Presidents Sauli Niinistö (left) and Vladimir Putin held a joint press conference at the state residence of Putin in Moscow on 22 March, 2016.Presidents Sauli Niinistö and Vladimir Putin assured in a joint press conference on Tuesday that they have held talks to prevent another influx of asylum seekers across the northern border between Finland and Russia.

“The President of the Republic of Finland drew attention to the problem some time ago. He asked during one of our telephone conversations that action to address the issue is taken. As you can observe, that's what we've done. An estimated 1,700 refugees crossed the border in January—February, but such incidents were isolated ones in March,” Putin said at his official residence in Moscow.

“We've reached and today finally approved our agreement to restrict traffic through two northern border-crossing points, Raja-Jooseppi and Salla. As we've seen, it's working,” he added.

The two countries have agreed to restrict traffic through the border-crossing points in Northern Finland for a period of 180 days by only allowing citizens of Finland, Russia and Belarus, as well as their family members, to cross the border.

Putin also called attention to another aspect of the phenomenon that should not be ignored: Russia cannot receive people who have entered its territories legally, continued their journey to another country and received a refugee status in, for example, Finland because their visas have typically expired.

“That's why we've had problems with Norway. That's why I'm of the same opinion as President [Niinistö] that it's crucial that information is exchanged in a formal, professional and timely manner,” he pointed out.

“We fully appreciate the concerns of Finland and will work together based on our partnership,” he added.

Niinistö, in turn, said he is pleased that the concerns have been taken into consideration and reminded that the economic sanctions against Russia can be lifted if an agreement on the situation in Crimea is found.

Putin called attention to the mutually-beneficial economic relations between Finland and Russia. He pointed out that the economic sanctions, the counter-measures adopted by Russia, the global economic slowdown and swings in exchange rates have resulted in Germany and Sweden overtaking Russia as the most important trading partner of Finland.

“Finland has also suffered due to the situation. Our estimates indicate that it'll translate to a decline of one per cent in the gross domestic product of Finland. I assure you that no one is pleased with the situation,” he said.

He also reminded that Fortum has launched a number of development projects in Russia with a total value of 4.5 billion euros and that Russia is invested in the nuclear power project of Rosatom in Finland.

“Our Finnish partners provided us with figures showing that roughly 500–600 Finnish companies are operating in Russia. Finnish estimates indicate that they provide employment to roughly 40,000 people,” said Putin.

“Russia has supplied one hundred per cent of the [natural] gas consumed in Finland. It continues to do that today. Russia has also supplied 80 per cent of the oil consumed in Finland – and continues to do that today. I assure that both sides recognise the importance of our trading relations.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi