Finland has started construction of a fence along its border with Russia, the Finnish Border Guard (RAJA), announced on February 28th.
Finland shares the longest border with Russia of any EU-member state, stretching approximately 1,300 kilometres on a mostly north-south axis.
Construction will begin “with forest clearance and will proceed in such a way that road construction and fence installation can be started in March,” RAJA said in a press release.
The fence, which RAJA completed a study on last year and already received most of the needed funding for, is a response to “changes in the Finnish security environment” and is designed to help protect the country in the event of mass migration flows. In the lead-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Belarus is believed to have weaponized migrants by taking advantage of their distress by bringing large groups to the Polish border, which the migrants attempted to breach.
“The fence will not be built along the entire length of the border, but in riskier areas, such as border crossing points and their adjacent areas,” RAJA explained. “The main part of the fence would be in the focus area of border control in Southeast Finland.”
The interspersed fencing will reach between 130 and 260 kilometres in length and will include surveillance systems.
Most of the Russian-Finnish border runs through uninhabited forests and sparsely populated rural areas without any natural features to separate the two national territories. In the very south of Finland, the important Russian port city of St. Petersburg sits just 200 kilometres from the Finnish border.
RAJA emphasised that barriers have already been built along other national borders that also serve as EU borders.
The pilot project getting underway this month is situated in Pelkola, at the Imatra border crossing point near St. Petersburg. It is expected to be complete by the end of June.
Construction of the rest of the fence will take place between 2023 and 2025.
RAJA has set up a dedicated website about the eastern border fence, where the public can stay updated on the progress of the project.