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Friday’s papers: Putin, Putin, Putin

The Friday editions of Finnish newspapers are dominated by Thursday’s visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to eastern Finland, along with looks at business and culture.

Presidentti Vladimir Putin.
The size of Putin's replacement water glass drew attention at the presidents' press conference. Image: Mikko Stig / Lehtikuva

On Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö hosted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at Punkaharju and Savonlinna in eastern Finland. The local paper, Savon Sanomat, carries an analysis on the morning after.

The newspaper points out that the two leaders' official talks lasted an hour as scheduled, though it began half an hour late. However their joint press conference stretched on from the planned half-hour to an hour as Putin "clearly wanted to speak in a surprisingly voluble way to a broader audience through the media gathered at the Punkaharju Hotel."

Based on the press conference, the presidents' discussion "proceeded in a highly predictable manner". Niinistö mentioned water pollution and security in the Baltic Sea, saying there had been partial improvement in both areas. The Finnish leader said they had also discussed the Ukraine situation, where he said there has not been improvement.

Putin hailed the progress on the planned Rosatom nuclear plant in northern Finland and proposed cooperation on environmental protection and on improving safety in the Baltic Sea. He downplayed China's participation in Russian naval exercises in the area and said the manoeuvres were not directed at third countries in any way.

The Russian president also talked about planned new US sanctions against Russia, saying that President Donald Trump's internal opponents were exploiting anti-Russian hysteria--something that dominated the international news media coverage of the event.

"Over the course of history, informal discussions during visits by heads of state have turned out to be more important than official ones," Savon Sanomat notes. So have small gestures, such as the fact that Russian security guards switched a glass provided for Putin at the press conference for a different one that was larger than Niinistö's.

TS: "Baffling" strongman Putin

In south-west Finland, Turun Sanomat commentator Lea Peuhkuri draws attention to the same incident, and to the fact that the air in the crowded room became stuffy as the press conference doubled from its planned length. Both presidents, she says, were eager to send messages to both their domestic and international audiences.

Peuhkuri says "it seemed baffling" that Putin chose during the press conference to extend his regards to the public who had come out to welcome him in Punkaharju. She cites Aleksanteri Institute researcher and Yle commentator Hanna Smith as calling this a new type of gesture, signalling that Putin has added a more human touch to his image.

"It is however paradoxical that Russian policies have not changed, and may rather even have become tougher," she notes, adding that "[Putin] and his supporters have managed to stay in power since the early 2000s by crushing their opponents and rewarding the faithful."

KL: Summit "unsurprising", Nokia gains ground

The business daily Kauppalehti quotes Markku Kangaspuro, another expert from Helsinki University's Aleksanteri Institute, a think-tank on Russian and Eastern European affairs. He describes the content of the Niinistö-Putin meeting as "quite unsurprising"

However, "positive outlooks and cooperation, particularly on economic issues, were emphasised even more than I expected," observes Kangaspuro.

However the summit is not mentioned on Kauppalehti's front page, which leads off with the headline "Nokia strengthens its grip".  Perennial rival "Ericsson is performing weakly, but Nokia has managed to strengthen its position in the mobile networks market," the lead says, pointing out that a licensing agreement with another old rival, Apple, has improved the Finnish firm's results. However it says that Nokia has remained tight-lipped about details of the deal, which started with the US giant paying Nokia a modest fee of 1.7 billion euros.

The daily also looks at the latest developments in the emissions scandal surrounding German carmakers, and away from hard news, at Turku's Ilmiö festival. Founded in 2009, it changed its name to H2Ö and moved to Ruissalo island for a few years but is now returning to its roots and former urban location, KL says. Fittingly, the festival's theme is nostalgia, although it includes cutting-edge installation and multi-media art projects, as well electronic music from Jaakko Eino Kalevi and radical, irreverent reworkings of Finnish folk traditions from Pekko Käppi.

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