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NATO Member Begins Construction of Massive Security Measure on Russian Border

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The construction of barbed-wire fence along Finland’s long border with Russia — primarily meant to curb illegal migration — has broken ground less than two weeks after the Nordic country joined NATO as the 31st member of the military alliance.

The Finnish Border Guard on Friday showcased the building of the initial 1.8-mile stretch of the fence near the southeastern town of Imatra.

Finland’s 832-mile border with Russia is the longest of any European Union member.

The border fence is an initiative of the border guard that was approved by Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government amid wide political support last year.

The main purpose of the 10-foot-high steel fence with a barbed-wire extension on top is to prevent illegal immigration from Russia and give reaction time to authorities, Finnish border officials say.

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In 2015 and 2016, Russian authorities were seen deliberately ushering thousands of asylum-seekers — mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle East nations — to northern Finnish crossing points.

The move was seen as a show of strength by Moscow. The issue was settled when Finnish President Sauli Niinistö held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The flow of migrants stopped shortly thereafter.

This is a scenario that Finland — a nation of 5.5 million people that officially became a NATO member on April 4 — wants to prevent from repeating itself.

Border officials are quick to acknowledge, however, that it was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — the main reason for Finland’s quick push to join NATO after decades of military nonalignment — that prompted construction of the border fence.

“Border barrier fence was no kind of political topic before the war [in Ukraine]. And actually, it wasn’t a kind of plan of the Finnish border guard,” Brig. Gen. Jari Tolppanen, head of the technical division at the Finnish Border Guard, told The Associated Press. “All changed after the attack [of Russia against Ukraine].”

The pilot section of the fence is scheduled to be completed by this summer, while the barrier will eventually be extended to a maximum of 124 miles. It will cover areas — in bits and pieces — mainly in southeastern Finland near the main border crossing points with Russia but will also have sections up in the Arctic Lapland region.

“In this new situation, we must have much more credible and much more independent border control,” Tolppanen said. “We need to strengthen our resources. And the fence is necessary in order to manage, for example, large-scale illegal immigration.”

Imatra is located a mere 4.4 miles from the Russian industrial town of Svetogorsk in the Karelia region and is a few hours’ drive away from Russia’s second city of St. Petersburg.

“Here in Imatra, we’re not so afraid about Russians because the border has always been there and it has never been open like between European countries,” said Antero Lattu, vice chairman of the Imatra city council. He stressed that locals aren’t afraid of Russians “but we’re happy because of that fence.”

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The border fence project is estimated to cost a total of 380 million euros ($422 million) and is scheduled to be completed by 2026.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

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