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Supo: Finland subject of extensive state espionage

The Finnish Security and Intelligence Service says that Russia and China are particularly interested in Finland.

Supo's director, Antti Pelttari, photographed at the agency's headquarters in Helsinki. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle
Yle News

Finland's Nato membership bid has raised interest within Russian intelligence circles, according to the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service (Supo).

In a report about Finland's security situation, the agency said the country's threat level has increased this year, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine as well as Finland's application to join the military alliance.

Supo said it is also possible that Russia is trying to obtain information about Nato through channels in Finland.

At a press conference about the country's security situation on Thursday morning, the agency noted that Finland's tourist visas for Russians have offered a possible path for Russian intelligence operatives into the country.

Supo's director, Antti Pelttari, said that while the agency would not be opposed to limiting the number of tourist visas Finland issues to Russians, "but we do not consider all incoming Russians as security risks."

Helsingin Sanomat reported on Thursday morning that the government will issue new guidelines which will significantly reduce the number of Russian nationals travelling to Finland. The paper reported that those new rules would go into effect (siirryt toiseen palveluun) as soon as Thursday night.

Members of the government are expected to hold a press conference on the topic on Thursday afternoon.

At its press briefing, Supo officials said that if Finland does limit the number of tourist visas issued to Russians, the country's security situation would be improved.

Supo's report said that there was evidence of Russia having carried out violent activities in Europe, including targeting weapons depots as well as individuals the country considers to be traitors. However, it said that the probability of such attacks being carried out in Finland was minimal.

However, the agency noted that Russian-organised corporate espionage will likely increase, largely due to the economic sanctions the country faces, as it now needs to bolster its domestic technology industries.

China, Ukraine

Along with Russia, the security agency also named China as a country that is particularly interested in Finland. Supo said that the Asian country continues to actively gather sensitive information from Finland through the use of individuals as well as cyber espionage.

The agency said China also collects such information through research cooperation and the acquisition of companies.

Supo also noted that Russia's attack on Ukraine has raised concerns of elevated threats against Finland's critical infrastructure, including both the physical realm as well as in the cyber environment.

However, the agency noted that it does not anticipate an attack that could paralyse the country's infrastructure within the next six months.

According to the report, cyber espionage is used by autocratic governments to not only gather information about Finland but also to influence decision-makers' actions.

Similarly, to influence lawmakers' opinions, authoritarian states also make efforts to spread information both in the media as well as social media, according to Supo.

Nord Stream, lone wolves

Supo said the damage of the Nord Stream LNG pipelines was apparently intentional.

"With that kind of damage, there is reason to believe that a state actor is behind it," Pelttari said, but did not offer speculation about which country it might be.

Supo has not adjusted the country terrorism threat level from its current 2 on a 4-point scale, indicating an elevated threat.

Lone wolf actors pose a significant threat and are difficult to combat, according to the security agency. It does not currently expect that Russia's invasion of Ukraine will have an immediate impact in that regard.

However, in the long run, that conflict could possibly increase far-right actors in Finland to commit acts of violence, Supo's report suggested.

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