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Thursday's papers: Russia invites Finland to visit war games, Transport Ministry's electric car cash, Alko's odd pricing schemes

Among other things, newspapers examine Russia's invitation to Finland to observe their upcoming Zapad 17 military exercises and the Transport Ministry's new plan to inject millions of euros towards getting more fully-electric cars on the roads. One paper wonders why state alcohol monopoly Alko charges customers up to nearly twice the amount for the same product in smaller bottles.

File photo. Image: Kalevi Rytkölä / Yle

Finland appears to again be playing an increasingly vital role in geopolitical affairs and diplomacy. President Sauli Niinistö, who met this week with US President Donald Trump, has also met with the president of China and met Russia's president twice this year.

Now papers report that Russia and Belarus have respectively sent invitations to the Finnish military to visit their joint war games, dubbed Zapad 17, which start in September in various regions of Russia and Belarus.

Finland's Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet - and other papers via the Finnish news agency STT - report (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that the Finnish military says they will likely take them up on the offer.

Janne Helin, a defence ministry consultant, confirmed to STT that the ministry had received the invitations, saying they were not invited to actually observe the exercises but rather to briefly visit one of the war game areas.

Russia has invited a selected list of foreign guests to an artillery firing range south of St. Petersburg for one day, the agency reports.

The drills are scheduled to be carried out from September 14th through the 20th.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)'s Vienna Document says that member countries - one of which is Finland - should be invited to exercises if the number of troops exceeds 13,000. Russia has said that it will send 12,700 to Zapad this year.

Western countries' assessments of the planned drills say that there could be as many as 100,000 troops participating in the exercises, according to Helsingin Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

Proposal: Cash incentives towards electric cars

A Ministry of Transport and Communications working group is proposing that government inject six million euros annually in subsidies to encourage drivers make the switch to electric and alternative-fuel vehicles during 2018-2021, according to Iltalehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

The paper writes that the group is also proposing allotting another four million euros toward setting up electric vehicle charging and other necessary infrastructure. The working group's plan also aims to increase the usage of biofuels by 30 percent.

Another separate programme has been set up to encourage people to walk or use bicycles, according to the paper.

However opposition MPs from the Greens, the Left Alliance and Social Democrats say the transport ministry working group's plan are not ambitious enough.

Social Democrat MP Krista Kiuru told the paper that Finland needs to do more to reduce emissions. Finland's national energy strategy set goals to reduce its carbon emissions by 50 percent between the years of 2005 to 2030.

Smaller bottle, bigger price

Another article in Iltalehti takes a look at national alcohol monopoly chain Alko's pricing schemes.

The paper reports (siirryt toiseen palveluun) - to likely no one's surprise - that small bottles of booze can proportionally cost a lot more than larger ones.

Buying in larger volumes generally means lower prices, but one reader told the paper that the chief justification for Finland to keep the state-owned Alko monopoly running is to discourage overconsumption of alcohol. But the pricing scheme which encourages people to buy booze in larger volumes doesn't appear to line up with that goal.

A perusal of the shelves of an Alko outlet and found that, for example, the litre price of Jägermeister in a large bottle is roughly 40 euros, while in smaller ones the price shoots up to nearly 75 euros.

The paper looked at several other brands and bottle sizes and the price differences were similar or even more disparate. A mini-bottle of the popular Finnish brandy concoction Jaloviina costs some 64.75 euros per litre while the same stuff in a 700 ml bottle costs 23.90 per litre, according to the paper.

However, the paper writes that the price differences are due to lower volume of sales of smaller bottles, as well as the cost of the bottles themselves - among other things.