Citizens of Lappeenranta in Finland said the move unfairly separated them from their families
Several hundred residents of a Finnish town bordering Russia protested in front of the city hall building on Sunday, after the government in Helsinki closed the checkpoint serving their community.
About 200 to 300 people gathered in Lappeenranta, according to Finnish newspaper Yle, to object to the border closure. The community of about 72,000 people is located near three of the border crossings – Valima, Noigama and Imatra – which Helsinki ordered closed on Saturday.
“We are united by a common grief and a common problem.” Katia Marova, one of the organizers, told the outlet. “We are unable to see our loved ones living in Russia.”
“We have the right to family ties. It is very cruel to make such a decision before Christmas. Almost everyone was planning to spend Christmas with their loved ones.” she added. “This sounds like an attack.”
Finland closed four of the eight checkpoints, citing A “leap” Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni asylum seekers from the Russian side. In one incident on Friday, Finnish border guards Gas used A group of about ten immigrants.
Defense Minister Antti Hakkanen claimed that Russia was using refugees “Accelerating the migrant crisis in Europe and destabilizing its unity.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova rejected these accusations “Totally unfounded.”
Finnish Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Riika Bora said last week that closing the four crossings was just a first step and that Helsinki may close the entire border if the influx of migrants continues.
Meanwhile, the Finnish army was deployed to build fortifications at the Vartius checkpoint, one of four checkpoints still operational. Vartius is currently the closest working crossing to Lappeenranta, about 488 kilometers (303 mi) north by road.
Among the residents protesting Sunday was Sofia Andreeva, who was born in St. Petersburg but has lived in Finland for the past five years. She told Elle that the lockdown isolated her from her entire family in Russia, including her grandmother “Who is sick and elderly?”
Protesters have demanded that at least one nearby crossing be reopened, arguing that stricter border checks are a better way to deal with migrants without harming Finns.
Perhaps it would have been possible to restrict traffic and stop illegal border crossers. “Maybe our government is just doing what it does and not thinking much.” said Kari Karjalainen, who came to the protest with his wife Lyudmila.