HELSINKI Finland apologized to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday after its police accidentally put him on a blacklist of people with connections to criminal activity.
Seeking to avoid a diplomatic spat with its historically dominant neighbor, Finland quickly removed Putin's name from the list which is not public, but whose inclusion of Putin was revealed by Finnish broadcaster MTV3 earlier on Wednesday.
Police acknowledged the list existed and said Putin's name was accidentally included, but had since been deleted.
"I wish to extend Russia's President Vladimir Putin sincere apologies for the incorrect registry entry," Interior Minister Paivi Rasanen said in a statement.
Police said it was not immediately clear how Putin's name came to be included on the list, and it was being investigated. Finnish chief of police Mikko Paatero said the incident was regrettable.
"These kind of incidents are extremely exceptional, and not under any circumstance acceptable," he said in a statement.
Many Finns are wary of their powerful neighbor, having fought the Soviet Union in the Winter War of 1939-1940 and the Continuation War during World War Two.
Official relations since then have mostly been cordial, with Finland sidestepping any policies, including membership in the NATO alliance, that could provoke Russia.
(Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl and Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Michael Roddy)