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Monday's papers: Trains at a standstill, shoplifting rise, spring on standby

Morning papers report that with a strike bringing rail traffic to a standstill, alternative forms of commuter traffic are likely to be crowded.

Kaksi junaa Helsingin rautatieasemalla.
The scene at Helsinki Central Station on the morning of Monday 20 March 2023. Image: Mikko Stig / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Rail traffic came to a complete halt in Finland on Monday, following the failure of last-minute negotiations to settle the labour dispute between the railway workers' union RAU and the state railway operator VR.

As Helsingin Sanomat reports, the strike completely stopped local train traffic as well.

The strike does not however affect metro drivers, so Helsinki's metro is running as normally. The same goes for buses, trams and the Suomenlinna ferry.

Tuija Ruoho of the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HSL) told the paper that the HSL website provides tips on how to find a replacement connection, including a list of buses that run from train stations to the centre of the city.

The director of passenger and operator services for the nationwide Matkahuolto bus transport company, Anu Pekurinen, said on Friday that the operator had not as yet decided whether additional buses would be provided during the rail strike.

Petteri Rantala, commercial director of Onnibus, one of Finland's largest long-distance transport operators, told HS that the company does not have the human resources to organize extra shifts for drivers.

Late Sunday, authorities reminded commuters that not all traffic on the rail network has stopped due to the strike. Maintenance and track work is continuing on the rail network as normal, so drivers should still take care and watch out for trains at level crossings.

Three families and a cat

Late last year, Finland offered to take in 100 Ukrainian refugees from Estonia per week.

Iltalehti tells readers that moving from Estonia to Finland has however not interested Ukrainian refugees at all. IL writes that over the last two months, only three Ukrainian families and one cat have resettled to Finland from Estonia.

Liis Paloots, head of the Estonian Social Insurance Board's immigration service, says that the reason for Ukrainian refugees' reluctance to move to Finland may be that refugees are placed in reception centres in Finland.

"These people would be bound to the reception centre for 12 months. Estonia, on the other hand, has prioritized the fact that people become independent as soon as possible. This includes the right to various benefits to facilitate the search for a permanent place of residence when a person has received a residence permit, instead of living in reception centres or other places provided by the state," Paloots told the Estonian public broadcaster ERR.

Refugees who have arrived in Estonia and have not yet applied for international protection are offered the opportunity to move to Finland, but there has been almost no interest in making the move.

"People rather say that they came to Estonia because they have relatives, friends or acquaintances here. Recently, we have also been told that many people have a job waiting," Paloots added.

The number of Ukrainians applying for international protection in Estonia, has stabilized at around 200 applications per week, Iltalehti reports.

Light-fingered shoppers

Ilta-Sanomat writes that the number of incidents of shoplifting in Finland began to show a rise at the end of the last decade, with around 50,000 cases reported to the police in 2020.

According to Statistics Finland's most recent crime statistics, most shoplifting takes place in the province of Uusimaa, including the capital region, where approximately 20,000 shoplifting reports are made to the police per year.

Stores have implemented special arrangements for certain products to deter shoplifting. For example, the Lidl retail chain says that in some of its stores products have been shifted from the shelves to checkout counters. These products vary by store, but include, for example, vitamins, parmesan cheese, alcoholic beverages and razor blades.

Some anti-theft measures go to extremes. Petri Miettinen, director of Tripla Mall's K-Market and K-Supermarket stores, says that it was decided to completely remove large instant coffee refills.

"More of them were stolen than sold," Miettinen notes, adding that thieves are interested in more valuable products for which there is a secondary market. In addition, some goods are stolen for personal use.

When asked by Ilta-Sanomat what more unusual items items interest shoplifters, Miettinen answered without a moment's hesitation.

"Baby oil. Our loss is really, really, really high. To this day, I haven't figured out what it's being used for, but I have a hard time imagining it going into normal use."

Campaign vandals

The farmers' union paper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus reports that campaign posters promoting candidates in the 2 April parliamentary election have been the target of vandalism around the country.

The paper says that Finns Party posters were torn down in front of the City Hall in Tampere. Vandals have also targeted election ads of the SDP and the Greens in Ylöjärvi, in the Pirkanmaa region, and in North Savo roadside billboards for the campaign of a NCP candidate were riddled by airgun pellets. Similar vandalism has also been reported in Seinäjoki and Riihimäki.

The paper also reports that a campaign event by Centre Party candidate Mikko Kärnä was disrupted in central Helsinki by social media video producers posing as anti-vaccine citizen journalists.

Spring still being coy

Looking at the weather this coming week, Hufvudstadsbladet writes that temperatures are forecast to be somewhat warmer than the average for the time of year, but it doesn't look like the trend will last long.

The week will bring rain, sleet or snow and night frosts.

The paper quotes FMI meteorologist Juha Tuomala as saying that the thermal spring will be late this year. That is when the average daily temperature is above freezing for one week straight.

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