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Baltic fears on Russian maritime border relocation

  • Finland and Baltic states demand calm after Russian decree
  • Lithuania warns of Russian “escalatory provocation” in Baltic
  • Finland monitors situation; Russian border proposal deleted

After a draft Russian decree suggested revising Russia’s borders in the Baltic Sea, Finland and the Baltic states have demanded calm. 

Lithuania cautioned that the Kremlin was engaging in a “deliberate, targeted escalatory provocation” to intimidate its neighbours, while Latvia claimed it was attempting to elucidate the situation. 

Finnish President Alexander Stubb stated that Helsinki “acts as always: calmly and based on facts” and that political leaders closely monitored the situation. 

The draft Russian defense ministry decree proposed relocating the maritime borders around the Russian islands in the Gulf of Finland and the exclave of Kaliningrad. 

The decree was initially brought to attention on Tuesday when the Tass news agency and other Russian media outlets reported on its proposal to redraw borders that date back to the Soviet era in January 1985. 

It was not immediately apparent whether the proposal proposed the expansion of its borders into Finnish waters in the Baltic or Lithuanian waters near Kaliningrad. Nevertheless, it would have encompassed the eastern Gulf of Finland, numerous islands near the Finnish coast, and the regions surrounding the settlements of Baltiysk and Zelenogradsk in Kaliningrad. 

The military alliance is dedicated to defending the borders of Finland and the Baltic nations, which are all members of the EU and NATO. 

On Wednesday, Finland’s defence and foreign committees convened for emergency meetings. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo stated that the political leadership was “closely monitoring the situation.” 

“Right now, I don’t see any reason for greater concern,” he said. 

Only the message “draft deleted” was visible on the page, as the Russian proposals were no longer visible on Wednesday. Subsequently, a Russian source informed Tass and other news agencies that there were no intentions to modify Russia’s territorial waters in the Baltic. 

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, directed all inquiries to the defence ministry, emphasizing that “there is nothing political here” and that the political landscape had evolved since the 1980s. “You can see the level of confrontation, especially in the Baltic region.” 

According to Charly Salonius-Pasternak of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, the Russian proposal was intended to be perceived as a bureaucratic, technical exercise. 

However, it was also a typical Russian approach to “probe everywhere and then, if you receive pushback, claim it was nothing.” 

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister, stated on X that the incident was “an obvious escalation against NATO and the EU” and required a firm response. 

Gen. Micael Byden, Sweden’s armed forces chief, also warned about the Russian revelations. 

He informed Germany’s RND website that Putin’s objective is to establish dominion over the Baltic Sea. “The Baltic Sea must not become Putin’s playground where he can strike fear into Nato members.” 

In March, Sweden became the 32nd member of NATO and increased its military presence on the Baltic island of Gotland over the past two years.

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Gen. Byden was sure that Russia was interested in Gotland, as losing Swedish control over the island would spell the end of peace and stability in the Nordic and Baltic regions. 

Last year, Finland became a member of NATO. The country has since proclaimed its intention to prevent a significant number of asylum seekers from crossing its eastern border with Russia

The UN refugee agency has cautioned that the proposed law could lead to “pushbacks” of individuals with a legitimate right to asylum, despite Helsinki’s concerns that Moscow has plans to “instrumentalize” migration. 

According to Philippe Leclerc of the UNHCR, “Pushback practices put people in danger, often resulting in severe injuries, family splits, or even deaths.

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