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Niinistö: Finland will assist Ukraine "as long as needed"

Finland's President delivered the keynote speech at the first-ever Helsinki Security Forum on Friday afternoon.

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö. Image: Sara Aaltio / Yle

Finland will continue to help Ukraine and Ukrainians "as long as it's needed", Finland's President Sauli Niinistö told a conference on security policy in Helsinki on Friday afternoon.

Niinistö's keynote speech at the first-ever Helsinki Security Forum was delivered just moments after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the formal annexation of four Ukrainian regions.

Before the speech, Niinistö told Yle that Putin's announcement was "expected."

"Now we need to be ready for all kinds of mischief and malice," Niinistö said, adding that the Russian leader's comments mean the continuation of a full-scale war in Ukraine.

In his address to the conference, Niinistö drew immediate attention to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

"Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by stating the obvious. The security situation in Europe is dangerous. We all know this, and we all know why," he said.

Niinistö said he finds it worrying that Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is waging a brutal war of aggression against Ukraine and that the Russian leadership even "talks loosely" about the use of nuclear weapons.

"This reality should have been unthinkable in this day and age. A reality for which the people of Ukraine are paying the highest price," Niinistö said, and praised Ukraine's "significant and heroic" recapturing of territories in recent weeks.

Finland's President also called for a thorough investigation into the reasons behind the explosions on the two Nord Stream gas pipelines, noting that such attacks on critical infrastructure are an example of how the ongoing conflict can have many dimensions.

This week's episode of All Points North explores the security considerations following Finland's decision to restrict the entry of Russian tourists. You can listen to the full podcast using the embedded player here, via Yle Areena, on Spotify or via the options found in this article.

Finland has "never been naive"

While Niinistö pledged that Finland will continue to help Ukraine, he also noted that Russia's military actions will have long-term consequences for Russia, Europe and the world.

He further said that Finland was never naïve about Russia and that Finnish-Russian relations must continue on some level.

"Russia will not disappear anywhere, it will always be our neighbour. Finland can never afford to completely turn its back on Russia," Niinistö said.

In his own speech, Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) described Russia's military operations as very "traditional", meaning Russia is attempting to take over territory using huge numbers of ground troops and artillery.

"This has certainly not been the high-tech cyber war that some people envisioned a few years ago," Kaikkonen said, adding that Finland has been preparing for a similar war for a long time.

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