Finnish border guard officials have announced that construction of a planned barbed wire fence along Finland’s long border with Russia will begin early next year, amid concerns in the Scandinavian country about the changing security environment in Europe.
The initial three-kilometer stretch of fence will be erected at a crossing point in the eastern town of Imatra by summer 2023. It will eventually extend to a maximum of 200 kilometers.
Finland’s 1,340-kilometer border with Russia is the longest of any EU member state.
In October, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said there was consensus among lawmakers to build a fence to cover parts of the border with Russia in a project estimated to have a total cost of €380 million and due to be completed by 2026.
According to Marin, the main purpose of the fence is to help border guards monitor and prevent potentially large-scale illegal immigration that is seen as a hybrid threat from Moscow.
Its government has never publicly cited Russia’s war in Ukraine or Finland’s decision to join NATO as a reason for building a fence. But Helsinki is concerned about developments in both Russia and Ukraine, as well as Moscow’s threats of retaliation if Finland joins the military alliance.
Politicians and experts have said it is not reasonable – or even possible – to erect a fence along Finland’s long eastern border that runs mainly through dense forests. In some places, the Finnish-Russian border is marked only by wooden posts with low fences intended to stop stray cattle.
The fence, initially proposed by the Finnish Border Guard, is to be built in stages ranging from five kilometers to 52 kilometres.
It will be constructed primarily in southeastern Finland, where most of the border traffic to and from Russia takes place, but short sections will also be constructed in North Karelia and the Arctic Lapland region.
Once complete, the fence will greatly enhance border control, said Col. Veisa Blomqvist, commander of the border guards in southeastern Finland.
“The fence gives border patrols more reaction by detecting people’s movements and preventing, slowing and directing movement,” Blomqvist said in a statement.
The wall is three meters high and topped with barbed wire. Apart from extensive patrols, the Finnish Border Guard currently uses electronic and other devices to monitor border activity.