Ukraine Defence Minister In Helsinki For Talks

Stepan Poltorak meets his Finnish counterpart and President Niinistö as UN peacekeeping plan develops.

Ukraine Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak (L) meets Finnish Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö (Blue) (R) in Helsinki on 27.2.2018 / Credit: @DefenceFinland Twitter

The Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak is in Helsinki today, for talks with his Finnish counterpart Jussi Niinistö (Blue).

The pair are discussing the current security situation in Ukraine, and defence policy issues.

The war in east Ukraine, where Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, continues despite ceasefire agreements. OSCE observers in the area report ceasefire violations by armed groups almost every day, including heavy weapons fire.

Around 20 Finns are part of the 700-strong OSCE observer mission in east Ukraine.

The idea of a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Ukraine has been raised, and at a recent security conference in Germany, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö said that Finland should be ready to participate in a possible UN operation with troops, adding “as long as we have sufficient resources”.

In practice, a peacekeeping operation is far from becoming reality. Russia and Ukraine would first have to stick to ceasefire agreements and agree on issues like border control and elections in east Ukraine.

However, a study commissioned by former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said up to 20,000 peacekeepers could be stationed in east Ukraine, with EU countries like Finland, Sweden, Greece and Portugal having an important part to play.

Today, Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö (no relation to the president) said he thought it was problematic to limit possible peacekeeping forces to just certain countries. He made the comments after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Helsinki.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak will have a meeting with President Niinistö while he visits Finland, and also lay a wreath at Herttoniemi Cemetary.