Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Greens) looked on during an event organised at the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin on 9 May 2023. Haavisto on Wednesday said Finnish diplomatic missions in Russia have had to turn to their cash reserves following the freezing of bank accounts by the Kremlin. (Tobias Schwarz – AFP / Lehtikuva)

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THE BANK ACCOUNTS of Finnish missions in Russia have been frozen, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs confirmed on Wednesday.

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated yesterday that the accounts were frozen as a reciprocal countermeasure in response to restrictions imposed on Russian missions in Finland, according to YLE.

Zakharova said the Russian missions have access to their accounts with only one bank in Finland, a situation that – she argued – violates international rules on diplomatic missions.

“We posed a question about calling off the sanctions and repeatedly warned that unless the issue is resolved we’d have to take countermeasures,” she was quoted saying at a weekly press conference by the Finnish public broadcasting company. “Finnish authorities didn’t take any action on the issue, however.”

Helsingin Sanomat was the first news outlet to write about the development on Wednesday. Finnish authorities, the daily revealed, were notified of the freezing of bank accounts on 27 April, resulting in an investigation by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Finland has two diplomatic missions in Russia: an embassy in Moscow and consulate general in St. Petersburg. Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Greens) revealed during a media availability yesterday that the missions have had to turn to their cash reserves in order to pay their bills and rents but assured that the situation has had no impact on the payment of wages.

The restrictions are not expected to have an impact on the missions’ operations, either.

Haavisto said Finland has sent a diplomatic note to Russia but has yet to receive an official explanation for the freezing of accounts. Russia, he estimated, may have acted out of “some kind of frustration” with the EU, as the 27-country bloc continues to support Ukraine and condemn the war of aggression waged by Russia.

“The origin of the problem is the war of aggression started by Russia, which has been condemned internationally,” said Haavisto.

Also other EU countries have encountered similar problems with their bank accounts in Russia. The Finnish missions, though, have been subjected to some of the strictest restrictions, according to Haavisto.

Reuters reported yesterday evening that Russia has also frozen the accounts of Danish missions.

President Sauli Niinistö on Wednesday described the freezing of bank accounts as an overstated measure that clearly exceeds the restrictions imposed on financial transactions by the Russian Embassy in Helsinki by Finland.

“The Russian claim is that this was a reciprocal measure,” he said to STT in Iceland. “However, this clearly exceeds the restrictions Finland has implemented to restrict financial transactions by Russia’s Helsinki embassy. So this is an overstated response to it.”

Niinistö told that Russia has complained that the bank connections of its embassy are poor.

“This is a result not so much of the sanctions, but rather of the fact that banks in the international banking system are very careful and interpret the sanctions with a bit of care. But now Russia has moved to a completely new dimension than the restrictions targeted at [its diplomatic missions],” he commented.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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