By James Frater and Xiaofei Xu, CNN
Finland, one of the few NATO countries sharing a border with Russia, has announced a proposal to spend 139 million euros ($143 million) on building barrier fences on its eastern border with Russia in 2023, the Finnish Border Guard said Friday.
“In the assessment of the Finnish Border Guard, the changed security environment has made it necessary to construct a barrier fence along part of the eastern border,” the border guard said in a statement.
“If Russia reduces its border control, this may cause additional pressure at the Finnish end to control illegal entry. Finland cannot rely on the effectiveness of Russian border control,” the statement said.
The planned border fence will stretch for a distance of 130 to 260 kilometers (80 to 161 miles) — only part of the 830-mile-long border it shares with Russia — and will come with accompanying surveillance equipment and a patrol road as well.
The construction of such a fence is expected to take three to four years and it can endure for roughly 50 years, according to the Finnish Border Guard.
A pilot section will be built in Imatra starting in spring 2023.
Helsinki has increasingly restricted crossings on the eastern border it shares with Russia.
The Finnish border was one of the few entry points for Russians after many Western countries shut their air space and borders to Russian planes in response to the Ukraine invasion.
It closed its border to Russia at the end of September, around the time traffic over the Finland-Russia land frontier intensified as Russians tried to flee Vladimir Putin’s “partial mobilization” of hundreds of thousands of citizens to fight in the war.
“The Government deems that the Russian mobilization and the rapidly increasing volume of tourists arriving in Finland and transiting via Finland endanger Finland’s international position and international relations,” Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote in a statement at the time.
It said while the “resolution aims to stop tourism and related transit from Russia altogether” it “will not prevent traveling when it is deemed necessary for humanitarian reasons, for national interests or for meeting Finland’s international obligations.”
According to a November press release by the Finnish Border Guard, “the amount of entries has decreased significantly after the restrictions came into force.”
On September 29, some 8,583 Russian citizens crossed into Finland’s eastern border from Russia. That figure dropped to 1,700 when border restrictions began on September 30, according to the border guard’s statistics.
On Friday, the Finnish Border Guard’s head of international affairs Matti Pitkaniitty said on Twitter that the proposed barrier fence “is much more than just a fence. It is whole new border infrastructure and new approach to border surveillance.
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