The Russian and Finnish foreign ministers praised bilateral ties but took different views of international affairs following their meeting on Finland’s south-east coast.
Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini met with his Russian opposite number Sergei Lavrov at Haikko Manor in Porvoo on Thursday. They held a joint press conference beginning shortly after noon before Lavrov headed to Helsinki to meet with President Sauli Niinistö.
Soini said that the two ministers’ fifth meeting proceeded in a good spirit but did not skirt around difficult issues. He mentioned current topics related to Ukraine, Syria and North Korea, and raised the issue of what he called Russia’s human rights problems.
The Finnish minister said he had emphasised to Lavrov that relations between Russia and the EU cannot develop unless the Minsk agreement to end the war in Ukraine is carried out. Soini said he hoped Moscow would use its influence to help bring this about.
Lavrov said that there had been an illegal armed coup in Ukraine in 2014, and that the western countries that approved it are responsible for pressuring the Ukrainian government to follow the agreement.
Close ties in energy
According to Lavrov, bilateral ties between Finland and Russia are developing well. He mentioned business ties including plans for the Russian state firm Rosatom to build a nuclear power plant for the Fennovoima consortium in Pyhäjoki, and a wind power project in Russia involving Finnish majority-state-owned energy giant Fortum.
Asked about the possibility of a meeting between the US and Russian presidents, Lavrov replied that there are no plans for such a meeting, at least in the near future. He also made a lengthy diatribe against what he said were groundless accusations of Russian involvement in elections in the US, UK and France, saying there was “not a single fact” to back them up.
Haikko Manor, which lies seven kilometres from the centre of Porvoo, was a favourite destination of the Russian nobility. In 1917, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, cousin of Russia’s last Tsar Nicholas II and later heir to the throne, stayed there after fleeing the Russian Revolution.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Canada’s foreign affairs minister looks to thaw relations with Russia at Arctic summit, Radio Canada International
Denmark: Nordics to step up security cooperation on perceived Russian threat, Yle News
Norway: Norway and Russia exchange diplomatic smiles about Arctic cooperation, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Upcoming Arctic talks for Nordic presidents in Russia, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Swedish foreign minister to meet Russian counterpart, Radio Sweden
United States: U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson will attend Arctic Council event in Fairbanks, Alaska Dispatch News