Putin visits Finland, discusses NATO issues
Helsinki, July 2: Russian President Vladimir Putin said here on Friday that Russia would respect Finland's choice whether to join NATO but he painted a dire picture for Finland if it would be a NATO member.
Putin described the losses Finland would suffer as a NATO country. He said that NATO would be keen on fighting against Russia "to the last Finnish soldier alive", Xinhua reported.
Putin warned that Finnish defence forces would no longer be independent but be part of NATO infrastructure that would reach the Russian borders.
Putin made the remarks at a joint press conference after holding talks with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto. He arrived at Niinisto's summer residence in Naantali on Friday afternoon for a one-day working visit.
On his part, Niinisto said small steps could be taken to enhance confidence, referring to the situation in Ukraine and the tension in the Baltic Sea area.
Niinisto tied the possible dismantling of sanctions against Russia to the progress in peace talks on Ukraine crisis.
Putin claimed that Russia never provokes and he said the West created the situation in the Crimea and Ukraine through provocations. He said attempt is also being made to increase tension in the Baltic Sea.