Back in November, Finland closed part of its border and accused Russia of trying to stir up trouble by sending migrants on bicycles to border crossings. Why bicycles? It seems that Russia has been bringing these migrants across the entire country (none of them are Russian) and then giving them bikes to travel the last few miles on their own. There’s video of Russian authorities handing out bikes from the back of a van.
There are no Russians trying to cross the border. They’re sending people without necessary travel documents from countries like Yemen, Somalia and Syria.
Russia is taking advantage of poor people in the middle of winter, in freezing temperatures. 4/ pic.twitter.com/WMWE08VP8L
— Emil Kastehelmi (@emilkastehelmi) November 19, 2023
Last year the total number added up to about 1,000 migrants but Finland saw it as a kind of hybrid warfare by Russia. Not enough to escalate the situation to greater conflict, but enough to create an ongoing problem for Finland. So they closed all of its border crossing except one. Finland was supposed to have one crossing open for asylum-seekers so they left the northernmost border crossing open, way up in the Arctic Circle. You’ve never guess what happened. Russia started sending migrants there so Finland closed that one too on Nov. 28.
In mid-December, with no more people on bikes arriving at the border crossings, Finland reopened the border. Wouldn’t you know it, the same day migrants on bikes started showing up in droves. Finland immediately closed the border again. It was literally only open for one day but that day it was flooded with new migrants.
“We’re a liberal democracy and we said, we’ll open the crossings on December 14. So, the Russians just waited until we opened them,” retired Major General Pekka Toveri, a former Finnish military intelligence chief and recently elected member of the Finnish parliament, told me. “But the border agreement we have with Russia says a border closure must have 24 hours’ notice. 24 hours is a long time. You can push a lot of people across the border,” he said.
And that is exactly what came to pass. When Helsinki closed the border again a short time later, on December 15, more than 200 asylum seekers had already presented themselves to Finnish border guards.
Finland’s border is set to reopen this Sunday the 14th. You can bet that Russia has hundreds of migrants already lined up to collect their bikes and head to the border once again.
So on one hand, Politico says Finland has dealt with the problem quickly by refusing to pretend it isn’t happening or that Russia isn’t behind it. On the other hand, Russia has still created a problem by forcing them to close the border which creates a real inconvenience for people living in Finland who want to travel to Russia to visit relatives. Some Russians living in Finland held demonstrations.
“It’s your fault! And NATO’s fault. Why would this be Putin’s or Russia’s fault? It’s your fault,” said Marzhan Kakimova, a Russian who’s been living in Finland for three decades, telling Finnish public broadcasting she wanted to visit her sister in Russia…
“If we close the border for a long time, they’ll try something else,” Toveri said. “They will keep acting, and we’ll keep reacting. They’re already using Russians living in Finland to discredit Finland.”
This is Russia’s way to harass his western neighbors.