Finland passes legislation to strengthen security on Russian border

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Finnish parliament passed legislation Thursday to build stronger fences on its border with Russia, as the country seeks to join NATO following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Finland reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in the military alliance in May, formally starting the process to join this week.

Fearing that Moscow could use migrants to exert political pressure, the new amendments to Border Guard Act facilitate the construction of sturdier fences on the Nordic country’s 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) eastern border with Russia.

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The aim of the law is to “improve the operational capacity of the border guard in responding to the hybrid threats,” Anne Ihanus, a senior adviser at the interior ministry, told AFP.

“The war in Ukraine has contributed to the urgency of the matter,” she added.

As it stands, Finland’s borders are secured primarily with light wooden fences, mainly designed to stop livestock from wandering to the wrong side.

“What we are aiming to build now is a sturdy fence with a real barrier effect,” Sanna Palo, director of the Finnish border guards’ legal division, told AFP.

“In all likelihood, the fence will not cover the entire eastern border, but will be targeted at locations considered to be the most important,” Palo said.

The new law makes it also possible to close border crossings and concentrate asylum seekers at specific points, in the event of large-scale crossover attempt.

Helsinki also passed amendments to Emergency Powers Act to make the definition of “emergency” better take account of various hybrid threats.

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