Finland Demands Explanation over U.S. Sanctions on Finns over Ukraine Crisis

Finland has asked the United States to explain why two Finnish citizens and four enterprises have been slapped with sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, the Finnish Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

"When we were informed of this, we asked the U.S. authorities for the grounds of these sanctions. In the global economy this has negative implications for those listed," the ministry's head of legal services, Paivi Kaukoranta, told AFP.

The U.S. on Thursday announced additional sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, aimed at maintaining pressure on Russia which has been accused of arming, bankrolling and sending troops to support a separatist rebellion in Ukraine's east.

The around two dozen individuals and entities added to the sanctions list include Finnish businessmen Roman Rotenberg, 34, and Kai Paananen, 61.

According to the U.S. Treasury, Rotenberg and his family's hotel business, Langvik Capital Ltd, have been linked to the provision of "material support" to his father Boris Rotenberg, a former judo training partner of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Boris Rotenberg, a Russian oligarch with Finnish citizenship, was until Thursday the only sanctioned Finn on the list. Finland did not ask for explanations when his name was added.

Kai Paananen is the managing director of a Finnish-based  petrochemicals group, which operates also in Russia. The U.S. Treasury claims Paananen and his companies SET Petrochemicals and Southeast Trading have been linked to the provision of support for Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko. 

Energy sector strongman Timchenko was among the first Russian business heavyweights targeted by U.S. sanctions after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 following the ouster of a Russian-backed president in Kiev. Shortly afterwards separatists in Ukraine's east took up arms against Ukraine's new pro-Western authorities.

Finnish charter flight company Airfix Aviation, which was formerly owned by Timchenko, was also added to the sanctions list.

Paananen told Finland's largest daily Helsingin Sanomat he was offended by the move.

"I find this offensive since I have only promoted Finland's foreign exports," he said. 

The sanctions aim to pressure Russia into fully implementing a  Ukraine peace deal agreed in February.   

The deal, which was brokered by the leaders of Germany and France, give an end-of-2015 deadline for the implementation of a complete ceasefire, the pullback of all heavy weapons from the frontline and the return of Ukraine's border with Russia to Ukrainian control, among other measures.

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia, which was Finland's largest export partner between 2007 and 2013.

Source: Agence France Presse

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