Finland blocks Russian property acquisitions

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Finland's ministry of defence said on Thursday it had blocked three planned property transactions involving Russian buyers on grounds that allowing the acquisitions to take place could hamper the defence of Finnish territory.

"The real estate acquisitions in question can be considered to hinder the organisation of national defence or the surveillance and safeguarding of territorial integrity," the ministry said in a statement.

The decision concerns two properties in Ruokolahti and one in Kitee, the ministry of defence said, both near the Russian border in southern Finland.

Finland in recent weeks sought to speed up its confiscation of Russian-owned real estate, citing Russian owners' struggle to pay their expenses and taxes after the European Union imposed sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

The Finnish government is planning to simplify regulations on notifying Russian owners, as it is currently illegal to oust owners over unpaid bills if an official notification cannot be delivered to them.

Finland, which joined the NATO military alliance in April in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, is also assessing how to take control of Helsinki's biggest sports and events arena which has been shut since last year due to sanctions against its billionaire Russian owners.

(Reporting by Louise Breusch Rasmussen, editing by Terje Solsvik)