Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed ‘problems’ for Finland after he says the Nordic country was ‘dragged into NATO’ amid the war in Ukraine.
‘Look, Finland was taken and dragged into NATO,’ Putin said in a new on-camera interview. ‘What did we have, some kind of dispute with Finland? All disputes, including those of a territorial nature in the middle of the 20th century, were all resolved a long time ago. We had the best, most heartfelt relations. Economically, everything was developing. Yes, in the timber industry, there were some problems linked to the necessity to develop timber processing within the country. But that was all. Just a small detail in reality.’
‘There weren’t any problems, but now there will be,’ he said, according to translated captions of the video interview. ‘Because we’ve now been forced to create a Leningrad military district and concentrate a certain number of military units there. Why do they need that? It’s just nonsense. The same goes for other countries, including NATO countries. With whom did we have problems? Nobody. They’re the ones who are artificially creating problems with us. Because they don’t want such a competitor in the form of Russia. That’s all there is to it.’
Meanwhile, dozens of migrants crossed into Finland on Friday, hours before the reclosure of two southern crossing points on the border with Russia as the Nordic country experiences an influx of asylum-seekers. The Vaalimaa and Niirala crossings had reopened briefly Thursday after being shut down at the end of last month, along with Finland’s six other posts on the border with Russia.
Finland blames Moscow for sending migrants to the border in an effort to destabilize the country, which joined NATO in April. Russia denies the accusation.
At the end of November, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s government opted to close the entire 830-mile border for at least two weeks over concerns that Moscow was using migrants to destabilize Finland in an alleged act of ‘hybrid warfare.’
Finnish authorities say that nearly 1,000 migrants without proper visas or valid documentation had arrived at the border since August through the end of November, with more than 900 of them in November alone. The numbers are much higher than usual.
Finland accuses Russia of deliberately ushering migrants — most of whom are seeking asylum in Finland — to the border areas, which are normally heavily controlled on the Russian side by the Federal Security Service, or FSB. The Kremlin has denied that Russia is encouraging migrants to enter Finland and has said that it regrets the Finnish border closures.
Earlier in December, Finnish authorities said that the vast majority of the migrants who arrived in November hailed from three countries: Syria, Somalia and Yemen.
Finland, a nation of 5.6 million people, makes up a significant part of NATO’s northeastern flank and acts as the European Union’s external border in the north.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.