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'I'm being cut off from my family': Finland's Russian community hits out against border closures

People, most of them ethnic Russians, gather in front of the Finnish parliament to protest against closure of the border crossing points with Russia, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.
People, most of them ethnic Russians, gather in front of the Finnish parliament to protest against closure of the border crossing points with Russia, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. Copyright Sergei Grits/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Sergei Grits/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Kristina HarazimEuronews with AP
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Helsinki's decision to close four of the country's nine border crossings with Russia to stem the flow of undocumented migrants and refugees into Finland is impacting residents with relatives in Russia. At a protest in the capital, people raised concerns about a new 'Iron Curtain'.

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Several hundred protesters, including Russians living in Finland and dual-nationals, chanted "open the borders" at a demonstration outside the parliament in Helsinki on Saturday after some crossing checkpoints with Russia were closed on Friday midnight.

Many of the people said the decision will make it harder for them to reach their relatives in Russia.

Dual-national Helsinki resident, Vera Ponamoreva said she was worried she wouldn't be able to care for her elderly parents living in Saint Petersburg.

"I feel that I'm being cut off from my family," she said.

"I worry so much, and they (her parents) are also very afraid. Everyone remembers, even I remember what the Iron Curtain was. It's very scary to return to this."

People, most of them ethnic Russians, gather in front of the Finnish parliament to protest against closure of border crossing points with Russia, in Helsinki, Nov. 18, 2023
People, most of them ethnic Russians, gather in front of the Finnish parliament to protest against closure of border crossing points with Russia, in Helsinki, Nov. 18, 2023Sergei Grits/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Another dual-national, Pavel Myakinen said he was concerned that his mother wouldn't be able to visit him, as driving through open crossing points in Finland's north will make for a long and expensive journey.

While the protesters said they support the country's right to secure its border, they don't believe the closures will be effective in stopping undocumented migrants.

The border guards in the southeastern district said there had already been a decline in claims for asylum. They reported 176 asylum-seekers on Friday and two on Saturday.

"Today we have had quite a calm today because our border crossing points closed at midnight," the deputy commander of Southeastern Border Guard's District, Jukka Lukkari, said.

He added that there were small groups of migrants on the Russian side, but they were not admitted as the border crossing points were closed.

The Finland-Russia land border that serves as the European Union’s external frontier runs 1,340 kilometres, mostly through thick forests in the south, to the rugged landscape in the Arctic north.

Helsinki accuses Moscow of ''funneling'' migrants to its crossings, in response to the country's strengthening defence ties with the United States.

The Kremlin denies the allegation.

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