Finland Åland Islands. Petition for Dissolution of Russian Embassy

After Finland’s admission to NATO, residents of this country are collecting signatures for a petition to close the Russian embassy in Åland. Citizens say the facility, which has been maintained since World War II, “poses a threat to Finland’s security”.

Since the start of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Russian Embassy has stirred many controversies. From time to time, small protests of local residents take place in front of the building. The facility was established during World War II after the Finnish-Soviet Winter War (1939–1940). Its main task was to “supervise” the demilitarization of the islands.

The petition to abolish the embassy was submitted on Tuesday, April 4, the day the country joined NATO. Within days, 16,000 people had signed up. People (requires 50,000 signatures to submit to Parliament).

Discussion of the status of the Åland Islands

The legality of maintaining a Russian embassy is a relic of the past because the agreements were concluded with the Soviet Union, comments General Beka Doveri, a former head of military intelligence who also won a parliamentary seat in the last parliamentary election. The victorious National Alliance (KOK).

Åland Islands Shutterstock

The issue of the Åland Islands, a neutral and autonomous archipelago formally owned by Finland, is widely commented on in the Christmas editions of major newspapers. Islands are an important part of Finland. Doveri insisted in an interview with Iltalehti that abandoning their demilitarization would “facilitate security planning.” Up to 90 percent of Finland’s trade with the West goes through the sea routes around the islands. Communication cables or other components of critical infrastructure are also laid there, the ex-serviceman pointed out.

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Former Prime Minister of Finland Matti Vanhanen reminds us that the embassy in Mariehamn, the capital of the Åland Islands, is a “big symbol” for Russia. However, regarding the future of the islands, one should “listen to the position of the locals” – he admitted in an interview with “Kauppalehti”.

Mats Lofström, the sole representative of the Åland Islands in the Finnish parliament, has no reason to change the islands’ international status even though they are a NATO member. He pointed out that the initiative in this matter should not come from the Finnish side. “This will be a victory for Russia – we will consider international agreements unnecessary,” believes the deputy quoted by “IL”.

The Åland Islands are located in the middle of the sea between Finland and Sweden at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia. First, their demilitarization was established in the mid-nineteenth century based on the pre-Crimean War treaties. This position was confirmed after World War I and World War II. About 30,000 people live in this archipelago. Mainly Swedish-speaking people. There is a complete ban on maneuvers and military aircraft in its area.

In the process of Finland’s entry into NATO, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto, repeatedly explained that the Russian mission “is not an obstacle” to membership in the alliance. He said that Finland was committed to protecting the islands during the war and that this had not changed after joining NATO.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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