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MOSCOW: Russia announced Thursday that it was shuttering Finland’s consulate in Saint Petersburg and expelling nine of its diplomats, calling the move a response to a “confrontational anti-Russian policy” being pursued by Helsinki.

NATO’s newest member Finland, which shares a long border with Russia, earlier this month expelled nine diplomats working at the Russian embassy in Helsinki for acting in an “intelligence capacity”.

“Nine employees of the Finnish Embassy in the Russian Federation and the Finnish Consulate General in Saint Petersburg were declared persona non grata,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, saying the move was a tit-for-tat response.

“As part of the response to the confrontational actions of the Finnish authorities, the Russian side decided to withdraw from October 1 its consent to the activities of the Consulate General of Finland in Saint Petersburg,” the statement added.

Biden to travel to UK, NATO summit, Finland: White House

Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told reporters in Helsinki Thursday that his country was “obliged to start preparing for similar measures.”

“We must respond to this, that is quite clear,” he said.

The relationship between the neighbouring countries has deteriorated following Russia’s large-scale military operation in Ukraine.

The hostilities prompted Finland to break with decades of military non-alignment and apply to join NATO in May 2022, formally becoming a member in April.

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