MINISTER for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Greens) on Thursday revealed that Russia has responded to the Finnish diplomatic note about the freezing of bank accounts for Finnish diplomatic missions in Russia.
Haavisto said Russia took the course of action due to the banking difficulties its mission has experienced in Helsinki.
“We’ve been aware of the difficulties and have tried to help the Russian missions,” he was quoted saying to reporters at a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Oslo, Norway, by Helsingin Sanomat.
Haavisto reminded that banks cannot independently make decisions on diplomatic relations and that diplomatic missions will inevitably require some sort of bank connections. The Russian response to the diplomatic note, he added, includes some kind of a proposal concerning banking.
“We’re currently looking into it, whether it’s something we could utilise in this context,” he said.
The Finnish Embassy in Moscow is continuing its dialogue with the relevant authorities in Russia, according to Haavisto.
He was also asked about the possibility of shuttering the Russian consulate in Mariehamn, Åland, a possibility that has gained traction in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Hannu Himanen, a former Finnish ambassador to Moscow, told YLE on Thursday that now would be the right time to shut down the consulate.
“I think Russia has set up this opportunity nicely for Finland. The issue should now be considered,” he stated in an interview with the public broadcasting company.
Consulates are typically established based on the idea of reciprocity. The Russian consulate in Mariehamn, though, is an exception as it was established in 1940 to oversee compliance with the convention on the demilitarisation of the autonomous region after Finland’s loss to the Soviet Union in the Winter War.
“The Mariehamn consulate is a unilateral advantage that Finland was forced to accept in 1940,” summarised Himanen.
Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition, on Thursday similarly described the consulate as a historical relic, adding that the possibility of shutting it down should be discussed between the government, parliament and president.
Haavisto appeared to cool down discussion on the consulates, calling attention to the importance of the Finnish consulate in St. Petersburg.
Russia announced earlier this week it has decided to shut down its consulate in Lappeenranta and the Finnish consular offices in Murmansk and Petrozavodsk, both of which have already been temporarily closed.
“We’ll see how this goes on. We’re having the same discussions […] as pretty much all European countries,” said Haavisto. “I wouldn’t dramatise this too much. It’s important that we can keep our cool.”
Aleksi Teivainen – HT