President’s Steamboat and Opera Diplomacy for Putin

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö meets Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 1st, 2016 / Credit: Matti Porre, Office of the President of the Republic of Finland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to pay a one day visit to Finland today, as part of the country’s 100th independence anniversary celebrations, hosted by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö.

The visit begins with bilateral talks at Hotel Punkuharju in Savonlinna – a location steeped in the history of relations between the two countries. The hotel was a popular destination for Russian holidaymakers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Russia-watchers don’t expect any surprises at the press conference which the two Presidents will hold after their talks.

“There will be no deviation from the Finnish line on Russia” says Rihor Nizhnakau, a Senior Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

Nizhnakau tells News Now Finland that the message will be consistent from the Finnish side, that they are part of the EU but also “have to use this established Finnish-Russian relationship as a possibility to send a pragmatic message to Russia, and to maintain a good line of communication with Moscow”.

After their joint press conference, President Niinistö and President Putin will travel by steam ship on Lake Saimaa to Olavinlinna Castle where they will attend a dinner, and a performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s opera Iolanta at the Savonlinna Opera Festival. It’s the first time the opera has been performed in Finland in one hundred years.
The last time presidents Niinistö and Putin met was in March 2017 at the Arctic Conference in Arkhangelsk, Russia. President Putin’s latest visit to Finland was in July 2016 when the presidents met at the annual summer policy discussion forum, Kultaranta.