The former leader of the Finns Party, Jussi Halla-aho, has added to recent calls for Finland to close the Russian consulate general on the demilitarised Åland islands.
Halla-aho, who also served as chair of Parliament's foreign affairs committee during the last term, told Yle TV1's current affairs programme A-Studio on Monday evening that the presence of the consulate in Mariehamn is a historical anomaly.
"The rationale for keeping it has long since disappeared, insofar as any legitimate rationale ever existed," he said.
Halla-aho added that he considers it "grotesque" that Russia is waging an unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine while, at the same time, it is trying to "promote peace" by overseeing the demilitarisation of Åland.
"There is no justification for the consulate, or at least not in its current role. If there were a time to look for a suitable moment to close the consulate, there is probably no more suitable moment than now," Halla-aho said.
Former Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces and newly-elected MP Jarmo Lindberg (NCP) also appeared on Monday evening's A-Studio. He noted that the consulate's importance and activities are limited.
"The question is one of principle. Will this bilateral agreement be terminated? It must be measured against what Russia has done and is doing accordingly. That is for the leadership to assess," Lindberg said.
A citizens' initiative calling for the Russian consulate in Mariehamn to be closed was launched in April, and has so far collected over 35,000 of the 50,000 signatures needed to be debated by MPs in Parliament.
Debate divides political opinion
The debate over the presence of the consulate in Mariehamn gathered new momentum last week when Finland's former ambassador to Moscow, Hannu Himanen, called for the office to be shut.
The Russian consulate was established on the Åland islands in 1940 following the end of the Winter War and the signing of the Moscow Peace Treaty, under which the Soviet Union foisted certain conditions on Finland.
"The consulate in Mariehamn is a unilateral advantage that Finland was forced to accept in 1940," Himanen said last week.
However, MP Kimmo Kiljunen (SDP) — who also participated in Monday evening's A-Studio debate — said that although Russia has been recklessly violating international treaties, including the UN Charter, Finland cannot do the same on what he called "frivolous grounds".
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