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Trial fence on Finland-Russia border nearing completion, one month behind schedule

Finland ultimately plans to build a fence that will cover stretches totalling about 200 kilometres of the 1,300-km-long border with Russia.

Photo shows a section of the 4-metre-tall border fence with barbed wire on top.
Construction on the three-kilometre-long trial fence began earlier this year. Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle
Yle News

The construction of a trial fence on Finland's eastern border with Russia is nearing completion, but will be delayed by about one month, the Finnish Border Guard said on Tuesday.

The authority began building the three-kilometre-long fence in Pelkola, near the city of Imatra, in April to test the functionality of such a barrier. Finland ultimately plans to build a fence that will cover stretches totalling about 200 kilometres of the country's 1,300-km border with Russia.

At a press conference held on Tuesday morning, Border Guard project manager Ismo Kurki said that the trial fence is expected to be completed by the end of July, about a month behind schedule, and will be put into operational use at the beginning of August.

"The fence foundations are almost 100 percent complete, and the fence's nets and posts are almost entirely in place. A cylinder barrier has yet to be placed on top of the fence and technical supervision has yet to be built," Kurki said.

Photo shows members of the media viewing the trial border fence.
The Finnish Border Guard provided an update on the fence's construction to the media on Tuesday morning. Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

He added that the slight delay in the trial fence's construction is being caused by a number of different factors.

"We wanted the fence to be completed as quickly as possible, so that we could gain experience for the future. We also wanted to find bottlenecks in the procurement process, material deliveries and the construction itself," Kurki explained.

Photo shows a stack of fence railings waiting to be put in place.
Some parts of the fence are still waiting to be put in place. Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

Next stage: 70 km of fencing

Once the trial fence is in place and its functionality tested, the Border Guard will move on to the next stage of the 200-km construction project, which involves building about 75 kilometres of fencing along a different part of the eastern border.

Overall, the fence is intended to prevent illegal border crossings and to counter possible so-called hybrid influencing efforts, such as those along Belarus's borders with Poland and the Baltic states since mid-2021.

Work on the next phase is expected to begin before the end of this year in Finnish Lapland, near the Salla border crossing, and the tendering process has already begun.

"We have just sent out requests for comments to landowners about our plans for a fence. Construction is scheduled for August-November," Kurki said.

The Border Guard will also consult with landowners in other areas around border crossing points later this year. In addition to southeast Finland and Finnish Lapland, sections of the fence are also planned for the regions of North Karelia and North Ostrobothnia.

The felling of trees and the construction of roads will begin in early 2024, with actual construction work starting after remaining snow melts. The entire 70-kilometre section could be completed by summer of 2025, Kurki noted.

"About 50 kilometres of that will be here in southeast Finland, and there will be shorter sections of fence further north," he said.

Photo shows two border guards standing in front of a section of fencing, which is about 4 metres tall.
The border fence, topped with barbed wire, is about four metres high. Image: Mikko Savolainen / Yle

When the Border Guard published photos of the fence earlier this month, the images led to quite a stir on Finnish social media, with many users commenting on the flimsy looking nature of the barrier and saying that it resembled a "dog park fence".

The Border Guard responded to the criticism by arguing that the photos showed an unfinished fence and therefore did not give a true representation of all the construction's features.

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