Finland starts construction of barrier to secure border with Russia

Finland will construct a formidable fence along parts of the Russian border, following a shift in the country’s security policy

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Roma Bojanowicz/PAP
Finland's border guards walk at the construction site of the border barrier fence between Finland and Russia near the Pelkola border crossing point in Imatra, southeastern Finland, Friday, April 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Finland has begun the construction of its planned 200-kilometer border barrier with Russia to boost security.

“We will secure 15 percent of the over the 1,300-kilometer-long border with Russia in critical areas,” Ismo Kurki, the head of the barrier construction project, told Polish Press Agency (PAP).

Although Finland discussed constructing a barrier on its eastern border when Estonia did a few years ago, it was not deemed necessary at the time, explained Kurki, who is the former commander of the Border Guard unit in southeastern Finland from 2016 to 2019.

The headquarters in the town of Imatra monitors the busiest section where transportation from the regions of St. Petersburg and Moscow converges. This area will see the majority of the planned barrier constructed.

After Russia’s attack on Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Kurki, who had been retired for two and a half years, returned to the Border Guard to lead the barrier construction project, as security policy in Finland had changed.

Finland has been closely monitoring Poland’s struggle with the instrumental use of migrants and hybrid operations by Belarus in the autumn of 2021, which Kurki explained was another reason for the barrier construction. The Finnish government was initially skeptical of securing the border with Russia, citing a lack of profitability, difficult terrain, and climate.

However, its position changed in 2022 following Russian aggression against Ukraine; the Border Guard regulations were amended to allow the Border Guard “to prevent entry into Finland when there is reasonable suspicion of foreign influence.” Ismo Kurki said this change in the law allowed the construction of the barrier to begin.

Preparatory work began in late February and March, clearing land for the first test section of the barrier at the Pelkola border crossing in the Imatra region. A 300-meter pilot section is also under construction at a local military barracks, where monitoring techniques, lighting and sound systems will be tested.

By the end of June, the pilot section is expected to be completed, followed by securing over 70 kilometers of the border in the first phase of construction. This will cover approximately 55 kilometers in southern and southeastern Finland, 7 kilometers in North Karelia, and 10 kilometers further north towards Lapland.

The barrier’s total length, planned to be built by 2026, will be around 200 kilometers, mainly in areas near existing border posts, crossings, and transportation routes based on risk analysis. It will be over 3 meters high and have barbed wire mounted on “Y”-shaped frames at the top.

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