IMATRA, Finland (AP) – The construction of barbed-wired fence along Finland’s long border with Russia primarily meant to curb illegal migration – has broken ground near the southeastern town of Imatra 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 three kilometer (1.8 mile) stretch of the fence to be erected in Pelkola near a crossing point off Imatra, a quiet lakeside town of some 25,000 people.
Finland’s 1,340 kilometer (832 mile) border with Russia is the longest of any European Union member.
Construction of the border fence is an initiative by the border guard that was approved by Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s government amid wide political support last year. The main purpose of the three-meter (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.
In 2015-2016, Moscow attempted to influence Finland by organizing large numbers of asylum-seekers to northern Finnish crossing points in the Arctic Lapland region. Russian authorities were seen deliberately ushering thousands of asylum- seekers – mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle East nations – to those border crossing points.