President Sauli Niinistö commented on Russia’s actions in Ukraine in a press conference held at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on Tuesday, 22 February 2022. “Finland firmly supports Ukraine and the people of Ukraine,” he said. (Mikko Stig – Lehtikuva)

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PRESIDENT Sauli Niinistö has reiterated that Finland supports Ukraine and the people of Ukraine in the face of aggression from Russia.

Niinistö on Tuesday viewed that Russia recognising the independence of the self-styled people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, located in south-eastern Ukraine, signifies the end of the path laid out in the Minsk agreements, a series of international agreements signed to end the war in Donbas, Ukraine, in 2014–2015.

“On the other hand, it clearly means that Russia is creating a framework, a pretext for its actions on Ukrainian soil,” he said in a press conference in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki.

“What happens next is difficult to predict. But in any case it's of utmost importance that all parties forgo military action and violence.”

The UN Security Council, he pointed out, convened to discuss the situation after the breakaway regions had been recognised by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. Members of the council offered no support for and widely condemned the course of action as a violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Even China, often a close ally of Russia, called on the parties to exercise patience and eschew any actions that could heighten tensions.

“Perhaps somewhat surprising parties there levelled criticism against Russia, which looks to be left all alone,” analysed Niinistö. “Hopefully it’ll also have an impact on its behaviour.”

Finland continues to closely monitor and prepare for the situation, even though it itself is under no military threat, according to Niinistö. Putin made no mention of the country in the fiery, hour-long televised speech he delivered on Monday, in an apparent attempt to build a case, based on unsubstantiated claims of genocide and torture on the one hand and historical grievances on the other, against Ukraine.

“We should remind ourselves that this doesn’t directly apply to us in any way,” said Niinistö.

He continued to call attention to the importance of maintaining channels of communication with Russia, stressing that knowing what the country is thinking is in the best interests of Finland. He also admitted that the recent events may have undermined the channels of communication.

“The tone may now be different.”

Niinistö estimated that the development does not have an impact on the international position of Finland: Finland is a stable democracy and part of the European Union. He declined to speculate on whether it has an impact on the possibility of Finland joining Nato.

“I can’t say whether we’re closer. The discussions are ongoing.”

He also declined to shed light on the nature of sanctions discussed by western countries in response to the escalation. Should Russia expand its military actions in Ukraine, however, the outcome would be “colder” than the Cold War, said Niinistö.

Finland, he added, has already made a decision to send financial aid to Ukraine. “Finland firmly supports Ukraine and the people of Ukraine.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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