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Russian embassy asks citizens to report incidents of discrimination, hate speech

A senior researcher with the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) told Yle that the Kremlin is attempting to use anti-Russian sentiment as justification for its war on Ukraine.

Anti-war protestors outside the Russian embassy in Helsinki on 24 February, the day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Russia's embassy in Helsinki has urged Russian citizens living in Finland to report to the consulate any incidents where they suspect they are the victims of discrimination, hate speech or violation of civil rights.

The call was made via the embassy's social media channels.

Jussi Lassila, a senior researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), told Yle that the embassy's statement is an expected reaction to the Kremlin's predicament due to the war in Ukraine.

"Friends are scarce and the information front has been completely lost. The moral support in the world is on the Ukrainian side and there are no clear allies [for Russia]," he said.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led to some Russian-speakers in Finland reporting that they have been the victims of verbal and physical abuse.

It was predictable, Lassila added, that the Russian government would at some point try to utilise any mistreatment of Russian citizens abroad.

He noted that anti-Russian sentiment has been taken to extreme levels elsewhere in the world, where for example Russian literature has been banned or Russian students have been prevented from attending university classes.

"We must not go down this path, we must get as many Russians as possible against Putin and on the side of justice and truth, on the side of Ukraine and Europe," Lassila said, adding that Finland must be careful not to play into Putin's hands by punishing Russian citizens.

"This whole catastrophe is the result of what happens when there is an authoritarian regime where the views and opinions of the citizens are not asked for or are considered irrelevant," he said.

He further noted that Russia is in a very difficult position as it is finding it difficult to appeal directly to Russians living abroad, as the administration knows that many of its citizens living in other parts of the world are critical of President Vladimir Putin's actions.

In addition, many Russians have left their home country since Putin launched the military invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

"This message is an attempt to find an opportunity for Russia to gain some justification among its own people for this nonsense," Lassila said, adding that such tactics are likely to increase as the war in Ukraine continues.

Russia's embassy in Sweden has issued a similar call via its own social media channels. According to Lassila, these statements are almost certainly being coordinated by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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