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Russia to cut electricity to Finland as Helsinki moves toward NATO bid

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
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". (File Photo)

Russia is likely to suspend electricity supplies to Finland this weekend as Helsinki seems adamant about pursuing its ambitious bid of joining the US-led NATO military alliance amid the raging war in Ukraine.

"We are forced to suspend the electricity import starting from May 14," RAO Nordic, a subsidiary of Russian state energy holding Inter RAO, was quoted as saying by AFP on Friday.

The energy trading company blamed the suspension on not receiving payment for electricity for May. However, observers have linked it to Finland’s move to join the military bloc.

"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 announcement came a day after Finland's President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin declared that their country must join NATO "without delay."

Niinisto noted that Russia's ongoing military operation in Ukraine had changed Finland's security situation, even though there was no immediate threat.

"NATO membership would strengthen Finland's security," the Finnish officials said in a statement, adding that accession to NATO would, in turn, "strengthen" the entire military alliance.

Russia began the military operation on February 24 to “demilitarize” two eastern Ukrainian regions amid Kiev's vaulting ambitions to join NATO, which Moscow deems a redline.

At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

Finland's potential inclusion in NATO would almost double the length of the border that Russia already enjoys with the alliance's members.

'Radical change'

Russia has repeatedly warned that it would "definitely" see Finland’s NATO membership as a threat, while the Russian foreign ministry has said that Moscow would be "forced to take reciprocal steps, military-technical and other, to address the resulting threats."

"Finland joining NATO is a radical change in the country's foreign policy," the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

"Russia will be forced to take retaliatory steps, both of a military-technical and other nature, in order to stop threats to its national security arising," the statement added.

Alongside Finland, neighboring Sweden has also been growing closer to NATO over the past years and is expected to announce its intention to join the alliance through a similar process.

Russia has land borders with 14 countries and five of them are NATO members: Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and Norway.

“The goal of NATO, whose member countries vigorously convinced the Finnish side that there was no alternative to membership in the alliance, is clear — to continue expanding towards the borders of Russia, to create another flank for a military threat to our country,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.

It insists that Finland's policy of military nonalignment "served as the basis for stability" in Northern Europe but now it must be “aware of the responsibility and consequences of such a move." 

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