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Putin-Trump summit to bring huge delegations, press corps to Helsinki

Preparations are underway for the 16 July meeting between the US and Russian presidents, which will bring large numbers of delegates and journalists to the Finnish capital.

Putin and Trump met briefly in Vietnam last November. Image: Jorge Silva / EPA

Thursday’s official confirmation that the Russian and American presidents, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, will hold talks in Helsinki on 16 July has set off a flurry of preparatory work by city and state officials.

Helsinki Police immediately began drawing up a security plan, says deputy police chief Heikki Kopperoinen.

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Helsinki Police have begun security planning. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

“There are slight challenges due to the rapid timetable and the summer holiday period, but resource planning has started,” he said in a statement. Mid-July is the height of the Finnish vacation period, with many offices and stores in cities usually shuttered.

The police will be in charge of security at the meeting and potential overnight accommodation sites as well as traffic arrangements.

“The security arrangements will be extensive, but normal considering the size of the meeting. Helsinki Police will make normal requests for assistance from partner officials and the Finnish Defence Forces,” Kopperoinen added.

"Putin’s team may be smaller"

Vappu Mänty, head of sales at Helsinki Marketing, compares the event to the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in the Finnish capital 12 years ago.

“This is very similar. Meetings between heads of state involve a lot of protocol and security arrangements,” she tells Yle.

Mänty points out that although ostensibly there are only two people meeting, there could be as many as 2,000 people accompanying them, including their own staffs and media representatives.

“With the Trump delegation, we’re talking about several hundred people. They include many different kinds of assistants, secretaries, a PR team, interpreters and their own security men. Putin’s delegation may be slightly smaller,” Mänty says.

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The Russian Embassy on Tehtaankatu. Image: Yle

“There will probably also be hundreds, maybe even more than 1,000 media representatives. They will have to be provided with functional working conditions so that they have a good Helsinki experience – that’s tremendously important, too,” Mänty says.

Many possible conference sites

The exact location of the Trump-Putin talks was still unclear as of Thursday evening.

One experienced Foreign Ministry official told Yle that the official presidential residence, Mäntyniemi in the seaside Meilahti district, would be a worthy alternative, as would either country’s embassy or Finlandia Hall.

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Finlandia Hall, where Brezhnev and Ford met in 1975. Image: Mikael Crawford / Yle

There has also been speculation about the Königstedt Manor in Vantaa, the Presidential Palace next to the Market Square, and the Kalastajatorppa Hotel in Munkkiniemi.

Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori says the meeting will raise Helsinki’s profile as a high-level congress city. The capital has hosted four meetings between US and Russian or Soviet leaders since 1975.

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Former economic affairs minister Jan Vapaavuori Image: Antti Kolppo / Yle

“Helsinki is of course not the only place in the world where these can be arranged and have been arranged, but it’s among a small group. Certainly this will support our efforts to boost our position as Finland’s leading congress city,” the mayor says.

According to Visit Finland’s Head of Marketing, Heli Jimenez, the event will increase Finland’s reputation as a safe, non-aligned country.

“The meeting is a good example of how we can offer meeting opportunities speedily and that certainly is in line with the image of Finland that we want to build,” she says.