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Monday's papers: Finns and Russia, a changed relationship, spring in the air

Finnish-Russian relations have entered a "new era" following the invasion of Ukraine, according to one paper.

Russia's attack on Ukraine has changed Finland's relationship with it eastern neighbour. The photo shows a fire at a petroleum storage depot after a Russian missile attack, in Vasylkiv, near Kiev, Ukraine, 27 February 2022. Image: Alisa Yakubovychepa / EPA

In an op-ed article (siirryt toiseen palveluun), Finland's largest circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat critically analyses the "long-cherished" belief among Finns that they have a "special understanding" of the Russian way of thinking.

According to HS, this assumption has its roots in the period — beginning in 1809 and lasting until 1917 — when Finland was a Grand Duchy of the Russian empire, as Finns learned to work around certain issues based on the political temperature in St Petersburg.

"Yes, Finns know the Russian bear," HS describes the thinking of the time.

But HS wonders whether they really do know this bear, and answers the question by citing a number of major historical events that Finns did not see coming — including the 1939 attack by Russia that sparked the Winter War or indeed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

More recently, HS notes that Finland's President Sauli Niinistö was described as the "Putin whisperer" when he was interviewed (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on US news network CNN. The channel had clearly sought out a person who "knew and understood" the mindset of the Russian president Vladimir Putin.

However, Niinistö told CNN that he did not understand Putin either.

"Even though I have met him several times during these 10 years, and had several phone calls with him. Like we all know, it is very difficult to say and define what another person actually is, deep down," he said. "We are a bit confused at the moment."

In conclusion, HS writes, Russia's invasion of Ukraine should once and for all dispel this idea that Finland has a special relationship with Russia based on mutual understanding or trust.

AL: "We have entered a new era"

On a similar theme, and also in an op-ed article (siirryt toiseen palveluun), Tampere based Aamulehti writes that Russia's invasion of Ukraine has permanently changed the relationship between Finland and its eastern neighbour.

Echoing some of the points made in the HS article, AL opines that Finland, like many other Western countries, adopted a "lax and naive" approach towards Russian aggression. All of this culminated in the attack on Ukraine, which the paper describes as a clear violation of international law.

"Finland cannot accept this," AL writes. "No matter that Finland is Russia's neighbour and trading partner, Russia's actions bind us even more tightly to the Western community, especially the European Union."

The paper adds that it is "impossible" to see how confidence and trust can return to the relationship between Finland and Russia while Putin and his administration are in power. Even in the event that Putin would be ousted, there would need to be huge systemic change in Russia before bilateral relations could return to normal.

"We have entered a new era," AL concludes.

Spring is in the air

Even weather stories cannot escape the shadow of the conflict in Ukraine, with tabloid Iltalehti writing (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that experts have emphasised the importance of people focusing on their own mental and physical health as anxiety over the situation grows.

One way to do this is through outdoor activities, IL notes, and there will be no better time than this week as spring arrives in Finland.

Foreca meteorologist Anna Latvala tells the tabloid that spring will be in the Finnish air this week, with temperatures on Monday and Tuesday expected to be unseasonably mild.

IL warns readers to make the most of the opportunity while they can however, as a colder air flow is forecast for Thursday. This is all part of the usual spring-winter dance, IL adds, when spring begins to tease its presence, but winter provides reminders that it hasn't fully gone away yet.

"Exactly right," Latvala says.

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