Winter sports: Putin loses prominent ice hockey buddy

Is it getting lonely on the ice now? No, no, Finland’s head of state Sauli Niinistö no longer wants to play with him – but according to the Kremlin, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin still has no shortage of ice hockey partners.

“Now he says he won’t play anymore,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, according to the Interfax agency, about Sauli Niinistö, who in a recent interview denied the question of whether he would go on the ice with Putin again. “Well, Putin has no shortage of members on his team,” Peskov said.

In 2012, following a meeting, Putin and Niinistö played a game of ice hockey and had their picture taken. Against the background of the Ukraine war, however, relations between the two countries, which share a border that is around 1,300 kilometers long, have cooled off significantly. To Moscow’s displeasure, Helsinki applied to join NATO a few weeks ago.

Putin is known for his passion for winter sports. His words, which he addressed to French President Emmanuel Macron at the end of a telephone call in February, caused a lot of attention: “Not to hide anything from you, I wanted to go play ice hockey now and I’ll speak to you from the sports hall before training starts going on,” he said at the time, as evidenced by footage provided by the Élysée Palace and recently shown in a documentary. Four days after the phone call, Russian troops marched into Ukraine.

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