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Finnish President Sauli Niinistö speaks during a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, May 11. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva/AFP/Getty Images)

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday that the Nordic nation would decide “to apply for NATO membership in the coming days”, Niinistö’s office said in a statement.

During the Finland-initiated phone call, “President Niinistö told President Putin how late 2021 Russian demands to prevent countries from joining NATO and Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have fundamentally changed Finland’s security environment,” the statement read. .

“The conversation was direct and direct and it went without escalation. Avoiding tension was considered important,” Niinistö said in the statement.

Niinistö noted that he had already told Putin at their first meeting in 2012 “that each independent nation maximizes its security” and that “this is happening now too,” the statement said.

By joining NATO, Finland “strengthens its own security and assumes its responsibility” because “it is not far from anyone else”, the statement said. In the future, Finland “wants to deal with the practical issues arising from being a neighbor of Russia in a correct and professional manner”, he adds.

Niinistö “reiterated his deep concern over the human suffering caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine” and “stressed the imperative of peace”. He also “conveyed the messages on securing the evacuation of civilians issued earlier in the same week by (Ukrainian) President Volodymyr Zelenskyy,” the statement said.

What the Kremlin says: Niinistö and Putin had “a frank exchange of views” in a phone call on Saturday that came as part of Finland’s leaders’ announced intention to seek NATO membership, the Kremlin said in a statement. communicated.

“Vladimir Putin stressed that abandoning the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, as there is no threat to Finland’s security,” the statement said.

“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations, which have been built for many years in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership cooperation, and have been mutually beneficial,” he said. he added.

The leaders also discussed the situation in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.

“Vladimir Putin, in particular, shared his assessment of the state of the negotiation process between the Russian and Ukrainian representatives, which has in fact been suspended by Kyiv, who do not show interest in a serious and constructive dialogue”, says the press release.

Christi C. Elwood