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Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, visiting Fortum Recycling and Waste Solutions in Riihimäki, Finland on September 26, 2018. Picture: Lauri Heikkinen / The Finnish Government

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Prime Minister of Finland Juha Sipilä and Prime Minister of Russia Dmitri Medvedev met in Helsinki on Wednesday. The prime ministers discussed the bilateral relations between Finland and Russia and certain regional and international topics. This was the fourth meeting between the premiers.

At the end of the conference, due to the delayed schedule, the media was granted only one question per representative country: one for Russians, one for Finns.

The Finnish media came into conclusion that the question would be about Airiston Helmi, the Finnish company, which owns property in the Turku archipelago and is now according to media sources suspected of, among others, money laundering and tax fraud.

During the weekend, the National Investigation Bureau (NIB) with the Finnish Tax Adminstration raided the Säkkiluoto island, where several buildings owned by Airiston Helmi are located. Two suspects have been arrested: an Estonian and a Russian man. At least three million euros have been confiscated and 200 terabytes of data.

Paranoid thinking

According to the NIB, they have been following the business of Airiston Helmi for years together with the Finnish army. The archipelago is surrounded by military islands, and its a major waterway to transport oil to Neste Oil’s refinery.

People who are living near the island have for years been wondering about the security cameras eyeing the island, and the massive heliports have been subject to many questions and sauna discussions.

Late on Wednesday afternoon, the heliport was also the topic of the question allowed by the Finnish media.

Could the heliports be used in military purposes?

“What it comes to heliports and their possible use in military purposes, I don’t know whose sick mind could give birth to such a thought. It’s frankly said, paranoid thinking,” said Medvedev.

Within the same breath, the Finnish media grilled the Russian premier whether the Russian government will provide all the necessary help and information to the Finnish authorities regarding the criminal investigation.

“If it’s a suspicion of money laundering, it’s also a crime in Russian legislation. If the Finns are requesting judicial help, we will of course grant it.”

According to Sipilä, the investigations have no effect on the relations between the countries.

“I find it easy to agree with the comments of my colleague,” Sipilä said.

Cooperation on many levels

Earlier in the press conference Sipilä said that “the main topics for me and my colleague today were environmental questions. The environment knows no national borders. Through persistent cooperation over the years, we have managed to improve the state of the Baltic Sea. Now we wish to draw attention to climate issues more broadly.”

“The topics discussed included the international climate negotiations and reducing black carbon emissions. Finland is prepared to organise an Arctic summit during the chairmanship of the Arctic Council. Among the key targets is to promote practical action to reduce black carbon emissions.”

The prime ministers discussed Finnish-Russian cooperation in the waste sector and visited a waste treatment and recycling plant of Fortum. “We had a good talk about the economic relations between our two countries. The volumes of trade between Finland and Russia have stayed about the same as last year. Russia remains one of the most important trading partners for us. However, for Finland the trade balance is showing a permanent deficit,” Sipilä said.

Investments and security

Finland has investment projects underway in Russia worth 12 billion euros, and new projects are being planned. Per capita, Finland is the largest foreign investor in Russia. Even if faced with difficulties at times, Finnish companies still operate in Russia on a long-term basis.

“Today the Finnish company Valmet and Russian SVEZA signed a Protocol of Intent concerning technology for the SVEZA pulp mill to be built in Russia. Particular attention will be paid to minimizing the environmental load. We also talked about the Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant. In Finland security always comes first—at all stages of building a nuclear power plant,” Sipilä said.

Also on the agenda was the security of the Baltic Sea region and growing maritime transport in the Gulf of Finland. The main international questions discussed were Ukraine and Syria.

”In Finland we are particularly concerned about the suffering of the civilian population, getting humanitarian aid to the area and finding a sustainable solution.”

Sipilä said that “the Ukrainian conflict is strongly reflected in the relations between the EU and Russia. The relations depend on finding a solution to the conflict, where Russia has a key role. Despite the sanctions in force, the EU and Russia are neighbors and dialogue between them is vital. Contacts between our two countries on the level of the civil society are also very important for Finland,” Sipilä said.

Sources: The Finnish government, NIB, MTV, IS