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Finnish minister’s remark on Russian threat to Aland Islands dismissed as politicized

July 31, 2015, 8:33 UTC+3 HELSINKI

"The situation in the Black Sea and Crimea is totally different from that in the Baltic region," says the head of the government of the Aland Islands

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A castle in Sund, Aland Islands

A castle in Sund, Aland Islands

© AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Tor Wennstrom

HELSINKI, July 30 /TASS/. Finnish Defense Minister Jussi Niinisto is pursuing political goals when he says that it is necessary to defend the Aland Islands from occupation, the former Finnish defense minister, Carl Haglund, said on Thursday.

In an interview with the Finnish newspaper Kaleva, Niinisto claimed that Finland should be ready to defend the Aland Islands in view of Ukraine’s crisis and Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

"It is Finland’s duty to protect the demilitarized status of the Aland Islands," the Finnish ex-defense minister said adding, however, that as a rule military planning was not a subject of public discussions.

"I do not understand why Niinisto is doing that. Apparently, he has a political goal," the Swedish-language Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper, which comes out in Finland, quoted Haglund as saying.

Haglund is convinced that the Aland Islands are no different from other parts of Finland in questions of defense. "We should not fan this issue out of proportion," Haglund said.

Camilla Gunell, the head of the government of the Aland Islands, shared his view.

"The situation in the Black Sea and Crimea is totally different from that in the Baltic region," she said.

The Kaleva newspaper wrote on Thursday that Western military experts suspected that Russia would try to occupy the Aland Islands and the Swedish-owned Gotland Island if a military conflict started in the Baltic States and the Baltic Sea. "We rely on international law, and Finland always sticks to it but we cannot rely on it 100% in crisis situations. This is how things are. We should take that into account in our military planning," Finnish Defense Minister Yussi Niinisto told Kaleva. "Nowadays, it is possible to wage a war without declaring it," the minister added.

The Aland Islands is a Baltic Sea archipelago. Its population is predominantly Finnish and Swedish. The archipelago is an autonomy, which is an integral part of Finland. It has the special status of a demilitarized neutral zone under the 1921 Geneva Convention.

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