Russian president visiting Finland

President of Russia Vladimir Putin arrived in Finland for talks on the country's relations with the European Union.

Putin stepped off a private plane at Turku airport, and was whisked off in a motorcade to Finnish President Tarja Halonen's summer residence in Naantali, 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Helsinki.

Their talks were also to focus on the countries' bilateral relations and patrolling of their joint 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border, Halonen's office said.

Also on the agenda were the former Soviet republics of Estonia and Latvia, which Russia has accused of discriminating against their large Russian-speaking minorities through education, employment, electoral policy and citizenship rules. Putin was expected to ask Finland for help in influencing its Baltic neighbors on the issue.

"Finland, with its rich democratic traditions, allowing all people permanently living in the country to participate in municipal elections regardless of their citizenship, with wide experience in supporting languages and national-cultural identity of minorities, can serve as a good example for Riga and Tallinn," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said in a statement.

Putin will also visit the city of Turku and its university. Putin last visited Finland in September 2001, the AP reports.

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