MOSCOW, May 23. /TASS/. Finland’s accession to NATO is raising the issue of the Aland Islands that have a demilitarized status under an international treaty, Russia’s envoy to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said on Rossiya-24 television on Monday.
"Regarding [the bid to join NATO by] Finland, I immediately have a question about two aspects: It’s the status of the Aland Islands that have a demilitarized status under an international treaty, and a question about the fate of the Saimaa Canal, which was built back in the days of the Russian empire and links the inland waterways of Finland, the lakes with the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea," he said.
Chizhov said "in accordance with a Russian-Finnish intergovernmental agreement, Russia essentially leased small strips of land along the Saimaa Canal to the neighboring state."
"Maintenance of the canal, its repairs throughout its entire length - it’s the responsibility of the Finnish side," the diplomat said. "What will happen next about this - we’ll need to see."
The ambassadors of Finland and Sweden to NATO on Wednesday officially delivered to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg the applications for their countries to join NATO. Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 16 at the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in the Kremlin warned Moscow will have a response to an expansion of NATO's military infrastructure in Finland and Sweden. The Russian leader also said that the expansion of NATO to Finland and Sweden doesn’t pose a direct threat to Russia because Moscow has no problems with these countries.