Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) briefed the media about the situation at the eastern border in Helsinki on Wednesday, 22 November 2023. Finland, he declared, will close all except the northernmost checkpoint of Raja-Jooseppi in Inari, Finnish Lapland. (Seppo Samuli – Lehtikuva)

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THE GOVERNMENT of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) on Wednesday announced it has decided to close three additional crossing points on the border between Finland and Russia as of Friday, 24 November.

The Kuusamo, Salla and Vartius border-crossing points will stay closed until 23 December 2023.

The decision means all traffic across the border must go through the northernmost crossing point, Raja-Jooseppi in Inari, Finnish Lapland. Located roughly 300 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, the point has been open four hours a day and registered no more than a few dozen crossings a week, Ville Ahtiainen, a deputy commander at the Lapland Border Guard District, stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday.

Orpo said yesterday at a press conference that the government is monitoring the border situation closely and remains ready to take further action in response to new developments.

“Raja-Jooseppi is the northernmost border-crossing point. It does take a bit of an effort to get there,” he remarked.

The government last week closed the border-crossing points of Imatra, Niirala, Nuijamaa and Vaalimaa, concentrating the receipt of asylum applications at Vartius in Kuhmo and in Salla, Lapland. Orpo said the closures have proven insufficient, pointing to an increase in the number of asylum applicants at the two border crossings.

“We have to regulate the number of people we can bring in,” he argued.

Orpo also said the government can close the entire eastern border if necessary, but that so far the criteria for the closure have not been satisfied. He will present a prime minister’s statement to parliament on the border situation on Thursday.

Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) stated at the press conference that the additional closures are required to guarantee public order and security, as well as national security.

It is possible, she added, that the situation at the border remains challenging or even exacerbates: “It’s good to keep in mind that the situation can change rapidly. The situation has to be monitored constantly, and you can either relax or step up the restrictions on that basis.”

Ahtiainen from the Lapland Border Guard District told Helsingin Sanomat earlier on Wednesday that staff at Raja-Jooseppi have yet to start preparing for the possibility that the crossing point could become the only open point on the border.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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