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By Anne Kauranen
HELSINKI (Reuters) - Russia's foreign ministry on Thursday criticised a Finnish government plan to speed the confiscation of Russian-owned real estate in Finland, warning the Nordic country of countermeasures.
Many Russian owners of apartments and holiday homes in Finland have struggled to pay their expenses and taxes due to the European Union's banking and payment sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine last year.
Finnish Justice Minister Leena Meri said on Monday that unpaid maintenance bills and expenses were causing problems at Finnish condominiums where homeowners share liability for joint expenses.
Ousting Russian owners over unpaid bills is not currently legal if an official notification threatening confiscation cannot be delivered to them, Meri said. The Finnish government therefore plans to ease its rules on notifications.
"We cannot remain in this kind of everlasting stalemate in these cases just because we cannot get a certain notification delivered through official channels," Meri told Finland's public broadcaster YLE.
Meri said electronic notification would be sufficient once the rules change, but did not provide other details on Finland plans.
Russia said Finland was "disregarding the rule of law" with its plans.
"We will not leave without a proper response such actions of the so-called civilized Finnish state," Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
Finland is also looking at ways to take control of Helsinki's biggest sports and events arena which has been shut since last year because of sanctions against its billionaire Russian owners.
(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Rod Nickel)