Kremlin says it regrets Finland’s decision to shut border crossings with Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) -The Kremlin said on Monday it deeply regretted Finland’s decision to shut crossings on its border with Russia, a move it said reflected Helsinki’s adoption of an anti-Russian stance.

Finland, a member of the European Union and – starting this year – also of the NATO military alliance, closed four crossings on its border with Russia on Saturday as it seeks to halt a flow of asylum seekers it says was instigated by Moscow.

The border crossings it closed were by far the busiest crossing points.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking at a regular news briefing, again denied Finland’s accusation that Russia was deliberately pushing illegal migrants towards the border and said Russian border guards were carrying out their duties in line with the rules.

Asked about the closure of the four crossings, Peskov said: “This causes nothing but deep regret, because we had long-standing, very good relations with Finland, pragmatic, based on mutual respect.

“And of course, we regret that these relations were replaced by such an exclusively Russophobic position, which the leaders of this country began to espouse,” he said.

Russia’s foreign ministry said later on Monday it had lodged a formal protest with the Finnish ambassador to Moscow, saying the closure of the four border crossings violated “the rights and interests of tens of thousands of people” in both countries.

“The decision was made hastily, without any consultations with the Russian side,” it said in a statement.

Finland shares a 1,340-km (830-mile) border with Russia that also serves as the EU’s external border.

Helsinki has accused Russian authorities of funnelling migrants to the crossings in retaliation for its decision to increase defence cooperation with the United States, an assertion dismissed by the Kremlin.

Finland angered Moscow when, after decades of non-alignment, it joined the NATO military alliance in April following the start of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine – which it calls a “special military operation”.

(Reporting by Reuters Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Jonathan Oatis)