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Finland amends law to bolster Russia border fence

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Finnish parliament passed legislation Thursday to build stronger fences on its border with Russia, as the country seeks to join NATO following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Finland reversed decades of military non-alignment by seeking membership in the military alliance in May, formally starting the process to join this week.

Fearing that Moscow could use migrants to exert political pressure, the new amendments to Border Guard Act facilitate the construction of sturdier fences on the Nordic country’s 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) eastern border with Russia.

The aim of the law is to “improve the operational capacity of the border guard in responding to the hybrid threats,” Anne Ihanus, a senior advisor at the interior ministry, told AFP.

“The war in Ukraine has contributed to the urgency of the matter,” she added.

As it stands, Finland’s borders are secured primarily with light wooden fences, mainly designed to stop livestock from wandering to the wrong side.

“What we are aiming to build now is a sturdy fence with a real barrier effect,” Sanna Palo, director of the Finnish border guards’ legal division, told AFP.

“In all likelihood, the fence will not cover the entire eastern border, but will be targeted at locations considered to be the most important”, Palo said.

The new law makes it also possible to close border crossings and concentrate asylum seekers at specific points, in the event of large-scale crossover attempt.

Helsinki also passed amendments to the Emergency Powers Act to make the definition of “emergency” better take into account various hybrid threats.

In addition to the historic change of NATO membership and the revision of border laws, the war in Ukraine has brought about other changes in Finland’s relationship with Russia.

Last week, the Finnish Defence Forces announced they would stop using the term “yellow state” when referring to an adversary in training exercises. It had previously been used to avoid directly pointing the finger at Russia.

“We are discussing Russia and the Russian threat more openly than before,” Colonel Kari Pietilainen of the Finnish Defence Forces told AFP on Thursday.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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