Ukraine has added four Finnish citizens to its sanctioned persons list, reports news consortium Lännen Media. According to LM, Johan Bäckman, Janus Putkonen, Jon Hellevig and Jarmo Ekman are not permitted to enter the country or make use of any property or capital they may hold in Ukraine for the next three years.
The four men acted as election observers in Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) – a state set up by Russia in East Ukraine – in November. Russian media portrayed the men as "international election observers sent by Finland".
According to LM, Finland did not in fact, send election monitoring teams to DPR and as an EU member state, condemned the elections by Russia-backed separatists as illegal.
The four men are well-known for their pro-Russian positions. Bäckman has enjoyed a high degree of visibility in Russian media as an expert on Russian child custody rights abroad. He is also listed as the Northern Europe representative for the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), a Kremlin-funded research group that is believed to have links to Russian intelligence services.
In October last year, Bäckman, anti-immigrant agitator Ilja Janitskin and a third person were ordered to pay 200,000 euros in damages to harassment victims after they were found guilty of harassing and defaming Yle journalist Jessikka Aro and inciting others to defame her.
Meanwhile, Jarmo Ekman acts as the secretary of the Donetsk People’s Republic’s official representative in Finland, where Putkonen and Bäckman are also active. Ekman was previously involved in Paavo Väyrynen's Citizens' Party.
Putkonen has lived in Donetsk since 2015, helping out the republic’s media operations there.
In 2017, Jon Hellevig received a 60-day suspended sentence for illegal threats against and defamation of opera singer Karita Mattila, as reported by daily Helsingin Sanomat.