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Putin Visits Finland As Russia Conducts Baltic Sea Naval Exercises

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (R) shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Punkaharju hotel in Savonlinna, July 27, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Finland on July 27 for a one-day visit that comes as Helsinki celebrates 100 years of independence from Russia.

Putin arrived during the afternoon near the eastern border town of Savonlinna for talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto about bilateral relations and international issues.

Putin and Niinisto also were to cruise on Lake Saimaa on a steam to Olavinlinna Castle to attend a performance by Russia's visiting Bolshoi Theater of Tchaikovsky's opera Iolanta.

Putin's visit comes as Russia and China conduct a week-long naval exercise in the Baltic Sea.

Finland, which shares a 1,400-kilometer border with Russia, is not a member of NATO but has cooperated with the Western military alliance for years.

Finland has openly discussed the possibility of closer cooperation, or even outright membership, in NATO -- an issue that has prompted thinly veiled threats from Moscow.

In October, Finland and the United States signed a defense pact on increased military cooperation after alleged violations of Finnish airspace by Russian fighter jets.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and TASS