Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has told his Finnish counterpart that joining NATO would be “a mistake”, as Moscow cut off its electricity supply to the Nordic country earlier – in what is seen as retaliation for Helsinki’s moves.
“Putin stressed that the end of the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland’s security,” the Kremlin said in a statement on Saturday.
“Such a change in the country’s political orientation can have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations developed over years in a spirit of good neighbourliness and cooperation between partners,” it said.
The phone call, which was “initiated by Finland … was direct and straightforward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto was quoted as saying in a statement by his office.
Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine has swung political and public opinion in Finland and neighbouring Sweden in favour of NATO membership as a deterrent against Russian aggression.
Niinisto, who has communicated regularly with Putin in recent years, said the Nordic country and eurozone member “wants to take care of the practical questions arising from being a neighbour of Russia in a correct and professional manner”.
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto underlined that it was “very important that we communicate with our neighbour”, even if “we don’t ask any permission for our political steps”.
Moscow has said that it would “definitely” see Finnish membership as a threat, warning that it would be “forced to take reciprocal steps, military-technical and other, to address the resulting threats”.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Saturday that her country was “prepared for different types of action” from Moscow. “But there is no information indicating Russia will initiate military action against Finland,” she said.
Russia suspends electricity supply to Finland
On Saturday, the Finnish grid operator said that Russia has suspended electricity supplies to Finland overnight after its energy firm RAO Nordic threatened to cut off supplies over payment arrears.
“It is at zero at the moment, and that started from midnight as planned,” Timo Kaukonen, manager for operational planning at Fingrid, said on Saturday.
Nevertheless, Finland – which only imports about 10 percent of its power from Russia – said the shortfall was being made up by imports from Sweden.
RAO Nordic said it has not been paid for electricity since May 6 but has not spelled out if this was linked to European sanctions against Russia.
After Finland’s NATO membership bid is officially announced on Sunday, it will be discussed by parliament on Monday.