Citizens of Lappeenranta in Finland have said the move unfairly separates them from their families
File photo: Protest outside the Finnish parliament building in Helsinki against the closure of four border crossing points with Russia, November 18, 2023. © AP Photo / Sergei Grits
Several hundred residents of a Finnish town bordering Russia protested outside city hall on Sunday, after the government in Helsinki shuttered the checkpoint that served their community.
Around 200-300 people gathered in Lappeenranta, according to the Finnish outlet Yle, to object to the border closures. The community of around 72,000 people is located near three of the border crossings – Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa and Imatra – that Helsinki ordered closed on Saturday.
“We are united by a common sorrow and a common problem,” one of the organizers, Katja Marova, told the outlet. “We are unable to see our loved ones who live in Russia.”
“We have the right to family ties. It is very cruel to make such a decision before Christmas. Almost everyone had plans to spend Christmas with loved ones,” she added. “This feels like an attack.”
Finland closed four of the eight checkpoints, citing a “surge” of Syrian, Iraqi, and Yemeni asylum-seekers from the Russian side. In one incident on Friday, Finnish border guards used gas on a group of about a dozen migrants.