Russians fleeing mobilization could see the main gateway to Europe being cut off

The debate in Norway over whether to close the border with Russia is evolving “by the hour,” according to a senior parliamentarian, as Kiev’s western partners seek to invade Moscow following President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization decree and alleged annexation of occupied Ukrainian territory to isolate further.

Ine Eriksen Søreide, the chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense in the Norwegian Parliament, told the first Helsinki Security Forum on Saturday that Oslo is tightening security at the Storskog border crossing, now one of the only routes for Russian arrivals to Finland closed Poland , Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, closing their borders to most Russian tourists.

“There were restrictions and we made some restrictions early on,” Søreide told HSF.

“But there is now a daily discussion, or I would say an hourly discussion, about also closing the border to those who are passing now.” Søreide noted that the Russian authorities also appeared to be trying to stem the flow of people across the border Norwegian border stop.

“Since yesterday, the government has increased surveillance and patrol at the border. And of course also to look for something that worries me a lot, which is not just an influx of Russians fleeing the war or conscripts, but also the real risk of infiltration.”

Ine Eriksen Søreide at Finland HFS 2022
Ine Eriksen Søreide, Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense in the Norwegian Parliament, speaks at the Helsinki Security Forum in the Finnish capital on October 1, 2022.
Finnish Institute for International Affairs

“People might come over who have no genuine intention of coming or fleeing anything, but just mingling with other people,” Søreide said.

“We have also asked the government to be extra vigilant on this because we remember well what happened in 2015-2016 when Russia … used the influx of Syrian refugees to sort of flood the border to the north. “

Then, through a loophole in the law, thousands of migrants and refugees entered Norway via Russia. Newcomers crossed the border on bicycles, navigating Russia’s rule banning crossing on foot and Norway’s rule banning drivers from boarding undocumented people.

Moscow and its allies in Belarus have been accused of facilitating, or even committing, infiltration by similar migrant flows at Europe’s borders in late 2021.

Norwegian Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said on Friday that Oslo could suddenly close the border. “We will quickly close the border if necessary, and changes may occur at short notice,” she said, according to Reuters. “Compared to Finland, there were few arrivals in Norway and the situation is different here.”

Although there have been fewer arrivals than notably at the Finnish and Estonian borders, the Arctic Storskog Crossing has seen a slight increase in Russian arrivals since Putin’s September 21 “partial” mobilization order. Despite reports from the FSB, hundreds of Russian men have descended on Norway in an effort to tighten controls at the crossing.

European Union nations are considering new measures to deal with security challenges posed by newly arriving Russians. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Friday that member states should carry out “a thorough security assessment” of all Russian applicants for short-term Schengen visas.

“It’s important not to confuse the right to apply for a tourist visa with the right to seek asylum, which is a fundamental right,” Johansson said. A tourist visa to the EU is a “privilege,” she added.

Traffic has also built up on Russia’s border with Georgia, which stretches across western Asia and eastern Europe, as thousands try to flee mobilization.

Finland border guards on the Russian EU border
This file photo shows a Finnish border guard and his dog while cars queue at the Vaalimaa border crossing between Finland and the Russian Federation on September 30, 2022. Finland has now closed its border to most Russian tourists, making Norway’s Arctic crossing the only open land route to Europe.
SASU MAKINEN/Lehtikuva/AFP via Getty Images Russians fleeing mobilization could see the main gateway to Europe being cut off

Rick Schindler

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