Image ID 2D0CFT9 Segezha, near the Finnish border 20122013 CREDIT Reuters, Alamy Stock Photo EXP 19112023.jpg
In some places, the Finnish-Russian border is marked only by wooden posts with low fences meant to stop stray cattle (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo/ Reuters).
NATO

Finland to start building fence on Russian border next year

Image ID 2D0CFT9 Segezha, near the Finnish border 20122013 CREDIT Reuters, Alamy Stock Photo EXP 19112023.jpg
In some places, the Finnish-Russian border is marked only by wooden posts with low fences meant to stop stray cattle (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo/ Reuters).

Construction of a planned barbed wired fence along Finland's long border with Russia will start early next year, according to Finnish border guard officials.

This comes amid concerns in the Nordic country over the changing security environment in Europe.

The initial 3km (1.8-mile) stretch of the fence will be pitched at a crossing point in the eastern town of Imatra by the summer of 2023 – it will eventually extend to a maximum of 200km (124 miles).

Finland's 1,340 kilometre (832-mile) border with Russia is the longest of any European Union member.

In October, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said there was consensus among legislators to build a fence to cover parts of the border with Russia in a project that is estimated to cost a total of €380m (£330m) and is scheduled to be completed by 2026.

According to Ms Marin, the fence's main purpose would be to help border guards monitor and prevent possible large-scale illegal migration seen as a hybrid threat from Moscow.

Her government has not publicly cited Russia's war in Ukraine or Finland's decision to join Nato as a reason to build a fence.

Helsinki is however concerned over developments both in Russia and Ukraine, as well as Moscow's threats of retaliation should Finland join the military alliance.

Ben Wallace: Finland and Sweden 'will succeed' in joining NATO.

Politicians and experts have said it is not sensible – or even possible – to erect a fence along the entire length of Finland's long eastern frontier that runs mainly through thick forests.

In some places, the Finnish-Russian border is marked only by wooden posts with low fences meant to stop stray cattle.

The fence, initially proposed by the Finnish Border Guard, is set to be built in stages ranging from 5km (3 miles) up to 52km (32 miles).

It would be pitched mainly in south-eastern Finland, where most border traffic to and from Russia takes place, but short sections would also be built in the northern Karelia region and the Lapland region in the Arctic.

Finland's military strength explained.

Colonel Vesa Blomqvist, border guard commander in south-eastern Finland, said that once completed, the fence will significantly bolster border control.

"The fence gives border guard patrols more reaction time by revealing movement of people and preventing, slowing down and directing movement," Col Blomqvist said in a statement.

The fence will be 3m (10ft) high with a barbed wire extension on top.

Apart from extensive patrolling, the Finnish border guard currently uses electronic and other devices to monitor border activity.