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Friday's papers: Oligarch's recommendation letters, strawberry stress and Finnish Top Gear

Finland's coming adaptation of Top Gear features big names like Teemu Selänne and Ismo Leikola.

Teemu Selänne in a golf shirt.
Hockey star Teemu Selänne is among the big names who will host the Finnish version of Top Gear. Image: Tomi Natri / All Over Press
Yle News

Helsingin Sanomat reported on the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) publishing letters of recommendation attached to Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko's citizenship application.

After previous hesitation about handing the documents to the press, Migri did not redact any parts of the recommendation letters.

The recommendation letters appear to have helped to fast-track Timchenko's citizenship application. One, from May 1999, was written by Keijo Kajander, vice president of International Petroleum Products Finland, a company that Timchenko was CEO of at the time. He cited the oligarch's investments and business dealings in Finland as a reason to give him citizenship.

"In this case, constantly applying for visas and renewing a Russian passport slows down and even prevents the CEO from fulfilling his obligations. Last year, CEO Timchenko had to renew his passport four times. Obtaining Finnish citizenship would greatly benefit the company by making travel substantially easier," Kajander wrote in the letter.

A second recommendation letter was written by Matti Harkko, a lawyer from Lappeenranta in Eastern Finland. In his letter, Harkko pointed out that not only has he known Timchenko for some time, but that the Russian had helped fund Finland's girls' national basketball team.

Timchenko and members of his family were granted Finnish citizenship in the autumn of 1999 following an unusually brief processing period.

Migri did not submit the expedited application to the Finnish Security and Intelligence Service (Supo) for review, despite the security agency's explicit request to do so.

In April of this year, an interior ministry report about a review of the application process found that no regulations in force in 1999 had been violated.

Cool weather not deterring strawberries

Tampere-based paper Aamulehti wrote that despite cooler weather in June, the strawberry harvest appears to be right on track.

According to the Finnish Association of Fruit and Berry Growers there is no need to worry about having enough strawberries on the table at Midsummer, as strawberries are ripening at a normal pace in open fields.

The association's president, Tarja Matomäki, told Aamulehti that the situation is also good in Pirkanmaa.

"As a rule, we have been able to fight off the mould and some of the strawberries had to be covered by tents. Everything has not been picked from the open land yet, but we will pick it before Midsummer," she said.

Although the situation of Finnish strawberries on farms is good, the unusually cold June has made additional work for the farmers.

"It's more work when you have to fight off night frosts with tarps and watering," Matomäki noted.

Finnish reboot

Tabloid Iltalehti reported that the BBC licensed its popular hit series Top Gear for a Finnish reboot on TV channel Nelonen with some surprising names.

Former NHL star Teemu Selänne, popular comedian Ismo Leikola and actor Christoffer Strandberg will serve as the presenting trio of motorheads in a Finnish adaptation of the British show, which features the hosts competing in a litany of car challenges.

Since retiring from the NHL, Selänne has made headlines in Finland with posts on social media about things like politics which have generated controversy.

According to a representative from the BCC, there has been a desire to create a Finnish version for some time.

Top Gear Suomi is set to premiere in the spring of 2024.

11:51: Updated Matomäki's first quote to be easier to understand in English.

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