The President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö arrived in Ukraine on an official visit on Thursday 12 September 2019. The two-day visit started with a meeting with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyi. The topics of discussion included the bilateral relations between the two countries and the situation in eastern Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyi greeted President Niinistö at a ceremony held outside the Marinsky Palace. After the national anthems and the inspection of the guards, the presidents commenced official discussions in the palace.
At the press conference, President Niinistö reported that he had discussed the situation in eastern Ukraine at length with President Zelenskyi, praising his active efforts to achieve peace.
“I pointed out that Finland has always strongly supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. I’ve had several opportunities to discuss the Ukrainian situation with leaders, such as President Macron and President Putin, and now with you. I wish to commend you on your determined efforts to achieve peace in your country. Nothing is more valuable.”
Answering the question regarding what Finland, in its capacity as the President of the Council of the European Union, could do to promote the peace process in eastern Ukraine, President Niinistö replied that Finland has always been willing to offer its good services. “I don’t think I’ve ever met my colleagues from other countries without bringing up the situation in Ukraine. It’s been on our agenda for a long time and will continue to remain there. We offer our good services – big and small – if they help achieve the ultimate goal of peace.”
Education and energy
At the press conference, the two presidents also brought up their discussions on potential cooperation in education and energy. President Niinistö pointed out that Finland has extensive experience in sustainable forest management which it is happy to share. Additionally, President Niinistö commended President Zelenskyi on his drive to reform the country’s administration. “Bringing reforms to a completion is always a challenging task, and we wish you every success in your efforts.”
On the first day of the visit, President Niinistö also invited President Zelenskyi to visit Finland.
President Niinistö’s visit to Ukraine will continue on Friday 13 September with the Yalta European Strategy conference, in which he will be one of the keynote speakers along with the President of Ukraine Zelenskyi and the President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid. Additionally, President Niinistö will meet the Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksi Hontšaruk and the Speaker of Parliament Dmytro Razumkov.
Today’s meeting was the first between President Niinistö and President Zelenskyi. Ukraine’s former President Petro Poroshenko paid an official visit to Finland in January 2017. President Niinistö’s previous visit to Ukraine took place in 2014. Accompanying the president on the visit is the Minister for Development Co-operation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari.