Russia could stop providing Finland with natural gas due to the country’s bid to join NATO, Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reported on Thursday, citing unnamed sources. According to the publication, it could happen as early as Friday, May 13.
The newspaper notes previous concerns among the Finnish public that Russia could turn off the gas on May 23, the due date for the next payment. The country’s Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen told the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper recently that Finland did not intend to agree to Russia’s new ruble-based gas payment scheme.
Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen commented on the matter in a live interview with the Iltalehti daily in Parliament on Thursday, saying “it’s a pretty good question from which direction the gas might be cut.”
Ville Tavio, chairman of the Basic Finnish Parliamentary Group, went on to add that Finnish politicians had been informed of various forms of Russian retaliation if Finland fails to comply with Moscow’s new payment mechanism, and when asked whether Russia could cut off gas supplies to Finland before May 23, he stated: “preparations have been made for this and it is expected that this can happen.”
However, another member of Parliament and head of the “Movement Now” party, Harry “Hjallis” Harkimo, while also confirming that such a potential exists, said the cut could happen sooner due to Finland’s NATO membership aspirations.
“What I’m worried about is Russia’s retaliation. When we don’t pay rubles to buy natural gas, it will be cut off on the 23rd. It can be cut off any day, but now also as a countermeasure to NATO,” Harkimo was quoted as saying.
Discussions on Finland’s accession to NATO intensified at the beginning of April, amid Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Some members of the alliance have supported the idea, and most members of the Finnish Parliament have voted in favor of accession. On May 12, Finland’s President and Prime Minister Sauli Niiniste and Sanna Marin endorsed the application to join NATO. According to the two officials, the country’s entry into the alliance will increase its defense capabilities. On May 13, the Finnish Parliament is expected to release a cross-party analysis of the situation, and on May 15, the ruling Social Democratic Labor Party is scheduled to make a decision on joining the alliance.
Russia strongly opposes Finland’s NATO accession plans and is ready to take retaliatory steps, including “military-technical” ones, Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. According to the statement, Finland’s entry into the alliance “will cause serious damage to bilateral Russian-Finnish relations” and jeopardize security in the region.
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