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In the wake of Finland’s decision to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced plans to create a new military district focused on strengthening Russia’s presence near Finland. During an interview with Russian journalist Pavel Zarubin, Putin noted that historically, there have been few conflicts between Moscow and Helsinki, particularly in recent decades. However, with Finland’s membership in NATO, Putin suggested a significant change in the dynamics between the two nations.

Putin conveyed his disappointment with Finland’s decision to align with NATO, highlighting that Russia had previously addressed all conflicts, including those involving territorial disputes from the mid-20th century. He emphasized that Russia had no territorial issues with any NATO member state and viewed Finland’s move as a provocative gesture.

To offset the growing sway of the US-led coalition, Russia intends to create the Leningrad Military District, which will be headquartered in the Leningrad Region of northwestern Russia, inclusive of St. Petersburg, previously known as Leningrad during the Soviet period.

Putin highlighted the abrupt change in dynamics, pointing out that there had been no major concerns until Finland’s decision to join NATO, which led to the establishment of the Leningrad Military District. He showed disfavor, deeming the move unjustified and irrational.

Putin noted that prior to Finland’s NATO decision, the two nations shared a largely amicable relationship, with minor disagreements primarily related to business in the timber-processing industry. Finland’s move to align with NATO ocurred following the eruption of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in February 2022, ultimately resulting in Finland becoming a full-fledged member of the US-led bloc in April of the following year.

Highlighting Russia’s opposition to Finland’s NATO membership, Putin reiterated that their bilateral relationship had no unresolved issues. Despite this, Helsinki announced intentions to sign a Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US, granting the latter rights to station troops and store weapons and ammunition across 15 zones in Finland, as per the Finnish Foreign Ministry.

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