WHILE Russians seeking entry to Finland to avoid conscription have been a major topic of discussion recently, border officials have also detected an increase in the number of Ukrainians.
Matti Pitkäniitty, the head of international co-operation at the Finnish Border Guard, told Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday that there has been a “big spike” at the eastern border in the number of Ukrainians seeking temporary protection in Finland.
The increase has followed the “partial” mobilisation of the population announced on 21 September by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The busiest day occurred 10 days after the announcement, with the number of Ukrainians hitting 112. On other days, the number of arrivals has been a couple of dozen.
“The number of arrivals increased so much that we’ve set up a separate registration point together with the police and immigration officials in Joutseno,” Pitkäniitty said to Helsingin Sanomat.
The number remains low compared to the total number of Ukrainians who have sought refuge in Finland. The Finnish Immigration Service on Monday said that over 41,000 Ukrainians have sought temporary protection in Finland.
“What’s noteworthy here, however, is that Ukrainians have previously flowed into the country across the internal border, meaning through Estonia and Poland,” he said.
The phenomenon, he added, is likely explained by the change in the societal situation in Russia.
“The war was previously encapsulated by the ‘special military operation’ term in Russia, but the mobilisation has clearly made society part of the war. Also Ukrainians have thereby decided to mull over leaving. Also noteworthy is that they’ve been allowed to leave by Russia,” analysed Pitkäniitty.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT