Dmitry Lovetsky / AP
HELSINKI – Russia cut off gas exports to neighboring Finland on Saturday, a highly symbolic move a few days after the Nordic country’s announcement. wanted to join NATO և announced the possible end of about 50 years of Finnish natural gas imports from Russia.
The move by Russian energy giant Gazprom was in line with an earlier statement that Helsinki refused to pay for gas in rubles because Russian President Vladimir Putin had demanded that European countries do so since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
The Finnish state-owned gas company Gasum has announced that “natural gas supplies to Finland have been suspended under a gas supply contract” by Russia at 7 am local time (0400 GMT) on Saturday.
The announcement follows Moscow’s decision to suspend electricity exports to Finland earlier this month and an earlier decision by Finnish state-owned oil company Neste to replace Russian crude imports with crude oil from elsewhere.
After decades of energy cooperation, which was considered beneficial for “Helsinki, especially in the case of cheap Russian crude oil”, in the case of Moscow, Finland’s energy ties with Russia have now almost disappeared.
Such a break was easier for Finland than it would be for other EU countries. Natural gas accounts for only 5% of Finland’s total energy consumption, with a population of 5.5 million. Almost all of the gas comes from Russia and is used mainly by other industrial companies, of which only about 4,000 households rely on gas heating.
Finland’s state gas company says it will now use other sources of gas
Gasum said it would now supply natural gas to its customers from other sources via the Balticconnector, an underwater gas pipeline that runs through Finland to Estonia and connects Finland to the Baltic gas network.
Former Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, the current speaker of parliament, says the impact of Moscow’s decision, some 50 years after the first deliveries from the Soviet Union began, is first and foremost symbolic.
In an interview with the Finnish public broadcaster YLE on Saturday, Vanhanen said the decision marked “the end of an extremely important period between Finland, the Soviet Union and Russia, not only in terms of energy but also in terms of symbolism.”
“This pipeline is unlikely to reopen,” Vanhanen told YLE, referring to the two Russia-Finland parallel natural gas pipelines, which were launched in 1974.
The first connections to the Soviet transmission system from Finland were also built in the 1970s, allowing electricity to be imported into Finland in case of additional capacity.
The speaker of the Finnish parliament stated that Moscow is imposing retaliatory sanctions
Vanhanen does not see the Moscow gas cut as a response to Russia’s bid to join NATO, but rather a response to Western sanctions imposed on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.
“Russia has done the same thing to Finland as it did to some other countries to maintain its confidence,” Vanhanen said, referring to the Kremlin’s demand for gas in rubles.
Finland shares a length of 1,340 km (830 miles) with Russia, the longest of the 27 EU members, with a history of conflict with its vast eastern neighbor.
After losing two wars with the Soviet Union in World War II, Finland opted for neutrality with stable, pragmatic political and economic ties with Moscow. Large-scale energy cooperation between the two countries, including nuclear energy, was one of the most visible signs of friendly bilateral relations between the former enemies.
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