Watch the clip of Sergei Lavrov’s visit at Hotel Haikko Manor.
If the relations with Russia between Sweden and Finland was a competition, Finland would score 1-0. “Now your neighboring country Sweden is insisting that we interfered with their elections, too,” said Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, with his low, compressed voice.
Lavrov was referring to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s recent remarks, who, when asked in a defense conference, if there was a risk that Russia would attempt to influence Swedish elections, said that “I can at least not rule it out. It’s obviously now documented in the US how it happened there.” The documents Löfven was referring to were recent US intelligence reports about organized hacking by Russia to disrupt the US presidential election. No proof, however, has been found to support the allegations.
Finland, on the other hand, received praise. Lavrov thanked Finland for staying “unbiased” in matters concerning Russia. He mentioned President Sauli Niinistö several times. There had been speculation if President Niinistö’s suggestion of a meeting between the US and Russian president could take place in Finland. According to Lavrov, plans for such a meeting do not exist for the upcoming months.” Even if Helsinki, according to Lavrov, “would be a fine place,” . . . “a fine place” like Hotel Haikko Manor in Porvoo, which also received praise from the Russian foreign minister. He thanked his Finnish counterpart, Timo Soini, for inviting him here on Thursday.
A fine place indeed. The sun pushed in from the windows and the doors that led to the balcony, which overlooked the archipelago that has inspired artists such as Albert Edelfelt. The building and area have a history linking to Russia as well: During the revolution in 1917, Grand Duke Kiril Vladimirovits escaped to Finland with his wife and daughter. They settled down at Haikko, and a son was born to the family in the same year, a son, who became the head of the Romanov family spread all over the world. Today, Haikko Manor is a popular spa among Russians and a popular resort to recharge.
The meeting between Lavrov and Soini was the fifth in turn. When Lavrov left the manor’s premises in the afternoon in the government Audi and in the sound of a thundering helicopter, I had been an eyewitness to the warm handshakes, taps on the shoulders and smiles between the ministers. So, when Soini said at the press conference that “he appealed to Foreign Minister Lavrov and urged Russia to use its influence” in achieving a ceasefire in Ukraine, which continues to be the key problem for normalizing the relations between Russia and the EU, one can presume that Lavrov listened.
Lavrov was escorted to the official residence of the Finnish president, Mäntyniemi, where he met President Sauli Niinistö and talked about, for example, flight safety over the Baltic Sea. Russia has suggested to the North Atlantic military alliance NATO that it would be willing to fly their warplanes with their identification transponders switched on as part of the package of trust-building measures with the military alliance. Even as Finland is a non-NATO country, President Sauli Niinistö has been a keen advocate in enhancing the relations between Russia and NATO in high-level conferences around the world.
However, Russia is only prepared to turn on “their visibility” if the member states of the military alliance are willing to do the same.
Additional sources: Reuters, The Office of the President of the Republic