Provocation ahead of NATO vote: Russian Mi-17 violates Finnish airspace

Provocation before NATO vote
Russian Mi-17 violates Finnish airspace

Finland and Sweden decide in a few days to join NATO. It would be a strategic debacle for the Kremlin. A stark increase in border violations matches the precarious situation: Helsinki has just reported a Russian military helicopter in its own airspace.

Amid talks of Finland joining NATO, a Russian military helicopter violated the Scandinavian country’s airspace. According to initial findings, the Mi-17 helicopter penetrated four to five kilometers into the airspace in the afternoon, said a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense in Helsinki. At the beginning of April, a Russian army transport plane briefly entered Finnish airspace. Finland and Russia share a border that is over 1,300 kilometers long.

Like Sweden, Finland is currently discussing joining NATO. Public opinion has changed considerably since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The majority of the population as well as parliamentarians are now in favor of joining the Western military alliance. President Sauli Niinistö wants to officially express his opinion on May 12. Russia has repeatedly warned both countries against the move and announced a nuclear upgrade in the Baltics in response. Just a few days ago, a Russian military aircraft briefly violated Swedish and Danish airspace.

“The membership must be processed as soon as possible”

Prime Minister Sanna Marin said that if applying for membership – either alone or with neighboring Sweden – the membership process must be completed “as soon as possible”. According to Finnish media, the government’s decision could be taken in just a few days. In Sweden, the government and parliament are due to present a security policy concept on May 13, outlining their views on NATO membership.

Finland and Sweden could count on the full support of their Nordic partners upon accession, the heads of government of Denmark, Norway and Iceland confirmed after a mini-summit in Copenhagen. “It’s your decision and your only decision,” said Danish Prime Minister and summit host Mette Frederiksen. “But rest assured: if you decide to join us, you will have the full support of Denmark.” We would support that “with all my heart”.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre made a similar statement, adding that everything would be done to ensure that the accession process goes smoothly and quickly. Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir also said: “We support Finland and Sweden in the decision they will take.”

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