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The conflict between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian military in eastern parts of Ukraine creates casualties almost daily. Picture: Steve Evans/Flickr

President Sauli Niinistö is looking forward to discussions of the relations between Finland and Ukraine and the talks about the Ukrainian conflict when Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko arrives in Finland with his spouse for an official visit on Tuesday.

People in eastern Ukraine still live in the middle of explosions and casualties. The outbreaks between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian army remain frequent almost three years after the conflict began when Russia annexed Crimea. There is supposed to be a truce, but during the first week of 2017, there were already 336 ceasefire breaches in all known conflict zones in eastern parts of the country.

Last year the number of violations in total was thousand-fold higher: over 300,000 ceasefire violations were recorded by the OSCE SMM (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine) over the year. “In many of these cases the weapon prohibited by Minsk agreements (peace agreements between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels) was used: artillery, mortars, tanks and multiple launch rocket systems,” said Alexander Hug, the deputy chief of the OSCE special monitoring mission to Ukraine. According to him, from January to November in 2016, the OSCE SMM recorded 83 deaths and 305 injuries of civilians.


President Poroshenko (at left) and President Niinistö at a bilateral meeting in Warsaw on July 8, 2016. Picture: Mykola Lazarenko/The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

President Niinistö has often spoken about the need of finding peaceful solutions to end the crisis in Ukraine. “We condemned Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea as soon as it happened and then condemned Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine. We have done this in the EU context but have also made this clear in our direct contacts with Russia,” President Niinistö said in his New Year’s speech in the beginning of 2015. “All illegal measures, like the annexation of Crimea to Russia, cannot and must not be recognised, ” Niinistö said later in September at the UN General Assembly’s 70th session in New York.

And while Niinistö didn’t bring up Ukraine in his New Year’s speech for 2017, he met with President Poroshenko at the Nato Summit in Warsaw in July 2016. “Discussions are continuously being held between Russian and European leaders, as well as between Russia and the United States. I understand that a lot of serious effort is being made,” said President Niinistö after the talks with Poroshenko on attempts to solve the Ukrainian crisis.

President Niinistö and his spouse, Mrs Jenni Haukio, will receive President Poroshenko and his spouse, Maryna Poroshenko, in the Presidential Palace at 10:00 on Tuesday morning.

After the official ceremonies, the presidents will summon for private discussions to give yet another shot at solving the Ukrainian crisis.

[divider]More details on Poroshenko’s visit[/divider]

In addition to meeting President Niinistö, Poroshenko will also meet Maria Lohela, the speaker of the Finnish Parliament, and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä.

Members of the Ukrainian government participating in the official visit are Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Regional Development, Building and Housing and Communal Services Hennadii Zubko and Minister for Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin. Finland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini, and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Kai Mykkänen will also participate in the visit. During the visit, Minister Mykkänen and Minister Zubko will sign a Memorandum of Understanding between Finland and Ukraine on cooperation in the energy sector.

Picture on the cover: Steve Evans/Flickr