Finland Prepares for Russia Cutting Off Gas Supplies

Russia could cut off gas supplies to Finland on Friday, it has been reported, a day after Helsinki announced it wanted to join NATO.

Moscow warned of "retaliatory steps" following Finland's pledge on Thursday to join the military alliance, the purported expansion of which had been given by the Kremlin as one justification for its invasion of Ukraine.

Citing unnamed sources, Finnish newspaper Iltalehti reported that politicians in the country had been warned that Russia could immediately sever supplies of the fuel.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at the Presidential palace in Helsinki, Finland on May 11, 2022. He announced a day later that Finland would seek to join NATO, which prompted a warning by Russia that it would take "retaliatory steps." Getty Images/Frank Augstein

Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen told the publication that he could not confirm the warning. However, parliamentary group head of the opposition Finns Party, Ville Tavio, said that the government had been notified of "various scenarios of Russia's retaliation."

Regarding the cutting-off of gas, Kaikkonen said, according to a translation, that "preparations have been made for this and it is expected that this can happen as well." The MP Hjallis Harkimo, chair of opposition party Movement Now, told the publication: "What I'm worried about is Russia's retaliation."

Newsweek has contacted the Finnish Foreign Ministry and Gazprom for comment.

The majority of gas used in Finland comes from Russia but gas only accounts for some 5 percent of the country's annual energy consumption, according to Reuters.

However, a cut in supplies would impact forestry, chemical and food industries with companies such as Nesta and Metsä, particularly impacted.

It follows an announcement by Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin that their country would apply to join the defense alliance "without delay."

Russia's Foreign Ministry said it would respond with "military-technical and other" steps to "stop threats to its national security arising."

Ahead of the Nordic country's decision on whether to join NATO, Finnish Minister of European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen told Reuters earlier this month of May that her country had been "prepared for the possibility that gas deliveries from Russia would end."

Her comments came after the Finnish government said in April it would not meet Russia's demand for gas payments to be made in rubles. Poland and Bulgaria have had their Russian gas supplies severed after they rejected the Kremlin's request.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Finland's state-owned gas operator Gasum has until May 20 to respond to the demand on ruble payments from Russia's state energy giant Gazprom. At the time, Finnish media had reported that Russia might cut supplies on May 23 should Gasum refuse to pay in rubles.

Finland is putting itself in a position to cope with such a cut. In 2021, renewable energy in the country overtook fossil fuels and peat in total energy consumption according to the Finnish government, leaving it less dependent on Russian energy.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the potential threat of aggression from Moscow, Finland's neighbor, Sweden is also expected to make an announcement regarding NATO in the coming days, the Associated Press reported.