Saturday, 5 November 2016

Finland: Russian Foreign Ministry dismisses Supo property fears as Russophobia

Finnish state owned news YLE reports: 
According to reports by Russian news sources Rambler News Service and Ekonomika segodna, the Russian Foreign Ministry has accused the Finnish security police Supo of Russophobia, or anti-Russian sentiment. 
The reaction followed news reports earlier this week that Supo has speculated that Russia could use property it has purchased in Finland as accommodation for its military. Supo’s assessment was included in a report provided to Parliament’s Administration Committee in September.
"Frankly speaking I don’t understand how [people] can live in constant fear. It’s really approaching paranoia," said the Russian Foreign Ministry’s information and press unit director Maria Zakharova.
The spokeswoman went on to describe the report as pure Russophobia.
"They don’t understand that the continuous intimidation of its own people will eventually lead to problems. At some stage the phobia will become a mania," she added.

Supo and Defence Ministry reviewing land deals

Supo’s concerns are that property purchased in Finland could be used to accommodate soldiers from a foreign state in a crisis situation; or that access routes could be cut off if they are owned by foreign entities.
According to information obtained by Yle the Defence Ministry has reviewed the background of real estate deals involving non-Finns and ways to intervene. Chair of the Parliament’s Defence Committee Ilkka Kanerva said however that the Supo report did not mention Russia by name in that context. 
However the report does refer to Russia’s "hybrid warfare" tactics in the prelude to the invasion and annexation of Crimea.

Finnish state owned news YLE previously reported the following:

The Finnish security and intelligence agency Supo suspects that neighbouring Russia may have begun a programme to buy up land in Finland for military personnel. The tabloid daily Iltalehti reports that as landowner, Russia would have the power to shut down traffic routes and accommodate soldiers.
Finnish Security and Intelligence Police Supo has speculated that Russia could use property it has purchased in Finland as accommodation for its military, according to the tabloid Iltalehti.
In a report to presented to Parliament in September on threats facing Finland, Supo noted that a foreign power could make use of property purchased without any commercial or conventional real estate value. Supo speculated in the report that such real estate could be used for preparations to wield influence in a crisis situation.
In practice, as a landowner, a foreign state could shut down road access or provide accommodation for troops, the agency said in the report. According to Iltalehti, in the context of the report, it was clear that Supo was specifically referring to real estate deals struck in Finland by Russia.
Supo declined to comment on the matter.... when reached by Yle.
However according to information obtained by Yle, the Defence Ministry has begun looking into property deals involving land and other real estate thought to be critical to Finnish security. The research is part of the current government’s programme to introduce legislation to protect critical areas in Finland.
Public servants will be reviewing transactions as well as the option to intervene by way of legislation. In terms of national security, the most important areas include road networks, the electricity grid and military posts. They are expected to report during the early part of 2017.
Currently Finnish laws place no limits on the amount of land that can be sold to foreigners. One method of changing the situation would be to give the state the right of first refusal in cases involving sensitive areas. It would allow the state to buy up land ahead of investors interested in property considered to be critical from a security standpoint.
However Justice Ministry Legislative Director Antti Leinonen said that the right of first refusal would not necessarily prevent foreign interests from acquiring land in Finland.
"Of course a buyer could hide behind different company structures so that no one would know the true buyer. There is a danger that real estate deals would be subject to additional red tape without ever finding out who the true buyers are," he pointed out.