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Finland Starts Building Costly, Symbolic Fence on Russian Border

© AP Photo / Kaisa Siren/ LehtikuvaIn this picture taken January 20, 2016, border zone signs are seen at the Finnish-Russian border in Salla, northern Finland
In this picture taken January 20, 2016, border zone signs are seen at the Finnish-Russian border in Salla, northern Finland - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.03.2023
At best, the partial fencing will only serve up to 20 percent of Finland's border with Russia, but it will still be a danger for wildlife and a drain on taxpayers.
Finland has started its eastern border fence project, a purely symbolic gesture, ostensibly to "protect" itself from Russia with barbed wire.
The forest clearance, which has already started, will be followed by road construction and installation of a three-meter fence, followed by the construction of a technical surveillance system. At present, work is underway on a three-kilometer fence stretching from Pelkola near the Imatra border crossing point. It is expected to be completed by the end of June.
Fence parts designated as key target areas will be built between 2023 and 2025. These include border crossing points with surrounding areas, and other areas considered important. So far, funding has been obtained for a barrier fence of approximately 70 kilometres in south-east Finland, North Karelia, Kainuu and Lapland.
Earlier in 2022, the Finnish Border Guard proposed that a fence be built along 10 to 20 percent of the eastern border, covering about 260km of Finland's 1,300km border with Russia - the longest EU border with Russia.
Although the Border Guard pushed the partial fencing as a means of preventing "unauthorized crossings", the scientific community warned that the barrier will also prevent wildlife from moving freely around the sparsely populated border regions. Since the proposed fence is expected to be more than three meters high, with barbed wire attached to the top, it will stop any large mammals from getting across, researchers warned, sounding the alarm over the disruption of habitats and migratory routes.
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Furthermore, the token fence will become something of an albatross on the Finnish budget. The $404Mln funding covers the fence as such, the accompanying monitoring technology, road infrastructure and land acquisitions.
Albeit rather symbolic, the fence will inevitably inflict further damage to Finland's once mutually beneficial relations with Russia, which enjoyed lively trade and buoyant economic cooperation since the Soviet era, regardless of ideological differences.
Relations have changed markedly since the start of Moscow's special operation in Ukraine, Helsinki filed a bid to join NATO together with neighboring Sweden and took part in the EU's many rounds of sanctions against Russia, which resulted in formerly vibrant cross-border economic activity grinding to a halt. Finland notoriously restricted travel, limited the process of issuing visas and shut down its border for Russian tourists which, again, though a symbolic gesture, did Finland nothing but harm as many of its communities near the eastern border have relied on Russian shoppers and tourists for income.
However ridiculous, it would appear that fencing is becoming a common practice in Eastern Europe. In 2021, Latvia announced it was building a fence along the Belarusian border. Subsequently, Lithuania began building its own fence with Belarus, and Estonia accelerated plans to build one along its Russian border. In November 2022, Poland announced plans to build razor-wire fencing along its border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
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