Outgoing Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) was tight-lipped on Wednesday about the nine Russian embassy employees who are being deported from Finland.
The government announced on Tuesday that Finland is deporting nine embassy staff members because they have worked in intelligence tasks.
Haavisto declined to comment on what kind of positions they have held and how long they have worked in Finland.
"Unfortunately, I cannot comment on what these individuals have done or how they have behaved, but there are grounds for deportations. We have received a report about them and they have been discussed at a meeting of [the Ministerial Committee on Foreign and Security Policy and the president]. It is quite clear that these persons can be deported," he told reporters.
According to Haavisto, Finland's deportation decisions are in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
"The Finnish Security Intelligence Service closely monitors the staff of embassies. Persons who are on various covert missions and do not do the diplomatic work for which they have been hired can be deported according to the Vienna Convention," he noted.
Finland is preparing for countermeasures
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Moscow intends to "react accordingly" to the deportations by Finland.
According to Haavisto, some countermeasures can be expected, but he declined to speculate on them in any detail.
"Of course one must be ready for this," Haavisto said.
Other European countries have also recently deported Russian nationals.
In April, for example, neighbouring Norway expelled 15 people who worked at the Russian embassy in Oslo. According to Norway, they were intelligence officers.
Finnish intelligence history researcher Mikko Porvali pointed out that Russia's main intelligence method abroad is personal intelligence under diplomatic cover.
"When similar decisions are made around the world, they are usually aimed at persons who are actually representatives of the Russian intelligence services. They either work for the Russian foreign intelligence service SVR or for the military intelligence agency GRU," he told Yle.
Porvali expects that countermeasures are forthcoming, because Russia tends to respond to the expulsion of diplomats in one way or another.
"The most likely scenario is that approximately the same number of Finnish individuals will be banned from entering Russia or expelled from Russia," he said.