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Russian, Finnish interior ministers meet amid rising border worries

As the main influx of migrants into Finland switches from its western to eastern border, officials have expressed concern that Russia is orchestrating the flow of asylum seekers into Finland.

Petteri Orpo ja Vladimir Kolokoltsev
Petteri Orpo and Vladimir Kolokoltsev Image: Lehtikuva ja EPA

Finland's Minister of the Interior Petteri Orpo will meet his Russian opposite number, Colonel Vladimir Kolokoltsev for the first time on Tuesday. The Interior Ministry has not announced where the meeting will take place. On Sunday and Monday Orpo joined other EU interior and justice ministers in Amsterdam for an urgent meeting on the migrant crisis.

Kolokoltsev, a former Moscow Police Commissioner, has been Minister of Internal Affairs since mid-2012. Former agriculture minister Orpo took over the Finnish Interior portfolio last summer.

The two are to discuss bilateral cooperation in immigration issues among other topics.

In December the Interior Ministry's highest-ranking civil servant, Päivi Nerg, met with Russia's deputy interior minister in Moscow to prepare for the ministerial meeting.

"Worried about eastern border"

Orpo has said that Finland now faces two main challenges in the refugee crisis: migrants arriving from the west, who have entered the EU through the western Balkans and on the other hand increasing numbers of asylum seekers coming over the eastern border.

"We're worried about what has happened on the eastern border and changes seen on northern border crossing points," Orpo said on Sunday in Amsterdam.

Foreign Minister Timo Soini has said that "illegal immigration" on the eastern border must be brought to a halt, and has not ruled out closing northern border crossing points. The Finns Party chair said that the increased asylum seeker traffic from Russia into Lapland was due to organised crime.

On Saturday the Finnish news agency STT quoted a Russian border guard as saying that Russia’s Federal Security Service is arranging the transport of asylum seekers to Finland’s two northeast border crossings. On January 17, a suspected asylum seeker was found dead, apparently frozen to death in a car some 70 kilometres east of the Finnish border.

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