On May 3, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a surprise visit to Finland. What is the purpose of his visit, and what key messages have already been delivered?
What Zelenskyy does in Finland
The president of Ukraine arrived in Helsinki at the official invitation of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö. They had already met in January 2023, when Mr. Niinistö visited Kyiv.
In Finland, Zelenskyy will attend the Nordic-Ukrainian Summit.
The key issues on the agenda include:
- enhancing security in the region;
- enhancing security in Ukraine during and after the war with Russia;
- reinforcing Ukraine on the battlefield, including during the summer counteroffensive.
On the sidelines of the summit, Zelenskyy will also have meetings with:
- Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson;
- Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre;
- Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen;
- Iceland Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir.
In addition, he was invited to a working dinner with the incumbent Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin, and the country’s foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto. He will also meet with Petteri Orpo, the Speaker of the Parliament of Finland and the likely next prime minister.
Besides strengthening the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the president will also discuss Ukraine’s prospective NATO membership. Earlier, the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, urged to provide Ukraine with a clear NATO accession roadmap as early as July 2023, during the summit in Lithuania. However, according to Western mass media, the United States and Germany aren’t willing to do it.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Sauli Niinistö held a press conference [video]
According to Zelenskyy, Kyiv expects a clear roadmap as early as July or at least security guarantees from allies for the time when Ukraine will be moving towards membership in the bloc.
What Zelenskyy spoke about in Finland
After arriving in Helsinki, Zelenskyy held a press conference with Sauli Niinistö. Their key messages were as follows:
- Finland is preparing the 15th defense assistance package for Ukraine, but there will be the 16th (Zelenskyy asked the partners to speed up as the counteroffensive is about to start);
- deterring Russian aggression is a common interest for Finland and Ukraine (Helsinki has already provided €900 million in military aid for Kyiv);
- Ukraine appreciated Finland’s support for the Ukrainian Peace Formula;
- Finland was among the first countries to help Ukraine with power equipment, which Kyiv needed because of Russian missile attacks;
- Ukraine welcomes Finland’s accession to NATO and hopes to receive support on this path to have the best security guarantees against further Russian invasions.
Planes for Ukraine: Can Kyiv receive them from the Nordic countries?
Volodymyr Zelenskyy also once again emphasized that Ukraine needs fighter jets to protect its skies and said that he was sure that Ukraine would receive them after the counteroffensive.
Henri Vanhanen of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) said that Zelenskyy's visit was significant, and this can be related to the provision of fighter jets for Ukraine, according to the local media outlet Yle.
Last week, Zelenskyy suggested in an interview with Yle that Finland could send old Hornet jets to Ukraine after they are decommissioned. Moreover, he can personally request fighter jets from the leaders of each of the Nordic countries.
Vanhanen's FIIA colleague Charly Salonius-Pasternak wrote on Twitter that Zelensky's visit to Helsinki would be a "perfect moment" for the Nordic countries to provide Ukraine with fighter jets ahead of a counteroffensive.
Security was beefed up during Zelenskyy’s visit
The Helsinki police stepped up security measures in the city because of the Nordic-Ukrainian Summit and Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit in particular.
The police warned earlier that traffic jams could be expected around the city center on Thursday because of the summit.
In a tweet posted shortly after Zelenskyy’s arrival was officially confirmed, the department stated that it was implementing security measures during the visit of the Ukrainian president and prime ministers of Nordic countries:
"Police will secure both President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s official visit to Finland and summit between the Nordic countries and Ukraine later this afternoon in Helsinki. Helsinki Police will take care of general order and traffic arrangements."