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Russia's threats to Finland "nothing new," Niinistö says

Nato has invited Finland to exchange sensitive military intelligence with the alliance.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö talks to the press at the presidential residence Mäntyniemi in Helsinki on February 25, 2022. Image: Seppo Samuli / Lehtikuva

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on Friday said Nato had offered to share up-to-date confidential information on the Ukraine crisis with Finland and Sweden.

"Finland and Sweden can, if they so choose, intensify their information exchange and strategic communication with Nato," he told the press on Friday.

Niinistö's comments came following an emergency Nato summit on Ukraine, which the Finnish president attended remotely.

"I invited Nato's close partners Finland, Sweden and the European Union to our summit. Because this crisis affects us all," Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of the summit.

Niinistö, however, said the invitation to share information wasn't that remarkable, since Finland as a partner country already communicated with the alliance. That said, he acknowledged that the "door to MSI cooperation had opened."

MSI is an acronym for Modalities for Strengthened Interaction, according to Finland's Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The proposed information exchange would give Finland the opportunity to request confidential information from Nato and vice versa.

Niinistö emphasised that this type of arrangement was standard among Nato members.

Russian threats

On Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova threatened "military and political consequences" against Finland and Sweden if they attempted to become Nato members.

Reacting to Zakharova's statements, news agency Reuters reported EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell as saying, "all countries are free to choose their foreign policy and alliances."

The Russian Foreign Ministry meanwhile tweeted (siirryt toiseen palveluun), "We regard the Finnish government's commitment to a military non-alignment policy as an important factor in ensuring security and stability in northern Europe."

Speaking to the press on Friday, Niinistö, however, noted that Russia's remarks were "not new," though he said they were "dramatic" in the context of Ukraine.

Niinistö said Russian President Vladimir Putin used similar rhetoric when visiting him in Finland in 2016, while Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov made identical comments in January of this year.

"I don't see a change," Niinistö said in regard to Russia's rhetoric.

Niinistö said he had not brought up Finland's possible accession to the alliance at Friday's emergency Nato meeting.

"The meeting was about Ukraine's situation, Russia's behaviour and how to react to it," he said.

He, however, added that the military alliance values Finland and Sweden's partnership.

Earlier on Friday Niinistö told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over the phone that Finland would be increasing its financial support to the country. Finland is providing a further 15 million euros in aid to Ukraine, the President's Office said in a release (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

During the call with Zelensky, Niinistö reiterated that Finland strongly condemns Russia's military actions in Ukraine and supports Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"Our call was dramatically interrupted when Zelensky said an alarm had just gone off. This says a lot about their circumstances right now."

EDIT 27.2: A previous version of this article defined MSI as multi-sensor identification, a system capable of identifying real-time air, surface, and ground objects.