“The conversation was frank, direct and did not witness tension,” Niinistö said in a statement issued by the Finnish presidency. “The avoidance of tension was considered important. The contact was made at the initiative of Finland.”
The announcement of Helsinki’s candidacy for NATO membership is expected on Sunday, which raises concern in Moscow and fears of another conflict in Europe.
On the other hand, Putin revealed to his Finnish counterpart during the call that ending Finland’s military neutrality would be a “mistake.”
“Putin stressed that ending the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, as there is no threat to Finland’s security,” a statement from the Kremlin said.
“Such a change in the country’s political orientation could have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations, which have developed over the years in the spirit of good-neighbourliness and cooperation between partners, which is beneficial to both parties,” the Kremlin said in its statement.
The two leaders also discussed the situation in Ukraine, which Russia has been waging war on since February 24.
Putin told his Finnish counterpart about the “state of the Russian-Ukrainian talks, which Kyiv has practically suspended, and does not show any interest in conducting a constructive and serious dialogue,” according to a Kremlin statement.
Earlier on Saturday, Moscow warned that Finland’s entry into NATO would have consequences, and that it would lead to “the militarization of the North”.
Russian news agencies quoted Russian Assistant Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko as saying that Russia would take what he described as “appropriate precautionary measures” in the event that NATO places nuclear forces and infrastructure near the Russian borders.
“It will be necessary to respond by taking appropriate precautionary measures that ensure the continuation of deterrence,” Grushko said, adding that his country has no aggressive intentions towards Finland and Sweden, and does not see any “real” reasons for the two countries to join NATO.
Grushko repeated the Kremlin’s previous statement that Moscow’s response to a possible NATO expansion will depend on how the alliance transfers military equipment to Russia, and the infrastructure it deploys, according to “Reuters”.
And Finland’s intention to apply for NATO membership, amid expectations that Sweden will follow, would expand the Western military alliance, which Putin said he aims to prevent.