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Russian consulate in Åland unlikely to be closed, Yle sources say

Russia's presence on Åland is intertwined with the semi-autonomous islands' demilitarised status and a number of international treaties.

A yellow wooden building that houses the Russian consulate in Mariehamn, Åland.
File photo of the Russian consulate in Mariehamn, July 2023. Image: Thomas von Boguslawski / Yle
Yle News

According to Yle sources, officials at Finland's foreign ministry are still examining the issue of the possible shutdown of the Russian consulate in Åland but leaning towards not making such a move.

The ministry has concluded that Finland should not attempt to dismantle the demilitarised status of Åland. That status means the semi-autonomous islands have no military presence and no fortifications.

Åland has been demilitarised since the mid-19th century. A bilateral 1940 treaty permitted the Soviet Union to establish a consulate in Mariehamn to monitor the islands' demilitarised status after the Winter War.

The consulate's presence there has drawn increased criticism since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. A citizens' initiative calling for the closure of the diplomatic mission is awaiting consideration by the Finnish Parliament.

However, according to independent sources, a number of foreign ministry officials feel that it would be legally challenging to change the current arrangement on Åland.

The ministry is currently working on a request by President Sauli Niinistö for clarification on the status of the Russian consulate. But the ministry's probe into the matter has not progressed beyond the consultation level and it remains unclear when its investigation might be complete.

The government has not taken a position on the matter.

Discussion about the issue was sparked after Russia called for the shutdown of Finland's consular offices in Murmansk and Petrozavodsk.

Later, Russia closed the Finnish Consulate General in St Petersburg, resulting in Finland closing the Russian Consulate General in Turku.

However, sources told Yle that the ministry's position on the issues surrounding Åland is not set in stone, but has reached its current opinion because Finland adheres to a rule-based system that follows international treaties.

According to sources at the ministry, Sweden is also in favour of continuing Åland's demilitarised status. Yle asked the Swedish foreign ministry for comment on the matter but did not receive a response.

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