Putin's territory in Finland
Russia annexed a part of the Finnish territory years ago but it seems that it wasn't the only piece of Finland that Moscow actually stole. Aland Islands, an autonomous region within Finland may have the answer, according to Ukraine Today.
The islands can be compared to Crimea in more ways than just an autonomous part of the country, they are a key bargaining tool between Moscow and Helsinki, Ukraine Today reports.
Vladimir Putin is planning to visit Finland this July. It will be the first trip since the sanctions against Russia were put in place after it annexed Ukraine's Crimea.
"There are a lot of parallels. The Soviet Union back then created the FDR, so-called republic that was very similar to what Russia is trying to create with ‘DPR’ and ‘LPR.’ Putin is using the same slogans his USSR predecessors did," says Andriy Olefirov, Ukraine's Ambassador to Finland.
At the times of the Russo-Finnish war, the Soviet Union annexed more than 10% of Finland, forcing nearly half a million people to become displaced.
Aland Island's peaceful existence would not cause anyone to get alarmed if it weren't for a small piece of land which actually belongs to the Russian Federation.
Read alsoThief Next Door: Russia's rich history of annexing neighboring countriesThe USSR signed an agreement with Finland back in 1940 so comparing it to the current situation with Crimea is only fair.
Andriy Olefirov said that when “we talk about Crimea and Aland islands, as if there could be little green men here at any point... that's concerning."
In 2015 that concern was high enough for the Finnish Minister of Defense who warned that Finland was ready to defend the Aland Islands especially if someone in foreign uniform showed up there.
Aland Islands have a strategic location. They are right in the middle of the Baltic region between Finland and Sweden, and just a stone's throw away from Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
Read alsoDW: NATO chief announces battalion deployments to Baltic states, PolandMats Lofstrom, Finnish parliamentarian, says the size of the property is about 6,000 square meters. “A few years back, Russia, since it is the owner of this land, split it up into two halves, and gave one of them to the office of its president," he said.
The transfer happened after World War II. The reason behind it may be that property belonged to a Finnish-German family. According to the Paris Peace Treaty - everything once German became Russian. That went unnoticed for years until Moscow decided to violate the Budapest Memorandum causing Finland to reevaluate its policy.
Lt. Col. Heikki Ilmari Valivehmas, Finland Defence Policy Department Director: "We understand very well what is happening, and that is why we regularly conduct training exercises and study what can happen with the changes. I can't give you any details but we are carefully observing the situation now."
And so it comes down to the NATO question. For years, Finland stood aside from the alliance, carefully watching, and not taking any steps towards closer cooperation. This suited the Russian Federation well - given its stance on the alliance. However, recently Finland shifted its focus on NATO rattling more than a few feathers in the Kremlin. Putin's upcoming visit to Helsinki could be a warning that Russia won't let go that easily. Meanwhile, Finland's government is actively planning for a referendum on joining the NATO.
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