Finland's president informs Russia's Putin of Nato membership bid

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HELSINKI (AFP) - Finnish President Sauli Niinisto spoke with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday (May 14) about the Nordic country's application for Nato membership, expected to be announced this weekend, his office said.

The phone call, which was "initiated by Finland... was direct and straightforward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important," Niinisto was quoted as saying in a statement by his office.

But the Kremlin responded by saying that Putin viewed any end to Finland's military neutrality as a "mistake."

"Putin stressed that the end of the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake since there is no threat to Finland's security," it said in a statement.

"Such a change in the country's political orientation can have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations developed over years in a spirit of good neighbourliness and cooperation between partners," the Kremlin added.

Finland is expected to officially announce its Nato membership bid on Sunday.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto underlined that it was "very important that we communicate with our neighbour", even if "we don't ask any permission for our political steps".

The minister was speaking from Berlin, where he was seeking to remove a potential barrier to his country's accession plans - Turkey.

Ukraine invasion swung opinion

Accusing Finland and Sweden of harbouring "terrorist organisations", Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said he did "not have a positive opinion" on their membership bids.

Arriving for talks in Berlin with Nato counterparts as well as Haavisto and Sweden's foreign minister, Turkey's Mevlut Cavusoglu reiterated the accusations against the Nordic countries.

But he did signal readiness for discussions.

"A big majority of the Turkish people are against the membership of those countries who are supporting PKK terrorist organisation... but these are the issues that we need to talk of course with our Nato allies as well as these countries," he said.

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