June 18, 2024

HELSINKI (AP) — Finland’s relationship with Russia has significantly deteriorated due to the Nordic country’s membership in NATO and over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and related sanctions, and Moscow now views its western neighbor as a hostile country, the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service said Thursday.

The agency, known by the abbreviation SUPO, said in a national security review that Russia was “prepared to take measures against Finland” and was likely to continue influencing operations and undermining bilateral links.

After decades of military non-alignment, Finland — a European Union nation of 5.5 million people that shares a long border with Russia — became NATO’s 31st member on April 4.

Moscow’s hostility toward Helsinki is evident in Russian media’s negative coverage of Finland and in Russia’s decision to close Finland’s consulate general in St. Petersburg this month, among other ways, SUPO said.

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“Russia currently remains focused on the war in Ukraine and on easing international isolation, but this does not mean that the threat of Russian intelligence and influencing in Finland has disappeared,” SUPO Director Antti Pelttari said in a statement.

“The accession of Finland to NATO, the continuation of the war in Ukraine, the deepening confrontation between Western countries and Russia, and increasing sanctions may strengthen Russian countermeasures against Finland,” he said.

During a news conference, Pelttari declined to say whether Russia could be behind a possible sabotage on an undersea gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia. He said the involvement of a state actor cannot be ruled out in the case involving two NATO members.

The National Bureau of Investigation, a branch of the Finnish police, has launched a criminal investigation into possible sabotage of the 77-kilometer (48-mile) Balticconnector pipeline that was shut down over the weekend following a leak.

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