Finland's Patria urges government help in Ukraine defence deals

Finnish defence equipment maker Patria's CEO Esa Rautalinko in Helsinki

By Anne Kauranen

HELSINKI (Reuters) - It would be "extremely risky" for Finland's Patria to sell its armoured vehicles or license their production to Ukraine without government help, its CEO said, urging Helsinki and other European nations to do more to facilitate deals with Kyiv.

Ukraine is expected to host a defence industry meeting in the coming months to encourage more firms to produce weapons in the country, and during Finnish premier Petteri Orpo's Aug. 23 visit to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Kyiv would be very interested in manufacturing Finnish armoured vehicles.

But Patria's Chief Executive Esa Rautalinko told Reuters that licensing production to Ukraine would be "extremely risky".

"We should bear in mind that conducting an audit, which at least for us is a very versatile and profound process, in a country that is in war is almost impossible," he said in an interview.

He listed the industry's complex supply chains, arms export permits, and difficulties in securing funding and insurance for a war zone as some of the challenges facing direct sales and licensed production, in addition to the risk of missile strikes.

"These risks are terribly big for any company to bear on its own," he said, calling for countries including Finland to make themselves official parties to equipment sales to Ukraine.

Most of the equipment Ukraine is currently receiving from its allies comes from their stockpiles. But as those are run down, Kyiv is looking at ways to ensure supplies continue.

Patria's flagship 6x6 and 8x8 armoured vehicles have been spotted in images from the frontlines of Ukraine's battle with invading Russian forces, signalling some have been donated.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on April 1 that Ukraine had ordered 100 Rosomak armoured vehicles to be produced in Poland under a licence from Patria and financed by the European Union and the United States.

Patria "strongly supports" such plans, but the talks are taking place between governments, Rautalinko said.

He urged Europe to make long-term plans to ensure the flow of equipment to Ukraine can continue.

"There has been a lot of discussion over if there's (production) capacity but in my opinion the relevant question is what the long-term orders are we should be preparing for," he said.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Mark Potter)