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Yle: Nearly 60 percent of Finns support militarization of Aland islands

Central Helsinki skyline viewed from Kauppatori.
Central Helsinki skyline viewed from Kauppatori. Source: Kai Vare/ERR

Nearly 60 percent of Finnish would allow a military presence on the Aland/Ahvenanmaa islands, in the current security situation, a recent poll cited by public broadcaster Yle finds. The islands are an autonomous and demilitarized province of Finland, as things stand.

All-in-all, 58 percent of respondents to the survey said they were in favor of some sort of military presence on the archipelago, which lies to the southwest of the mainland, Yle's English-language portal reports, citing an Uutissuomalainen poll.

This compares with just 16 percent who implicitly opposed such a move, in that they were in favor of keeping the current, demilitarized status.

Meanwhile 28 percent were undecided, the poll found.

Finland recently applied to join NATO in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, now in its fourth month, ending a period of neutrality which spanned the entirety of the Cold War and beyond. Sweden applied on the same day.

The Aland/Ahvenanmaa islands have retained their autonomous status following a League of Nations decision of 1920; the only official language on the islands is Swedish and not Finnish.

Veronica Thörnroos, Åland/Ahvenanmaa provincial government chief, noted out that the demilitarization of the region is based on international agreements, adding that Helsinki has the right to base troops there if needed.

However, Saila Heinikoski, a senior researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs said, that this could not happen unilaterally.

The survey polled 1,000 people over the period May 11-19, Yle reports.

Sweden recently started beefing up its defenses of another Baltic island, Gotland – known as Ojamaa in Estonian.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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