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Defence officials set up hotline between Finland and Russia

Defence officials in Finland Russia have launched a direct phone link between the two countries. Army top brass on both sides say the round-the-clock connection will support communication during unexpected situations.

Puolustusministeri Jussi Niinistö saapui Naton Brysselin päämajaan puolustusministerikokoukseen 9. marraskuuta
Defence Minister Niinistö made the announcement at NATO Brussels headquarters on Thursday. Image: Anniina Luotonen / Lehtikuva

A new direct phone link between defence officials in Finland and Russia have established a round-the-clock connection between the two countries, according to army top brass.

Speaking in Brussels where he attended a meeting of NATO defence ministers on Thursday, Finnish Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö said that the aim is to ensure rapid information exchange if needed.

"The line is extremely important to ensure that there are no misunderstandings," Niinistö said. According to Niinistö, Sweden and Russia have established a similar hotline.

Finland and Sweden are not NATO members, but have "enhanced" roles in its Partnership for Peace.

Defence Ministry head of preparedness Colonel Antti Lehtisalo said that the line is for unexpected situations such as accidents, emergencies and other disruptions.

"It was thought up for just those kinds of more common situations," Lehtisalo noted, but he admitted that it could also be used in extreme circumstances, for example a crisis at the border.

"Airspace incursions won’t be discussed on the hotline because there is a different process for getting to the bottom of them," Lehtisalo explained.

Phone location remains secret

The language to be used on the line is English and the situation will determine who gets on either end of the phone.

"The line can be used by the Defence Minister the Commander of the Defence Forces or someone they delegate," the colonel added.

The phone itself is located in the Finnish Defence Force headquarters, but Lehtisalo did not disclose the precise site. He also did not reveal where the device at the other end is in Russia.

Finland took the initiative to set up the hotline with Moscow. According to the Defence Ministry, the project got off the ground just months ago during a meeting involving Finnish Defence Ministry Permanent Secretary Jukka Juusti and Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin in Moscow in May.

"This indicates that we want to avoid misunderstandings. It also shows the goodwill between the Finnish and Russian defence administrations," said Defence Minister Niinistö.

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