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Putin: Winter War aimed at correcting border "mistakes"

The Russian leader gave his interpretation of the bloody 1939-40 war with Finland during a discussion with historians on Thursday.

Lumipukuisia sotilaista hiihtää jäällä.
Finnish troops crossing a frozen lake during the Winter War. Image: SA-kuva

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that the Soviet Union launched the Winter War with Finland in order to “correct mistakes” that had been made when Finland gained its independence in 1917.

“The border was just 20 kilometres from St Petersburg and that was a significantly major threat to a city of five million,” said Putin on Thursday, addressing the Russian Military Historical Society at Novo-Ogaryovo, one of his official residences near Moscow. The Bolsheviks later realised that the agreed border was too close to the city, known in the Soviet era as Petrograd and then Leningrad.

Putin says the Red Army sustained heavy losses because of errors, but that Stalin mobilised it to make Finland "feel all the power of the Russian, then Soviet state," according to Russian news agencies.

Green light for new memorials

He also welcomed the idea of building memorials on the graves of Soviet soldiers who died during the 1939-40 war.

“I support this idea,” said Putin. “We must remember our heroes who gave their lives on behalf of our country.”  However, he stressed that the work should be aimed at strengthening Russia's relations with Finland rather than confrontation.

“We have very good relations with Finland today,” Putin noted. “And this must be done without any kind of confrontation – on the contrary, so that this bloody episode in our shared history will be an example as to why nothing similar should ever be allowed to happen again.”

The USSR attacked Finland on November 30, 1939. The war ended with a peace treaty on March 13, 1940, which left the Soviets with significant territorial gains. Both sides suffered heavy losses.

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