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A close ally of president Vladimir Putin warned the international community could soon see a “second Ukraine” as he hinted at the possibility of another European country becoming the target of Russian aggression.
Former Russian commander Andrey Gurulyov suggested the newly-induced NATO member Finland could be next on Moscow’s hit list amid the construction of a new Russian military base near the border with the EU member state.
The Republic of Karelia was previously part of Finland but was seized by Russia at the start of the Winter War, the name used for the Soviet invasion of the European nation, in 1939.
Gurulyov claimed to be monitoring Finnish media in recent months, spotting increasing claims over the capital of Karelia, Petrozavodsk.
The capital is only 173km away from the border and, according to Finnish reports, it’s where Moscow decided to build a new military base.
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Gurulyov made the comments during his latest appearance on Russian state TV, and BBC Monitoring reporter Francis Scarr shared the clip online.
Scarr accompanied the video with the caption: “Russian MP Andrei Gurulyov says that Finland is being turned into a ‘second Ukraine’ and claims that Finns increasingly have territorial claims on Petrozavodsk.”
The Russian lawmaker said: “We understand very well that they’re turning Finland into a second Ukraine. It’s impossible not to notice these processes.
“Today, the moods are being heated up within Finland, I gave my aides a specific instruction to look at what Finns are writing—and it’s awful!
“They’re saying joyously that ‘Petrozavodsk is ours!’ and all the rest of it.”
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The comments come mere weeks after geopolitical analysts warned Russia could be gearing up for a potential clash with Baltic nations.
The Russian Ministry of Defense on October 8 tabled a new presidential decree that would strip the Northern Fleet of its status and transfer its constituent regions under the control of the reformed Leningrad Military District.
The district is a key component of the Russian Armed Forces and it is the closest to Finland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
All four nations have been ramping up their defences in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and Finland even applied and was welcomed into NATO after years spent on the fence.
Russian military analyst Yuri Fedorov told the independent investigative publication Agentstvo said the district was designed to be activated in a “specific theater of operations”.
Fedorov said: “The Leningrad Military District has two theatres, the Baltic countries and Finland.
“In order for the district to have enough connections, it needs to be saturated with troops. Accordingly, troops stationed in these regions are transferred to [the district].”
He also suggested the redistribution of troops to the Finnish border highlights Russia’s efforts to prepare for a future war once the conflict in Ukraine is concluded.
He added: “Russia will face an even more difficult task, because the army is battered, modern weapons are being depleted, the war has revealed a lot of weak points in the army.
“They will strive to recreate armed forces capable of waging war in Europe and with Ukraine and NATO in the Western theatre.”
The Institute for the Study of War also suggest the shifting of troops towards the 1287km border Russia shares with Finland exposes Moscow’s posturing strategy.
They said: “Although it remains unclear how Russia will be able to mobilize, train, and organize these forces into new military district-level formations.”
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