Putin continues visit in Finland discussing international issues

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Finnish president Tarja Halonen for talks focusing on international issues and relations between Russia and the European Union.

Putin spent the night at Halonen's summer residence in Naantali, 200 kilometers (125 miles west of Helsinki.

The two presidents talked for several hours late Monday about bilateral questions, including economic cooperation, developing faster railway connections and canal routes, as well as customs inspections and patrolling the 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) Finnish-Russian border.

The agenda of international issues included discussion of 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.

Putin last visited Finland in September 2001 but the two presidents have held bilateral talks twice annually since then at various venues, including the Russian president's home city of St. Petersburg, the AP reports.

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