The only Russian delegate to attend the 40th anniversary OSCE meeting in Helsinki, Nikolai Kovalev has loudly criticized Finland’s decision to uphold an EU travel ban on sanctioned Russian MPs who were to attend the meeting. Kovalev threatened, that Finland’s decision to observe the EU wide decision, would damage Finnish-Russian relations.
Kovalev is a former high ranking KGB General and preceded Russian President Vladimir Putin as the former head of the FSB.
According to a report by Finnish broadcaster, YLE, Finland unsuccessfully lobbied for an EU waiver for the Russians. When a waiver was refused, the Russians withdrew their participation in protest. Kovalev -the only Russian participant not on the EU sanctions list- showed up an hour late and stated that he would only participate in limited meetings to demonstrate his outrage towards Finland’s observation of EU sanctions.
“Of course this affects relations between Finland and Russia,” said Kovalev. “Finland has violated the spirit of the first CSCE meeting 40 years ago, and the traditions agreed then.” Kovalev, did not acknowledge the EU sanctions saying that the Finnish decision set “a bad precedent, as now any country can justify refusing to allow somebody to enter,” indicating that he believed that the Finnish decision was arbitrary.
Some Finnish analysts have argued that Finland should have ignored EU sanctions, including YLE editor, Susanna Turunen, who argues that “Russia sees the situation differently and is now considering counter measures that could involve further trade sanctions specifically targeting Finland.” She continues to say of the OSCE meeting in Finland that “failure is the inevitable outcome of denying entry of the Russian delegation.”