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Russia cuts off power supplies as Finland's ruling party backs NATO bid

Russia cuts off power supplies as Finland's ruling party backs NATO bid
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, pictured at the White House on March 4, said he had a "straightforward" conversation with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday. File Pool Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo

May 14 (UPI) -- Russian electricity suppliers on Saturday followed through on a threat to cut off power flows to Finland as the ruling Social Democratic Party officially backed joining the NATO alliance.

State electricity operator Fingrid Oyj had warned that RAO Nordic Oy, a subsidiary of the Russian entity Inter RAO, would suspend imports of electricity to Finland starting at 1 a.m. Saturday, citing "problems in receiving payments for electricity sold on the market."

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Fingrid later confirmed to CNN and Radio France International the Russian supplier had indeed halted its power flows as threatened.

The grid operator said Finland's power supplies have not been put under threat by the move -- in recent years, imported electricity from Russia has made up around 10% of the country's total consumption.

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"The lack of electricity import from Russia will be compensated by importing more electricity from Sweden and by generating more electricity in Finland," said Reima Päivinen, Fingrid's senior vice president of power system operations.

The move came before the board of Finland's SDP met in Helsinki to consider backing a a historic government proposal to join western defense alliance in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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Sweden is also expected to put forward an application to join NATO -- its ruling Social Democrats are expected to make a decision Sunday.

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SDP Chairwoman Sirpa Paatero announced the Finnish party's board had voted by an overwhelming margin to back Prime Minister Sanna Marin's call earlier this week to seek accession to the NATO, officially abandoning Finland's long-held stance of neutrality toward Russia.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Saturday he held a "straightforward" phone conversation with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin informing him of his country's decision.

The Finnish leader said he told Putin how Russia's actions in Ukraine have "changed Finland's security environment" and confirmed his country's intentions to apply for NATO membership in the coming days.

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"The discussion was straightforward and unambiguous and was held without exaggeration," Niinisto said.

The official Kremlin news service said Putin warned Niinisto during the "frank" conversation that Finland's move "abandoning the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, since there are no threats to Finland 's security."

"Such a change in the country's foreign policy may have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations, which for many years have been built in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership cooperation, and have been mutually beneficial," it said.

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