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20 Apr, 2024 02:24

NATO member accuses Russia of exploiting migration

Finland’s prime minister claims that Moscow has used asylum seekers from the Middle East against the EU
NATO member accuses Russia of exploiting migration

Russia has engineered the influx of migrants from third countries in order to undermine the EU, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said on Friday. He stressed the need to strengthen the two countries' border, which has been closed for several months. 

Petteri made the comments during a visit to the frontier at Imatra, along with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. 

“We have to find common solutions to stop this phenomenon when Russia has used illegal immigrants against us. We are preparing our own legislation but we also need EU-level measures,” Orpo told reporters. He previously said the threat from the situation at the border was “evident,” and announced that the government was working on a deportation law. 

At a joint press conference, von der Leyen claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has set his sights on Finland” because of the country’s support for Ukraine and its recent accession to NATO. “Russia’s hybrid attacks are not just about Finland’s security. This is about the security of the entire EU,” she wrote on X (formerly Twitter). 

Finland shut down the border with Russia in December and has since extended the closure indefinitely. The Finnish authorities cited a spike in illegal crossings, as more than 1,200 migrants from 29 different countries have applied for asylum since August, according to official statistics. Most of them came from Syria, Somalia, and other Middle Eastern and African states. 

Russia has denied weaponizing migration, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accusing Helsinki of refusing cooperation between the countries’ border agencies.

The historically warm relations between the neighbors became severely strained after Finland, along with many Western states, imposed sanctions on Russia and began supplying Kiev with weapons. In a March interview with Russian media, Putin blamed the West for the breakdown of the previously “ideal relations” between Moscow and Helsinki. 

Last year, Finland abandoned its longstanding policy of nonalignment in favor of joining the US-led military bloc, whose expansion eastwards Russia sees as a threat to national security.