Chinese and Russian spies showing interest in Finland, security officials warn

Nearly 400 individuals deemed a security threat – and the number keeps rising

TOPSHOT - Sanna Marin of Finland's Social Democrates is pictured after she was elected to the post of Prime Minister in Helsinki, Finland, on December 8, 2019. Sanna Marin narrowly won the vote to replace outgoing leader Antti Rinne, who resigned on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, after losing the confidence of the coalition partner Centre Party over his handling of a postal strike. - Finland OUT
 / AFP / Lehtikuva / Vesa Moilanen

Foreign spies are showing an increased interest in Finland and its politics, the country’s intelligence service warned.

According to a security review, dozens of foreign intelligence officers are permanently stationed in Finland. China and Russia are particularly involved.

Their focus varies but typical operations involve influencing political decisions, the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service (Supo) said.

Supo said the most significant security threat came from individuals or cells motivated by radical Islamist propaganda such as that espoused by ISIS. There are roughly 390 counter terror targets in Finland, who are becoming increasingly well connected internationally, many of whom have taken part in insurgencies abroad or been trained to fight.

As is common in the rest of Europe, there are fears over the possible threat posed by individuals returning from the battlefield in Iraq and Syria.

"Intelligence services have some permanent topics they follow. In addition to those, primary topics of interest have recently been, among others, Finland’s actions as EU Presidency, Finland’s position in EU’s sanctions policy, national innovation activity, and high technology products", said Supo Director Antti Pelttari.

There is also cyber espionage, targeting companies for their research and development information and the hacking of communications.

"This should be taken into account proactively in projects concerning critical infrastructure, such as investing in the 5G network", Mr Pelttari said.

Some countries are fearful that 5G networks, which Chinese company Huawei is helping to develop, may be a security risk. Concerns have been raised over Huawei’s links to China’s ruling class.

“In addition, the security and intelligence services of certain states make efforts to control and exert pressure on their current or former citizens living permanently or temporarily in Finland,” the intelligence report said, without naming a specific country.