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President: Sanctions no surprise; delay debate no damage to Finland’s rep

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö says the EU’s latest campaign of sanctions against Russia didn’t really take Finland by surprise. Speaking while pressing the flesh in Ivalo northern Finland, Niinistö said the current discussion about the timing of the sanctions hasn’t harmed Finland’s reputation abroad.

Sauli Niinistö.
Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö. Image: Yle

Responding to the latest salvo of sanctions from the European Union, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said the measures were not a real surprise to Finland.

“It wasn’t such a big surprise,” Niinistö commented in Ivalo, northern Finland, adding that the new measures appeared to follow from previous sanctions discussions in the EU.

Niinistö’s comments sharply contrast those of Finnish OSCE president Ilkka Kanerva, who said yesterday that he hadn’t expected the EU to play its hand before seeing how a ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists held up.

Tuomioja wanted Finland to object to sanctions enforcement

Meanwhile Yle reported Tuesday evening that Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja had filed a written note with the cabinet’s EU ministerial committee, calling on Finland to formally object to enforcing the sanctions while the Ukrainian ceasefire was in force. It was the only point on which Tuomioja differed from his cabinet colleagues

The President added that the current discussion over the timing of the sanctions – with Finland and other EU members looking to delay their implementation during the truce in eastern Ukraine – would not harm Finland’s reputation abroad.

“In Finland we specifically discussed whether the immediate enforcement (of new sanctions) would be at odds with following the progress of the ceasefire,” he added.

Earlier Tuesday Prime Minister Alexander Stubb defended Finland’s caution on the schedule for implementing the sanctions, saying that it had not been the only country that raised concerns about the matter.

Reservations expressed by Finland and other EU countries have seen Brussels delay enforcement of the new restrictions while the West follows the fate of the fragile peace in Ukraine.

Instead EU leaders will meet again on Wednesday to discuss the implementation schedule.

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