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23rd Oct 2020

Finland challenges mystery nuclear investor

  • Tynkkynen: 'Russia is testing Finland's loyalty' (Photo: Nicholas Sideras)

Finnish authorities have queried the participation of a Croatian firm in a nuclear project amid suspicion of Russian skulduggery.

The company, Migrit Solarna Energija, popped up out of the blue on Monday (29 June) to say it has bought 9 percent of Fennovoima, a company which is building a nuclear reactor, Hanhikivi 1, in Pyhajoki, eastern Finland.

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It said in a press release: “The [Finnish] government condition for at least 60 per cent EU and EFTA [European Free Trade Association] ownership is thereby fulfilled”.

It also said it has “received the approval of the Finnish authorities”.

The reactor is to be supplied by Russian energy giant Rosatom, which owns 34 percent of Fennovoima.

But Finland's economy minister Olli Rehn, a former EU commissioner, says nothing is yet approved and wants to know more about Migrit Solarna Energija, amid concerns it could be a Russian front designed to make sure the project goes ahead under Russian control.

Rehn has sent Migrit a letter, which he made public, demanding to know: the last three years of its accounts; details of its Fennovoima investment; and biographical details on its managers.

He gave it a deadline of 6 July to fall in line, with Migrit staff due in Helsinki to answer questions on Thursday.

One thing which doesn’t add up, is that Migrit says it bought the stake for €158.5 million, which is much less than 9 percent of the €6 billion project.

The Reuters news agency notes that Migrit’s declared share capital, of just €2,775, also poses questions on how it raised the €158.5 million.

According to Zagreb’s company register, it is run by Grigory Edel, and by Maxim Soloshchansky, who lives in London. But Croatian media earlier reported it was founded by a Russian national, Mikhail Zhukov.

For his part, Mauri Pekkarinen, a senior Finnish MP, told the Yle daily: “It’s the [economy] ministry’s task to judge whether they’ve met the conditions. But if it’s not a question of genuine domestic, or EU or EEA ownership, then parliament’s conditions have not been met”.

“At that point this project will be scrapped.”

Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen, a scholar of Russian energy policy at the University of Helsinki, also told Reuters that Migrit smells fishy.

“There is no way that a regular business bank would provide loans of this scale to a tiny company like Migrit.” he said.

“In a way Russia is testing Finland's loyalty.”

Russia-Finnish relations

Russia-Finnish relations, on Wednesday, hit another glitch when Finnish authorities refused to let Sergei Naryshkin, the speaker of the Russian Duma, attend a congress of the OSCE in Helsinki on 5 July.

Naryshkin is on an EU blacklist because, the EU Council - which represents member states - says, he "publicly supported the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine” and the annexation of Crimea.

EU states have leeway to let blacklisted people travel to attend multilateral events.

“[But] the exemption for the entry into Finland of the persons that are on the EU Council's sanction list are not applicable” in this case, Paivi Kaukoranta, a lawyer at Finland’s foreign ministry, told AFP.

Naryshkin himself, who has visited France despite the EU ban, told Russian TV that no Russian delegates will attend the event. “This is our expression of protest against lawlessness and against the violation of democratic principles”, he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted: “We consider this outrageous.”

The Russian foreign ministry added in a statement: “Russia considers the Finnish decision to refuse entry to be unacceptable.”

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