Russia has announced that it will no longer permit Finland to operate its consulate general in St Petersburg and will expel nine Finnish diplomats. The decision comes as a response to what Moscow describes as “confrontational actions” by the Finnish authorities.
According to a statement from the Russian foreign ministry, Finland’s consul general in St Petersburg will cease its operations starting from October 1. The Finnish ambassador to Russia, Antti Helantera, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and informed about these decisions.
This move by Russia is a direct response to Finland’s expulsion of nine Russian diplomats from the embassy in Helsinki in June. Helsinki accused these diplomats of carrying out intelligence missions that violated the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.
The Finnish ambassador was also informed by Moscow that Finland’s entry into NATO in April is seen as a threat to Russia’s security. Helsinki’s decision to abandon its long-standing policy of non-alignment and apply to join the US-led military bloc was driven by concerns over Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, which began in February 2022.
Russia sees Finland’s actions as encouraging the Ukrainian government to go to war with Russia and providing it with Western weapons. Moscow regards these actions as hostile and believes they cannot go unanswered.
Russia accuses Finland of disrupting economic ties and human contact between the two countries. Moscow claims that Finland discriminates against Russians when issuing entry visas and creates obstacles for the regular activities of Russian diplomats. It believes that Helsinki’s current course is aimed at undermining the mutually beneficial relations that have been built between Russia and Finland over the years.
In response to Russia’s actions, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto expressed his disapproval on social media. He described Moscow’s measures as “harsh and asymmetric” in response to Finland’s expulsion of diplomats. President Niinisto hinted that Finland will take a similar measure in response, indicating that the Consulate General of Russia in Turku could also be closed.
The tense relations between Russia and Finland reflect the wider tensions between Russia and NATO. Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, making it particularly sensitive to the situation in Ukraine and Russia’s military activities. Finland’s application to join NATO underscores its growing concerns about Russian aggression and its desire for security guarantees from the alliance.
The expulsion of diplomats and closure of consulates further exacerbate the diplomatic tensions between Russia and Finland. It remains to be seen how these actions will impact the overall relationship between the two countries and whether there will be any further escalation in the future.