SOCHI, August 15. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russia and Finland would exert every effort to seek the earliest end of conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“We are going to do everything within our power to end the military conflict as soon as possible, establish a dialogue among all the parties concerned and provide relief aid,” Putin said, adding both countries were seriously concerned with the large-scale military operations and a true humanitarian disaster in south-east Ukraine.
For his part, Finnish President Sauli Niiniste said after his talks with Putin that he hoped the relief aid Russia had sent to Ukraine would be the first step in settling the Ukraine crisis and that the Russian relief convoy heading for Ukraine could signal the possibility of strengthening reciprocal trust.
This trust, he said, is necessary for making the next step, namely to cease fire in south-east Ukraine.
The Finnish leader believes that to make guns silent it was necessary for Russia to take certain steps to prevent weapons from crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border. He also noted that certain efforts were being made to deal with the situation.
Putin described the Russian-Finnish talks as meaningful and constructive. The two presidents discussed bilateral cooperation and future prospects, including economic interaction to which the two countries pay special attention.
Putin said Russia was Finland’s leading trade and economic partner in 2013. “We practically meet all Finnish needs in natural gas and are reliable suppliers of other energy resources to the Finnish market. Finland, in turn, is one of Russia’s key European partners,” Putin said.
The past few years have seen a positive trend in reciprocal trade which grew by 6.5% in 2012 and by 10% in 2013 to reach almost $19 billion. The two sides also strengthened investment cooperation.
“Even by the most modest calculations, the volume of Finnish investments accumulated in Russia is estimated at more than $3.5 billion,” Putin said, adding Russian and Finnish companies were implementing large-scale projects.
At the same time, Putin noted that the EU sanctions had put Russian-Finnish trade and investment ties under threat. “Some negative trends have formed in our bilateral relations. Our reciprocal trade has dropped by 8% since the start of the year,” the Russian leader told his Finnish counterpart.
Russia, Putin said, is categorically opposed to any further sanctions. “Mr. President and I have discussed this unfavorable development. I believe that the sanctions will inevitably affect trade, business interests and the dynamics of development of our two countries and ultimately - the entire global economy,” Putin stressed.
Finnish president set to visit Ukraine
Sauli Niiniste expressed personal concern with such an abrupt cooling of relations between Russia and the European Union. “We have approached the gates leading to a new ‘Cold War’,” he complained.
On August 16, Finnish President Sauli Niiniste will travel to Kiev to discuss the Ukraine crisis with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the Finnish president’s office reported on Friday.
The visit will take place at the Ukrainian side’s request.