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Interior Minister: Night Wolves allowed to transit Finland had valid visas

Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen has moved to clear the air over a decision by the Finnish Border Guard to allow members of a Russian motorcycle group to transit through Finland to commemorate the end of the second world war in Germany. Räsänen told Yle that the two bikers were not the same individuals who were turned back at the Polish border and that decisions to allow the right of transit are based on law, not politics.

Pävi Räsänen kuuntelee huolestuneena
Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen cleared the air over a decision by the Finnish Border Guard to allow tow members of the Night Wolves motorcycle club to transit through the country. Image: Nina Keski-Korpela / Yle

According to Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen, each member of the Schengen area makes its own border crossing decisions on the basis of the joint rules governing the free movement bloc.

Räsänen told Yle that the two members of the Night Wolves who were allowed to cross the Finnish border had recently-issued visas to Germany. She added that the bikers who came to Finland were not members of the Moscow branch of the Putin-friendly motorcycle club. She noted that two other members of the group who were turned away from the Polish border belonged to the Moscow chapter.

Räsänen also observed that the Border Guard’s decisions on border crossings are made on a case-by-case basis and on the basis of law.

“They are not political, but official decisions that are based on law and Schengen regulations. And since they are made on a case-by-case basis at the border, there may be variations in the decisions. It’s quite possible that a member of the Night Wolves could be turned away in Finland,” she explained.

No contact with political leadership

Other EU states have condemned the plan by the Putin-friendly Night Wolves group to travel to Berlin to honour Russian soldiers who fought during the Second World War.

Poland received a tongue-lashing from the Russian Foreign Ministry when it refused to allow some of the club members to transit through its borders. Räsänen said that Russia’s reaction had had no impact on the Finnish Border Guard.

“It had no influence; these have been purely official decisions. When these decisions were made there was no contact made with political leaders,” the minister stressed.

She added that an essential part of border security checks for third-country nationals involves ensuring that the person crossing the border has the necessary valid travel documents – a passport and visa – as well as the funds required to stay in the destination country. A third-country national is defined as an individual from a country outside of the Nordics, the European Union, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

“It’s also important to ensure that any vehicle or goods belonging to the third-party national does not pose a risk to public order, internal security, or international relations in any member state,” Räsänen remarked.

Closer coordination among Schengen states

The much-publicised plan by the Night Wolves biker gang to travel to Berlin has resulted in closer cooperation between the Finnish Border Guard and other Schengen members, particularly Germany, Räsänen said.

“In making important (border crossing) decisions, it’s important not to allow individuals into the Schengen area who would endanger the security and public order of any country,” the minister noted.

She also pointed out that the bikers who transited through Finland were not the same ones who were turned away in Poland.

Räsänen: "No need for thanks" from Night Wolf chief

On Saturday Night Wolf leader Alexander "the surgeon" Saldostanov praised and thanked Finland for the decision to allow the motorcyclists across the border. Räsänen said that there was no need gratitude.

“There’s no need for any kind of special thanks. In this case, Finland followed the common EU rules and jointly-agreed border regulations and is also in contact with other EU countries,” she observed.

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