Finnish officials Thursday announced plans to close multiple crossing points along the Russian border in an effort to slow the influx of asylum-seekers entering the country.
In a news release, the Finnish government said it will close four of the nine crossing points along its eastern border, starting at midnight Friday.
The shuttered points will be Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala, usually the busiest points of travel between Finland and Russia, according to Reuters.
“Finland as an E.U. and NATO member is steadily one of the countries that condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said in a news conference, according to The New York Times. “Therefore we have been prepared for various action from Russia, nastiness, and this situation does not come to us as a surprise.”
“We have acted decisively and promptly in order not to have the situation deteriorate,” Orpo added.
“The closing of border crossing points at the eastern border will stop illegal entry into Finland,” Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said in a statement. “The Government is prepared to take even stronger measures if necessary.”
Finland’s announcement comes days after authorities warned about a spike in the number of crossings from asylum-seekers.
Finish President Sauli Niinistö suggested that the influx is an act of retaliation from Russia for his country’s decision to join the NATO alliance, The Associated Press reported.
“Yes, we’re constantly being reminded [by Moscow] that Finland has joined NATO,” Niinistö told the media during a visit to Germany.
Finland officially joined NATO earlier in April, becoming the 31st country in the alliance. Russia’s ongoing war with neighboring Ukraine was the main catalyst for Finland to file a membership application.
In a statement, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russian officials “deeply regret that the leadership of Finland chose the path of deliberate distancing from the previously good nature of our bilateral relations.”