Finland Watching Allies For More Russia Sanctions Over Chemical Attack

Possible action comes after President Niinistö discussed the case with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday.

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File picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin from March 2018 / Credit: Instagram

Finland’s political leaders will be watching carefully today, to see if other EU countries announce sanctions against Russia, over a chemical weapons attack in England earlier this month.

The British government blames Russia for the attack that targeted former double agent Sergei Skripal, a Russian military intelligence officer who was spying for Britain, and his daughter. A policeman who went to their aid was also poisoned by the nerve agent, but was released from hospital before the weekend.

Last week, Britain expelled 23 spies from the Russian embassy in London, and hopes to rally other European countries to take their own action against Russia.

Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Germany are said to favour taking measures to curb Russia’s intelligence gathering capabilities on their soil – perhaps as early as today – and this could put Finland in a difficult position because of the delicately balanced relationship that Finland has cultivated with Russia over the years.

“If Finland’s key EU allies are taking action, I believe that Finland will join too” says Matti Pesu from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs FIIA.

According to Pesu, possible actions include diplomatic expulsions or sanctions against specific people; and he says that if Finland ever needs EU assistance in a crisis situation, it must also demonstrate solidarity over this issue.

“Finland has a unique security situation that relies heavily on the EU as a security guarantor. This is different from the majority of member states [who are also in NATO] and it is particularly important for Finland that EU member states support each other in situations where their security has been threatened or violated” says Pesu.

On Sunday, President Sauli Niinistö had a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the situation, but no more details were released by the president’s office.

Finland’s former Moscow ambassador Hannu Himmanen says that not all EU countries will take their own action against Russian diplomatic personnel. But he thinks Finland’s political leadership has acted properly in considering the next steps.

“In particular, I note the statement by President Sauli Niinistö that the contribution of Russia to resolving this matter is indispensable” says Himmanen.

Russia has strongly denied its involvement in the poisoning, but has not so far cooperated with the investigation process.

MP Tiina Elovaara (Blue) says that any actions against Russia must be based on evidence, and shouldn’t be rushed.

“Finland must act only together with EU if there is enough evidence found” Elovaara, who is on the Foreign Affairs Committee, tells News Now Finland.