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Finnish President: Putin's mask comes off, showing "cold face of war"

Prime Minister Sanna Marin told a Thursday morning press conference that Finland is not currently facing an immediate military threat.

Sanna Marin ja Sauli Niinistö tiedotustilaisuudessa.
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin and President Sauli Niinistö held a joint press conference on Thursday morning. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle
Yle News

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö told a Thursday morning press conference that Russia's overnight military attack on Ukraine had been a "shock to everyone", as western nations had held out hopes of finding a diplomatic resolution to the tensions.

"Our deep sympathies are with the people of Ukraine. In Kyiv, Kharkov, Mariupol, Odessa and elsewhere, innocent people are experiencing the horrors of war," Niinistö said, adding that Finland "strongly condemns" Russia's actions and demanded an immediate end to hostilities.

Niinistö also sought to reassure people living in Finland that there is no immediate threat to Finnish sovereignty as a result of Russia's attack on Ukraine.

"It is understandable that many Finns are feeling afraid. I emphasise that there is no current threat against Finland. But this will affect [Finland] and has already affected it," he added.

Speaking at the same press conference, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said Finland stands with the wider international community in support of Ukraine.

"We, as Finland, as the European Union and as the international community, strongly condemn Russia's military action against Ukraine," Marin said.

She added that the EU is ready to impose tough and strong sanctions on Russia.

"There is no price on peace, stability and human life," Marin said.

Marin: Nato application requires "broad support"

The PM was asked a question about Finland's potential membership of the military alliance Nato, which has been the subject of much debate in the country in recent months as tensions mounted in the Ukraine region.

"Finland is not currently facing an immediate military threat, but it is also now clear that the debate on Nato membership in Finland will change," Marin replied, adding that a Finnish application to Nato would require very broad parliamentary and public support.

Both leaders also spoke about Finland's changed relationship with Russia, following the events in Ukraine. Niinistö said this will be reflected in Finland's foreign and security policy as the situation is expected to continue for a prolonged period of time.

Niinistö was asked by a journalist what he now thinks of Russian President Vladimir Putin following the failure of diplomatic efforts and the launch of military action in Ukraine.

"The mask has now come off and only the cold face of war is visible," Niinistö responded.

Haavisto: Russia attack could lead to refugee crisis

Following the press conference by Marin and Niinistö, Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) and Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) also spoke to the media.

Haavisto said the situation is now very serious and his thoughts are with the Ukrainian people, adding that the conflict would lead to refugees fleeing Ukraine and into the EU, including to Finland.

He noted that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is aware that there are about 80 Finnish citizens in Ukraine, including members of its embassy staff.

Defence Minister Kaikkonen said the situation in Ukraine is very unpredictable and could change quickly.

"Russia appears to be seeking to cripple Ukraine's military capabilities and will to defend itself, as well as seizing strategically important targets through a rapid and vigorous attack," Kaikkonen said.

He also echoed the words of both Niinistö and Marin, saying Russia poses no immediate military threat to Finland.

"The military situation in Finland's immediate neighbouring area is currently calm," Kaikkonen said. "The Defence Forces are well equipped to perform their duties. The people of Finland can trust our defence forces."

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