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Estonia blocks Russian politicians attending OSCE summit in Finland

Finland blocked Russian Parliament Speaker Sergey Naryshkin from attending an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Helsinki. Finnish newspapers Helsingin Sanomat and Ilta-Sanomat reported today that this decision was mainly due to Estonia's opposition.

Finnish Foreign Ministry announced beforehand that Naryshkin’s entry would be refused because of his inclusion in European Union sanctions against Russia and some of its top officials, after which the entire Russian delegation, par one, boycotted the summit.

Eventually just one Russian MP, Nikolay Kovalev, turned up.

But Helsingin Sanomat said that OSCE delegates were far from united on Russian delegates ban. "The situation is abnormal in light of the fundamental idea of the OSCE. Russia would have particularly much to say about Ukraine and an opportunity to present its own views," Oscar Mina, the head of the delegation from San Marino, reportedly said.

Before the summit, Finland asked officials from the EU member nations and the OSCE whether to make exception to Russian delegates currently affected by the EU travel ban.

Had none of the member states expressed their opposition, they would have been allowed.

For example, Greece, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy and France would have reportedly allowed an exception, although Greek and French embassies in Helsinki told the newspaper that their governments did not respond at all to Finnish enquiry.

But Estonia had clearly voiced its disapproval of letting the Russian delegation fly to Helsinki, although Helsingin Sanomat stopped short of specifying it. “One country objected by sending us a written letter, as the official procedure dictates, and this country is 'very close to Finland',” a diplomat said to the paper.

The head of Estonian OSCE delegation, Mart Nutt, confirmed to Ilta-Sanomat that Estonia was against making an exception to travel ban imposed on Russian politicians.

“We [Estonia] were in the opinion that if the European Union has imposed the travel restrictions, then the member states have to stick to it,” Nutt said, however emphasizing that Estonia disapproved the entry for specific persons under the ban, not the entire Russian delegation.

“Russia included the politicians under the travel ban in its OSCE delegation in purpose, to test the Finnish and EU reaction,” Nutt added.

The Vienna-based OSCE is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control and the promotion of human rights, freedom of the press and fair elections.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, the final declaration of the predecessor of the OSCE signed by 35 nations in Helsinki on August 1 in 1975. Nearly 300 MPs from over 50 countries will take part in the annual session from July 5-9.

Editor: S. Tambur

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