Russia appears to be employing a known hybrid warfare tactic to artificially create a migrant crisis on the Finnish border. Finnish authorities closed four border checkpoints on Finland’s southeastern border with Russia on November 18 after the Finnish Border Guard reported that an influx of about 300 asylum seekers, mostly from Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Syria, had arrived at the Finnish border from Russia since September 2023. Finnish Border Guards recorded 89 migrant crossings during a two-day period between November 7 and 14 — a sharp increase from the 91 crossings recorded from mid-July to November 12. Four checkpoints currently remain open on Finland’s northeastern border with Russia with only two open for asylum applicants. Reuters reported on November 19 that dozens of migrants arrived at the closed Finnish Nuijamaa and Vaalimaa crossings on November 18 and gathered around a campfire in sub-zero temperatures. Finnish outlet Iltalehti reported on November 20 that Finnish authorities are considering closing the entire border with Russia on the night of November 21. Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo stated on November 14 that Russian border guards are escorting or transporting migrants to the Finnish border, and the Finnish government stated on November 16 that there are indications that “foreign authorities or other actors” have played a role in helping people illegally cross the border. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on November 19 that Jouko Kinnunen, head of the Finnish Vartius checkpoint that currently remains open, stated that Russian border guards pushed migrants to the Finnish side of the barrier and then closed the Russian border barriers behind them. It is unlikely that these migrants would continue to remain at the Finnish border in sub-zero temperatures of their own volition after Finnish border authorities denied their entrance into Finland, suggesting that Russia is likely involved in the situation in some way.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced a new security assistance package to Ukraine during US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to Kyiv on November 20. Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov and reiterated long-term US support for Ukraine. The new DoD package contains military equipment valued at up to $100 million, including Stinger anti-aircraft missiles; one HIMARS system and additional ammunition; Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles; Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems; and artillery and small arms rounds.
- Russia appears to be employing a known hybrid warfare tactic to artificially create a migrant crisis on the Finnish border.
- Russia’s apparent hybrid warfare tactic on the Russian-Finnish border is similar to Russia’s and Belarus’ creation of a migrant crisis on the Polish border in 2021 and is likely similarly aimed at destabilizing NATO.
- Russian milbloggers expressed continued anger at deteriorating Russian-Armenian relations as Armenia appears to distance itself further from Russia while entering further agreements with Western governments.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reportedly started public recruitment for the Russian “Africa Corps” aimed at subsuming Wagner Group operations in Africa after alleged failed MoD attempts to directly recruit former Wagner personnel.
- The Russian Strelkov (Igor Girkin) Movement (RDS) predictably backed Girkin’s November 19 formal announcement of his intent to run in the 2024 Russian presidential election.
- Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov continues efforts to distinguish himself in the Russian information space, infringing on the generally accepted boundaries between Russian federal subject (region) heads and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced a new security assistance package to Ukraine during US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to Kyiv on November 20.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and marginally advanced in some areas.
- A Russian federal subject (region) and occupation officials are reportedly planning to work together to provide drones to Russian forces.
- A Ukrainian official reported that Ukraine successfully returned 45 Ukrainian children whom Russian authorities forcibly deported to Russia in the past six months.