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23 Nov, 2023 13:01

Another Russian neighbor threatens border closure

Norway is considering the move as Finland accuses Moscow of exacerbating the migrant crisis
Another Russian neighbor threatens border closure

Norway could close its only border crossing with Russia, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store has warned, according to the country's TV2 channel. The threat comes amid worsening relations between the Scandinavian states and Russia. Finland is set to close all but one border crossing with its eastern neighbor.

Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Store announced that Oslo would close Norway’s Storskog checkpoint, the only one on the country's 200km border with Russia, “if necessary.”

Finland has already said it will close all but one border crossing with Russia, maintaining only its northernmost Raja-Jooseppi checkpoint. The crossings in Kuusamo, Salla, and Vartius will be closed as of midnight Friday, November 24, following the closure of four others last week.

Helsinki cited an alleged increase in the number of migrants – mostly from the Middle East and Africa – attempting to cross into Finland from Russia.

Finnish defense minister, Antti Hakkanen, accused Russia of attempting to “accelerate the migrant crisis in Europe and destabilize its unity,” a claim which Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed as “completely baseless.”

Last week, Norway’s minister of justice, Emilie Enger Mehl, told national news agency NTB that “it may be appropriate for us to close the border at short notice if necessary.” She added that traffic at the Storskog checkpoint has remained low throughout the autumn. 

Hundreds of Finnish citizens, many of whom have relatives living in Russia, have protested against the checkpoint closures, according to national outlet Yle. One protester was quoted as saying that “we have the right to family ties. It is very cruel to make such a decision before Christmas.”

Finland became NATO’s newest member when it joined the US-led military bloc in April. Its membership was originally set to be decided in a referendum by President Sauli Niinisto. However, the government went ahead with the decision anyway, citing opinion polls.

Zakharova said on Telegram that “when the time came for action, they didn’t ask the public, and did exactly what Washington told them… or did I miss something, and the referendum on Finland joining NATO happened after all?”