Residents in eastern Finland on Wednesday made a number of calls to emergency services over what they thought were emergency flares. The night sky over the Finnish-Russian borderlands was flared with bright colors similar to emergency lights, Yle reports.
It soon turned out that the light formations all came from the major ongoing air drills conducted this week by the Russian Air Force. As previously reported by BarentsObserver, strategic bombers and fighter aircrafts on the 19th March started up a major exercise in the clouds over Karelia, the region bordering Finland. More than 40 crews of Su-34, Su-27, Su-24M and MiG-31, several of them from Murmansk, were involved in the exercise which was aimed at fighting enemy aircrafts, ground facilities, as well as “interception of air targets of distant borders”.
The emergency calls came from the eastern Finnish towns of Imatra, Joensuu, Kuopio, Ilomantsi, Rantasalmi and Puumala. According to the southern Savo rescue services unit, the lights came from shots fired by the Russian aircrafts, Yle informs.
As the major exercises stirred concern along Finland’s eastern border, the country’s President Sauli Niinistö underline that “there are no national security concerns for Finland arising from the situation” in Ukraine and that that Finland will continue to nurse close political relations with Russia. While the EU has taken a strong stance against Russian expansionist actions in Ukraine, the Finnish political establishment has been reluctant to freeze relations with Moscow. “The line of communication with Moscow must be kept as open as possible”, Niinistö underlines in a press release.
“We are Russia’s neighbor [and] unlike other neighbours, we do not have Nato membership. Our neighbourly relationship is built on bilateral relations,” the Finnish President says to the Finnish broadcaster.