Russia symbolically cuts gas exports to Finland

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Russia has suspended natural gas exports to neighboring Finland

HELSINKI — Russia halted gas exports to neighboring Finland on Saturday, a highly symbolic move that came just days after the Nordic country announced it wanted to join NATO and marked the likely end of nearly 50 years of Finland’s natural gas import from Russia.

Finland’s state-owned gas company Gasum said that “the supply of natural gas to Finland under the Gasum supply contract was interrupted” by Russia on Saturday morning at 7 a.m. local time (0400 GMT).

The announcement follows Moscow‘s decision to suspend electricity exports to Finland earlier this month and an earlier decision by Finnish state-controlled oil company Neste to replace imports of Russian crude oil with oil. raw by the way.

After decades of energy cooperation deemed beneficial to both Helsinki – especially in the case of cheap Russian crude oil – and Moscow, Finland’s energy ties with Russia have now all but disappeared.

Such a break was easier for Finland than it will be for the other countries of the European Union. Natural gas accounts for only around 5% of total energy consumption in Finland, a country of 5.5 million people. Almost all of this gas comes from Russia and is mainly used by industrial and other businesses, with only about 4,000 homes relying on gas heating.

Gasum said it will now supply natural gas to its customers from other sources via the Balticconnector undersea gas pipeline linking Finland to Estonia and linking the Finnish and Baltic gas networks.

Matti Vanhanen, Finland’s former prime minister and current parliament speaker, said the effect of Moscow’s decision to cut off gas after nearly 50 years since the start of the first deliveries from the Soviet Union is primarily symbolic .

In an interview on Saturday with Finnish public broadcaster YLE, Vanhanen said the decision marks the end of an “extremely important period between Finland, the Soviet Union and Russia, not only in energy terms but symbolically.”

“It’s unlikely that this pipeline will ever reopen,” Vanhanen told YLE, referring to the two parallel Russia-Finland pipelines that were launched in 1974.

The first connections from the Finnish power grid to the Soviet transmission system were also built in the 1970s, allowing electricity imports to Finland in case additional capacity was needed.

Vanhanen did not view the gas shutdown in Moscow as Russia’s retaliation for Finland’s bid for NATO membership, but rather as a countermeasure to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia did the same thing with Finland that it did earlier with other countries to maintain its own credibility,” Vanhanen said, referring to the Kremlin’s demands to buy its gas in rubles.

Finland shares a distance of 1,340 kilometers (830 miles) with Russia, the longest of the EU’s 27 members, and has a history of conflict with its huge eastern neighbour.

After losing two wars against the Soviet Union, during World War II Finland opted for neutrality with stable and pragmatic political and economic ties with Moscow. Large-scale energy cooperation, including nuclear energy, between the two countries has been one of the most visible signs of friendly bilateral relations between former enemies.

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