Estonia ambassador to Finland: Helsinki appropriate Zelensky visit location

Ambassador Sven Sakkov.
Ambassador Sven Sakkov. Source: ERR

Finland was as good a venue as any for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's surprise visit on Wednesday, given both recent developments and history, Estonia's Ambassador to Finland Sven Sakkov says.

The visit primarily concerned the five Nordic countries' heads of government, Ambassador Sakkov said in response to the question why Finland was chosen for Wednesday's visit; the host country was represented by President Sauli Niinistö rather than the head of government.

"President Niinistö represented Finland at the meeting. The Nordic countries together formulate a pretty important force, economically, militarily and politically," Sakkov said.

There were other reasons for the choice of venue, he went on.

"One of these is that throughout its history and particularly in the Winter War, Finland provides a strong example of a small country which has been able to stand against Russia, having done so heroically. Second, Finland is a great example of just how much the European security landscape has changed over the last 14 months, radically transforming its foreign and security policy, and becoming a NATO member, with the hope that Sweden will soon be able to follow suit," Sakkov went on.

The meeting itself was a surprise one at short notice, with even the host country being largely unaware of the impending trip, until it happened.

"This was not known about. We could observe that it was only possible to talk about it once Zelenskyy's plane had touched down, and perhaps an hour before he met with President Niinistö. It was a very well-kept secret, for comprehensible reasons, since Russia would very much like to get rid of President Zelenskyy."

Another factor is the Ukrainian president's apparent interest in Finnish war planes, Sakkov said. Zelenskyy had mentioned at a press conference held when outgoing Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin was on an official visit to Kyiv in March that Finland could also consider gifting its older McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornets to Ukraine, given it is to obtain Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters mid-decade.

"Fighter jets, along with ground-based air defense, are one of the two things that Ukraine is requesting [from the West] the most, at least as of now," Sakkov said.

This has not yet gained legs in Finland itself, however, Sakkov went on, while the country awaits delivery of the F-35. It will need the F-18s for its own airspace defense until that point in time, he said.
"In fact, this idea from ​​Sanna Marin, which she came up with in Kyiv, was subsequently shot down back in Finland," he added.

The Zelenskyy meeting in Helsinki was reported just before it took place. Prime Minister of Sweden Ulf Kristersson, Norway's premier Jonas Gahr Støre, Mette Frederiksen (Denmark and) Katrín Jakobsdóttir (Iceland) were also in attendance Wednesday.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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