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Halla-aho: Sanctions on Russia will be "ineffective"

According to Finland's former ambassador to Russia, René Nyberg, Russia's goal is to overthrow Ukraine's current government and president.

Jussi Halla-aho televisiostudiossa.
Jussi Halla-aho Image: Sakari Piippo / Yle
Yle News

The economic sanctions imposed against Russia by the US and EU will not be effective, according to the chair of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Jussi Halla-aho (Finns).

Halla-aho told Yle Radio 1 on Wednesday morning that the sanctions would impact the country's economy and the daily lives of Russian citizens, but will not affect the actions of the country's leadership.

On Tuesday, the US, EU, Britain, Australia, Canada and Japan announced plans to sanction Russia due to the country's ordering of troops into eastern Ukraine. Additionally, Germany announced that it was halting construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project from Russia to Europe.

"Russia is prepared for sanctions and believes that it can live with them," Halla-aho said, pointing out that the country is self-sufficient in many regards.

He added that international sanctions imposed on Russia after it seized Crimea in 2014 had only increased the country's self-sufficiency in food production, among other areas.

"Additionally, Russians' ability to tolerate discomfort is much greater than they generally are in the West," Halla-aho said.

Russian energy reliance

Halla-aho said Western Europe's heavy reliance on Russia for energy was a particular problem. According to the foreign affairs chair, Russia reckons that the West is unable or unwilling to maintain severe sanctions for very long, regardless of its activities in Ukraine.

Halla-aho said that Europe should eliminate its dependence on Russian energy sources because Russia will be able to survive the sanctions.

"If Europe wants to achieve independence from Russia and have an opportunity to react to Russia's intolerable acts, it must first cut off its energy dependence — in other words, pull out the hoses," he said.

Halla-aho added that doing so would require countries to entirely change their mindset about Europe's energy supply. That would include the reversal of Germany's "completely irresponsible" decisions about nuclear power, he said, referring to the country's phase-out of its nuclear energy programme.

Nuclear decisions

Finland may also soon be weighing its own decisions about nuclear energy. On Tuesday, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said she was in favour of conducting a new risk analysis of the Fennovoima nuclear power project in light of the escalating situation between Russia and Ukraine.

That project is partly owned by Russian companies, and experts have warned that it could contribute towards Russia's nuclear weapons production.

Halla-aho said that the Fennovoima project should be reviewed in terms of national security.

Ex-ambassador: Russia aims to replace Ukraine's government

According to veteran diplomat and Finland's former ambassador to Russia, René Nyberg, Russia's goal is to overthrow Ukraine's current government and president.

"Russia's goal is to overthrow the current government and president," he said, adding that he thinks the Kremlin wants to replace the Ukrainian president with "someone who is willing to listen and submit to Moscow's will."

However, the former ambassador said he did not know how Russia planned to overthrow the government. He made the comments on Yle's current events programme A-studio on Tuesday evening.

"There are military means, opportunities to apply pressure, factions, as well as small and larger means all available," he said, adding that the media has reported on intelligence leaks suggesting other means, including coups.

Nyberg also speculated that he doubted Russia's motives were about Nato expansion.

"If Nato is mentioned, we get excited. In fact, it is not a question of Nato. The point is that Russia has lost its grip on Kyiv and is not content with that. They want to ensure the government in Kyiv listens to Russia. That's the question now," Nyberg said.

Nyberg also said he thinks there are chances the ongoing tensions could lead to war.

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