we will apply to join NATO

HELSINKI (AP) — Finnish President Sauli Niinistö told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday that the military non-aligned Nordic country with a long border and history with Russia “will decide within the next few days. Apply to join NATO”.

The Finnish head of state told Putin in a phone conversation how radically the security environment in Finland had changed following Moscow’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Niinisto’s office said in a statement, noting that Russia asked Finland not to seek accession NATO 30 – member of the Western military alliance.

“The discussions (with Putin) were straightforward, unambiguous, no exaggeration. It was considered important to avoid tensions,” said Niinisto, Finland’s president since 2012 and one of the few to have had regular talks with Putin over the past decade. one of the Western leaders.

Niinisto noted that he had told Putin at his first meeting in 2012 that “every independent country will maximize its own security”.

“This is still the case. By joining NATO, Finland will strengthen its own security and assume its responsibilities. This is not something that is far from anyone,” Niinisto said.

He stressed that despite Finland’s potential future NATO membership, it still wants to continue to deal bilaterally with Russia on “practical issues arising from border neighbours” and wants to engage with Moscow “in a professional manner”.

Niinisto’s office said the call was made on the initiative of Finland. The statement did not reveal any comment from Putin or the Kremlin on the conversation.

Finland’s 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia is the longest of any EU member state.

Niinisto and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin shared their support for Finland’s membership in NATO on Thursday and suggested that Finland “must apply to join NATO immediately” in the event of Russian military exercises in Ukraine and changes in the geopolitical and security landscape in Europe safeguard national security.

Niinisto and Marin are expected to formally announce Finland’s intention to apply to join NATO on Sunday, a day after Marin’s ruling Social Democratic Party may support it.

Neighboring Sweden will decide on its NATO position on Sunday at a meeting of the ruling Social Democrats led by Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson.

U.S. President Joe Biden held a joint conference call with Niinisto and Anderson on Friday, where, according to a White House statement, he “emphasized his open-door policy toward NATO and that Finland and Sweden determine their own futures, foreign policy and security arrangements. .”

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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