Construction on a proposed barbed-wire fence along Finland’s long border with Russia will begin early next year, Finnish border guards have announced, amid concerns in the Nordics about the changing security environment in Europe.
The initial three-kilometer stretch of the fence will be built at a crossing point in the eastern town of Imatra in the summer of 2023. It will eventually reach a maximum of 200 kilometers.
Finland’s 1,340 kilometer border with Russia is the longest of all EU member states.
Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in October that there was consensus among parliamentarians to build a fence to cover part of the border with Russia in a project estimated to cost a total of 380 million euros and to be completed by 2026.
According to Marin, the main purpose of the fence would be to help border guards monitor and prevent possible large-scale illegal migration, which is seen as a hybrid threat” from Moscow.
Her government has not publicly cited Russia’s war in Ukraine or Finland’s decision to join NATO as reasons 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 sensible – or even possible – to build a fence along the entire length of Finland’s long eastern border, which runs mainly through thick forests. In some places, the Finnish-Russian border is marked only by wooden posts with low fences designed to stop stray cattle.
The fence, originally proposed by the Finnish Border Guard, is to be built in phases ranging from five kilometers to 52 kilometers.
It would be built mainly in southeastern Finland, where most border traffic to and from Russia takes place, but short sections would also be built in northern Karelia and the Arctic Lapland region.
Colonel Vesa Blomqvist, head of the border guard in southeastern Finland, said that once the fence is complete, it will significantly strengthen border control.
“The fence gives border guards more reaction time by showing the movement of people and preventing, slowing down and directing movement,” Blomqvist said in a statement.
The fence will be three meters high with a barbed wire extension on top. In addition to extensive patrolling, the Finnish border guard uses electronic equipment and other devices to monitor border activities.