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Russia to cut electricity to Finland as tensions rise over Nato bid

Sergei Lavrov has accused the EU of transforming from a “constructive, economic platform” into an “aggressive, militant player”.

Ukrainian refugees pictured at a train station in Przemyśl in Poland in March
Ukrainian refugees pictured at a train station in Przemyśl in Poland in March
Image: Sergei Grits/AP/PA Images

Updated Fri 5:59 PM

RUSSIA WILL SUSPEND electricity supplies to Finland this weekend, a supplier said today as tensions rise over Helsinki’s Nato bid following the conflict in Ukraine.

“We are forced to suspend the electricity import starting from May 14,” said RAO Nordic, a subsidiary of Russian state energy holding Inter RAO that sells its electricity on the Nordic market.

It blamed the suspension on not having received payment for electricity sold in May and said as a consequence it was no longer able to pay for more electricity from Russia.

“This situation is exceptional and happened for the first time in over 20 years of our trading history,” RAO Nordic said, hoping the situation would “soon” improve and the trade could resume.

The Finnish electricity network operator said it would be able to make do without Russian electricity.

“We’re prepared for this and it won’t be difficult. We can make do with a bit more imports from Sweden and Norway,” Fingrid’s manager for operational planning Timo Kaukonen told AFP.

He said a little less than 10% of electricity consumed in Finland comes from Russia.

The announcement of the cut in electricity supplies came one day after Finland’s leaders declared their nation must apply to join Nato “without delay” – a seismic change in policy since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine on 24 February.

The Kremlin has warned Russia would “definitely” see Finnish membership as a threat, while the Russian foreign ministry said Moscow would be “forced to take reciprocal steps, military-technical and other, to address the resulting threats”.

Turkey’s intervention

The move by Finland and, potentially, Sweden to join Nato was thrown into question when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country is “not of a favourable opinion” toward the idea.

He accused Sweden and other Scandinavian countries of supporting Kurdish militants and others Turkey considers terrorists.

Erdogan did not say outright that he would block the two countries from joining Nato, but the military alliance makes its decisions by consensus, meaning that each of its 30 member countries has a veto over who can join.

An expansion of Nato would be a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who undertook the war in what he said was a bid to thwart the alliance’s easterly advance.

The invasion of Ukraine has stirred fears in other countries along Russia’s flank that they could be next.

Heavy losses

Russia suffered heavy losses when Ukrainian forces destroyed the pontoon bridge Russian troops were using to try to cross a river in the east, Ukrainian and British officials said.

It is another sign of Moscow’s struggle to salvage a war gone awry.

Ukrainian authorities, meanwhile, opened the first war crimes trial of the conflict.

Alongside the trial, earlier today the EU announced that it would be providing an additional €500 million in military aid to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s airborne command released photos and video of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River and several destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby.

Ukrainian news reports said troops thwarted an attempt by Russian forces to cross the river earlier this week, leaving dozens of tanks and other military vehicles damaged or abandoned.

The command said its troops “drowned the Russian occupiers”.

Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Russia lost “significant armoured manoeuvre elements” of at least one battalion tactical group as well as equipment used to deploy the makeshift floating bridge.

“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky manoeuvre and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the MoD said in its daily intelligence update.

Earlier today, EU Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell today pledged an extra €500 million in military aid for Ukraine at a meeting the Group of Seven industrialised nations in northern Germany.

The extra cash will raise the EU’s total military aid for Ukraine to €2 billion, he said.

“The recipe is clear – more of the same,” Borrell said, calling for allies to keep up “pressure on Russia”.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today said he doubted the motives of Ukraine’s intention of joining the European Union, while accusing Brussels of ambitions beyond the European continent.

Ukraine, where Russia launched a military campaign on 24 February, “is ready to declare a neutral, non-aligned status”, Lavrov told reporters following a meeting of CIS foreign ministers in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe.

“At the same time, they are trying in every possible way to emphasise their desire to become an EU member,” Lavrov added.

“There are serious doubts about how harmless such a desire is from Kyiv,” he said.

Russia has insisted at stalled peace talks that Ukraine drop its ambition to enter US-led military alliance Nato and declare itself “neutral”.

Lavrov accused the EU of transforming from a “constructive, economic platform” into an “aggressive, militant player, declaring its ambitions far beyond the European continent”, pointing to moves in the Indo-Pacific region.

“They are rushing to follow in the tracks already laid by Nato, thereby confirming the trend that they are merging with the North Atlantic Alliance (Nato) and will in fact serve as its appendage,” he said.

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2.66851942 A crater of an explosion after Russian shelling is seen next to a damaged apartment building in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine Source: Andriy Andriyenko/AP/PA Images

Finland’s Nato decision

When launching the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin had cited in part what he called the threat from Nato, which has expanded eastwards since the end of the Cold War.

Rather than containing the bloc, however, the war appears to have had the opposite effect.

The leaders of Finland, a declared neutral state in East-West crises for decades, said yesterday their country should join the bloc.

“As a member of Nato, Finland would strengthen the entire defence alliance,” President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement.

The Russian foreign ministry warned Moscow would be “forced to take reciprocal steps, military-technical and other, to address the resulting threats”.

Finland shares a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Russia and its past is studded with conflict with its giant neighbour.

Nato has already declared it will warmly embrace Finland and Sweden, two countries with deep pockets and well-equipped militaries.

A special committee will announce Finland’s formal decision on Sunday. Sweden, another neutral state, is widely expected to follow.

© AFP 2022 

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