Finland's President Sauli Niinistö told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Saturday that the Nordic nation will decide "to seek NATO membership in the next few days," Niinistö's office said in a statement.
During the phone call initiated by Finland, "President Niinistö told President Putin how fundamentally the Russian demands in late 2021 aiming at preventing countries from joining NATO and Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 have altered the security environment of Finland," read the statement.
“The conversation was direct and straight-forward and it was conducted without aggravations. Avoiding tensions was considered important,” Niinistö is quoted as saying in the statement.
Niinistö noted that he had already told Putin in their first meeting in 2012 "that every independent nation maximizes its security" and that "this is what is happening now, too," the statement said.
By joining NATO, Finland "strengthens its own security and assumes its responsibility" as "it is not away from anyone else," the statement says. In the future, Finland "wants to take care of the practical questions arising from being a neighbor of Russia in a correct and professional manner," it adds.
Niinistö "repeated his deep concern over the human suffering caused by the war Russia wages in Ukraine" and "stressed the imperative of peace." He also "conveyed the messages on securing the evacuation of civilians delivered earlier in the same week by (Ukraine's) President Volodymyr Zelenskyy," according to the statement.
What the Kremlin says: Niinistö and Putin had "a frank exchange of views" during a phone call on Saturday that was held in connection with the announced intention of the Finnish leadership to apply for NATO membership, the Kremlin said in a statement.
"Vladimir Putin stressed that abandoning the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, since there are no threats to Finland's security," according to the statement.
"Such a change in the country's foreign policy may have a negative impact on Russian-Finnish relations, which for many years have been built in the spirit of good neighborliness and partnership cooperation, and were mutually beneficial," it added.
The leaders also discussed the situation in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.
"Vladimir Putin, in particular, shared his assessment of the state of the negotiation process between Russian and Ukrainian representatives, which was actually suspended by Kyiv, who do not show interest in a serious and constructive dialogue," the statement said.