300km, Finland's border with Russia is the longest of any other country in the EU. Image: Elina Ervasti / Yle

Finland should examine the idea of constructing fencing along critical sensitive points of its eastern border, according to Minister of the Interior, Krista Mikkonen (Green).

Making the comments on Yle TV1's breakfast show on Tuesday morning, the minister was responding to a fresh report published by the Border Guard which suggested that a fence should be built to prevent unauthorised crossings from Russia.

While authorities can control who enters the country at border checkpoints, it is possible that Finland's long, unfenced border could be susceptible to unauthorised crossings, particularly if Russia ends up prohibiting people from leaving the country as has been rumoured.

The Border Guard's report illustrated stretches of the long border where the agency considers that fencing would be most useful.

Long border

"No one thinks that the entire 1,300 kilometre-long border should be fenced off. There are areas where [crossing] risks are higher," Mikkonen explained.

However, the minister noted that decisions about eventual fencing construction were not solely in the hands of the interior ministry, as the views of the entire government are necessary.

The cost of such fencing will depend on the length of each section, according to Mikkonen.

"The Border Guard laid out this plan, and it does not only discuss fences," she said, adding that the report mentioned the use of monitoring equipment and maintenance roads.

"We know that having barriers at border crossings and critical points [on the border] can be useful. I think it is important that the matter be looked into," Mikkonen said.

Preparedness

Ever since Russia's initial invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, Finland has boosted security resources, particularly among the Defence Forces and the Border Guard. Additionally, the Border Guard has also increased its training programmes.

However, the fact that Russians are continuing to enter the country has raised concerns among some people in Finland. Mikkonen said she understands such concerns, but noted that the number of Russians crossing the border these days is still lower than they were before the Covid crisis hit.

"The Border Guard can flexibly move personnel to where they are needed," Mikkonen explained, adding that the agency has ensured that there are adequate staffing levels at crossing points.

She also noted that border officials carry out strict checks of each individual that enters the country, and also ensure that the conditions for their entry are met.

"We also conduct enhanced surveillance of [border] terrain, and it will be noticed if someone attempts to cross the border," Mikkonen said.

Mass immigration scenario

Head of the Border Guard, Major General Pasi Kostamovaara, told Yle TV current affairs programme A-studio on Monday evening that building barriers along the easter border would be a worthwhile way to prepare for difficult entry scenarios.

He said fences would be helpful if a large-scale or an orchestrated unauthorised immigration effort were to occur, for example.

"In those circumstances, a physical barrier is very necessary, if not absolutely necessary, to control the situation," Kostamovaara said.

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