President Sauli Niinistö greeted President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki on May 3, 2023. Photograph: Matti Porre/ The Finnish president’s office

The meeting of the Nordic prime ministers on Wednesday turned into a police security operation at a scale of a typical visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Finland.

While Putin is unlikely to be invited here anytime soon, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was in the afternoon welcomed with an official reception ceremony at the Presidential Palace where he greeted the soldiers to the sound of a military march and walked on the red carpet spread across the cobblestones in cloudy weather.

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In front of the palace, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö welcomed President Zelensky with a firm handshake. Niinistö was wearing a dark blue suit and his Ukrainian counterpart was clad in green cargo pants and a dark sweater. Then the presidents walked inside the gates for official discussions.

After the news of this surprise visit, which was kept under the blanket until the very last minute, started spreading, many pulled on their warm coats and jumped on public transport to get a glimpse of the president that one spectator standing behind the riot fence at a distance from the palace described as “the greatest war hero of our times.”

Others were worried about how to get their car out from the sealed area where the border guard’s vessel stood anchored in front of the palace, helicopters thundered above, army trucks blocked the roads and police snipers focused their binoculars on the roofs.

After their discussions, Zelensky explained that one of the reasons for his visit was the powerful summit of the Nordic states that Zelensky felt was important to be part of if at least to stress the continuing need for military support to Ukraine.

“We will support and continue to support you,” President Niinistö said. “The 15th support package is now under preparation.”

Zelensky thanked and said that the Finnish courageous war history was an inspiration for Ukrainians.

“Every bookstore in Ukraine sells books about our war, your war to freedom,” Zelensky said.

President Zelensky also expressed his continuing interest in Finland’s military aircraft.

It has been revealed, that Finland’s aging Hornets are to be gradually replaced with F-35 jets from the United States.

When a reporter with a British accent asked why Finland would simply not just give away their military aircraft, President Niinistö said:

“We couldn’t give up the hornets before we get the new ones. And unfortunately, our Hornets at that time are practically finished,”

“But we like your aircraft,” Zelensky said, laughing. “Just so you to know,” he continued.

“Yep. They are good ones,” Niinistö said laughingly. “And I hope everybody knows it.”

“Your neighbors know it,” Zelensky concluded.

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