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Niinistö and Putin to meet Friday

The Russian and Finnish presidents are scheduled to meet in Friday in Sochi, Russia. In a press conference in Helsinki on Thursday afternoon, Niinistö said that "what's important is creating an open channel for discussion".

Sauli Niinistö ja Vladimir Putin keskustelivat voimalaitoksen avajaisissa Njaganissa, Venäjällä syyskuussa 2013. Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

The Kremlin announced Thursday that Finnish President Sauli Niinistö will be meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday.

President Niinistö's office has confirmed the visit, stating that the working visit will focus on the Ukraine crisis.

The press release by President Putin's office stated that the two leaders plan to discuss the current state of bilateral cooperation between Russia and Finland and prospects for their development. It added that special attention is to be given to international issues, such as assistance in the peaceful resolution of what it termed "the acute internal political crisis in Ukraine" and overcoming the humanitarian catastrophe there.

"Not a great peace mediator"

In a press conference in Helsinki on Thursday afternoon, Niinistö said that "as we all know, the situation in Ukraine is very dangerous," adding that "some feel that we may be on the verge of a new Cold War".

Many have also said that the Finnish president has a responsibility to do whatever possible to help, he said.

Niinistö said he had been in contact with western colleagues and explained that "as we see it, Finland has every reason to be involved in seeking a solution to this crisis, and we have received understanding of this".

"I'm not any great peace mediator," he asserted, "but what's important is creating an open channel for discussion, which may provide some opportunity for progress. This may be a small step, but every step is important in a situation where people are in great danger."

This will not be a meeting on bilateral issues and will not be about sanctions, he said, adding that "we have to live with them".

Niinistö noted that Putin had extended an invitation last year to visit Russia. Putin has not hosted any bilateral meeting with a senior EU politician on Russian soil since the Sochi Winter Olympics in February.

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