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NATO exercises raise tensions at Soini-Lavrov meeting

A press conference in Moscow Monday following talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Finland's Foreign Minister Timo Soini heard Lavrov make it clear he was vexed by the start of NATO-led exercises in Finland. Soini responded that Finland is acting independently with the aim of its own security.

Timo Soini ja Sergei Lavrov kävelevät eri suuntiin. Lavrovilla on käsi paketissa.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived at Monday's press conference with his arm in a sling. He said he had injured his hand playing football. Image: Serge Ilnitsky / EPA

Finland's Foreign Minister Timo Soini met for talks with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Monday.

Lavrov began his remarks to a press conference following their discussions by describing the talks as "productive," adding that cooperation between Russia and Finland is proceeding well. As examples, he noted a Rosatom nuclear plant project in Finland and projects by Finland's Fortum energy group in Siberia.

Foreign Minister Soini said the two had held talks on everything, including difficult issues, in a good atmosphere.

According to Yle correspondent Kerstin Kronvall, there was a clear element of tension caused by the start of NATO-led BALTOPS 16 exercises on Finnish territory on Monday.

Lavrov made it clear that Russia has a negative attitude to what he called, "the movement of NATO's military infrastructure towards our borders, to dragging new states into the military activity of the bloc."

"We will invoke Russia's sovereign right to guarantee its security with measures proportionate to the current risks. I am confident that our Finnish friends and neighbours also understand this," Lavrov added.

Foreign Minister Soini defended participation in the exercises. He said Finland, which is not a member of NATO, was taking the "security challenges" it faced seriously, closely cooperating with NATO, and deepening cooperation with Sweden.

Soini stated that Finland is independently making these kinds of decisions, "and of course our aim is currently our security. There are no other aims."

Putin visit

Also during Foreign Minister Soini's visit to Moscow, it was confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin will make a visit to Finland this summer. He is expected to visit the Finnish president's summer residence, Kultaranta in the south-western town of Naantali, in early July.

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