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Propastop looks at Russia hybrid tactics on Finland's border

Finnish Border Guard (Raja) officer.
Finnish Border Guard (Raja) officer. Source: Finnish Border Guard/ Raja

The closure of most of Finland's border crossings with the Russian Federation from Friday night has both been driven by and accompanied by an apparent surge in hybrid warfare tactics from its, and Estonia's, Eastern neighbor, counter-misinformation site Propastop reports.

Speaker of the Eduskunta/riksdagen, Finland's parliament, Jussi Halla-aho suspects has suggested that in among the numbers of asylum seekers could be included personnel from the notorious Wagner Group of mercenaries – though University of Tampere doctoral researcher Mikko Räkköläinen says that this would not fit Wagner's M.O. so far.

In any event, Russia appears to be engaging in hybrid warfare tactics on Finland's border which are aimed at destabilizing NATO, diverting attention from the conflict in Ukraine, and shaping information narratives, Propastop reports, adding the full extent of Russia's involvement and its impact on regional stability may become clearer in due course.

Russia's embassy in Helsinki recently sent a diplomatic note to the Finnish foreign ministry, protesting the display in the center of the capital of a knocked-out Russian tank – the same tank, a T-72 model, had in fact been on display in Estonia earlier on this year.

Protests by Russians apparently resident in Finland itself over the recent southeastern border closure, on the ground hat the act infringes upon their rights to visit relatives in Russia, have been seen recently – some of the organizers have Kremlin links.

On the other hand, things are not wholly black-and-white, Propastop notes.

While Russia's ambassador to Finland, Olga Dibrova, has stated that the recent border closure is not, in fact, an overreaction on the part of the Finnish authorities, more than one pro-Russian, O.W. Kuusinen-esque Finnish mouthpiece has been active, including one character who broadcasts from Russian-occupied Donetsk, in Ukraine.

In Russia itself, the spouse of RT's editor-in-chief also recently made a rather unoriginal "joke" about what type of vehicle may appear at the Finnish border in future, given that checkpoints are closed to cars and bicycles.

Since September, approximately 300 migrants have arrived at the Finnish border from Russia, with a notable surge recorded between November 7 and 14 Finnish authorities say, giving them grounds for suspicion that Russia is orchestrating a hybrid warfare tactic.

Russia denies actually escorting migrants, often from Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria, to the border, in sub-zero conditions, with a view to their attempted entry into Finnish territory – mirroring tactics seen on Belarus' border with the EU from summer 2021 onwards.

One academic also notes the relevance of next year's Russian presidential elections.

On November 22, Prime Minister Petteri Orpo announced the closure of all border crossings with Russia, save for the chekckpoint at Raja-Joosepi, in the far North.

Interior Minister Mari Rantanen says that the new restrictions will take effect at midnight today, Friday and will remain in force at least until December 23. Four checkpoints in Southern Finland will stay closed at least until 18 February 2024. 

Propastop provides counter-disinformation articles in English as well as in Estonian, Russian and German, and is staffed by volunteers from the Defense League (Kaitseliit).

While Estonia, too, has been anticipating a spike in migratory pressure on its Eastern border, this has not yet been adjudged to have reached a level to merit closures. On the other hand, Russia itself is closing the border checkpoint to vehicles, though not pedestrians at Ivangorod/Jaanilinn, across the river from Narva, citing a need to carry out renovations.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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