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Finnish anti-war demonstrators take to streets in support of Ukraine

There were protests on Thursday in Helsinki, Tampere and Joensuu against Russia's attack on Ukraine.

Protestors gathered outside the Russian embassy on Tehtaankatu in Helsinki on Thursday afternoon. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Protestors took to city streets across Finland on Thursday to demonstrate against Russia's military attack on Ukraine.

According to police estimates, about 1,500 people gathered for a peaceful demonstration in front of the Russian Embassy in Helsinki on Thursday afternoon.

The protestors chanted slogans including "Down with Putin" and "Russia out" and Finnish hip hop musician Paleface (real name Karri Miettinen) sang Pete Seeger's anti-war song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone".

He told Yle he was "shocked" by the Russian attack.

"I am really concerned, so it was important for me to come and sing a couple of peace songs," he said. "I was born in the late 1970s, and this is the worst situation of my lifetime. We are close to a world war."

Protestors in Helsinki. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle
Finnish hip hop musician Paleface sang an anti-war song during the event. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Anni Lahtinen, secretary general of the 'Committee of 100' (Sadankomitea in Finnish), which organised the event, told Yle that people have been motivated into action by the events in Ukraine.

"This situation is really quite exceptional. It really feels now like war has come to Europe," she said.

Former MP, and former Deputy Finance Minister, Arja Alho (SDP) also participated in the Helsinki demonstration.

"This war is a terrible thing, I'm shocked. The hostilities must be stopped, so this is what I can do as a citizen," Alho said.

Elena Tuomikoski, a Russian citizen living in Finland, was also part of the demonstration, and said the conflict will "destroy the lives of many".

"No one wants a war except Putin and his criminal gang. The Russian people do not want a war," Tuomikoski said.

Tampere: "Nothing is achieved by war"

Hundreds of people also gathered at the Central Market Square in Tampere to protest Russia's attack.

Many participants carried signs reading "Sopimalla, ei sotimalla" (Translation: 'By reconciliation, not by war').

Demonstrators gathered in the centre of Tampere on Thursday. Image: Marjut Suomi / Yle
The sign "Sopimalla, ei sotimalla" translates as "By reconciliation, not by war". Image: Marjut Suomi / Yle

Aku Kervinen from the Finnish branch of the War Resisters' International told Yle that the group has close ties with the organisation's branches in Ukraine and Russia.

"The first important step would be to state that nothing is achieved by war. Above all, the responsibility lies with Russia, which has started a state of war," Kervinen said.

Yle also spoke at the Tampere demonstration to Artem Schcepkin, a Ukrainian basketball player who has been living in Tampere.

"I was shocked this morning. My family, including my parents, and many of my friends live in Ukraine. We don't know what to do," Schcepkin said, adding that there is much confusion and uncertainty among his compatriots living in Tampere.

"We do not know what our future holds. What can be done next? Putin can march anywhere," he said.

Protest in Joensuu

About 100 people also took part in a similar event in the eastern city of Joensuu.

Yle's reporter at the scene Emilia Saukkonen said there was "anxiety, insecurity and uncertainty" among the people present.

A protestor at the event in Joensuu. Image: Heikki Haapalainen / Yle

Finnish buildings light up in blue and yellow

As a sign of solidarity with the people of Ukraine, a number of Finnish buildings were illuminated with blue and yellow lights — the colours of the Ukrainian flag — on Thursday.

This included the Foreign Ministry's Merikasarmi building — which was originally built for the military of the Empire of Russia — on Helsinki's Katajanokka peninsula as well as Helsinki City Hall.

Finland's Foreign Ministry's building was illuminated by blue and yellow lights on Thursday. Image: Pekka Koli / Yle
Helsinki City Hall on Thursday. Image: Pekka Koli / Yle

Finland strongly supports Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, the Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter.

In Tampere, the city's iconic Tammerkoski rapids were lit up in blue and yellow on Thursday, with city mayor Anna-Kaisa Ikonen (NCP) writing on Twitter that the gesture was intended to "express the support of Tampere to the people of Ukraine, our sister city Kiev and all people who suffer from war".

Tammerkoski rapids in Tampere. Image: Aki Karjalainen / Yle