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Finnish railway firm pulls magazines over Crimea holiday ad

The Finnish State Railways, VR, has withdrawn its Allegro magazine after a journalist publicised an advert for travel to Crimea, which is Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia in 2014. Only four countries have recognised Crimea as part of Russia.

Sivu lehdestä
VR published this contested advert for travel to Crimea. Image: VR

The Finnish State Railway firm, VR, has withdrawn a magazine from circulation after it emerged that the publication included adverts for holidays in Crimea. The ads appeared on Allegro, which is distributed on trains between Finland and Russia.

The Allegro adverts were posted on Facebook by Ilta-Sanomat journalist Arja Paananen, who specialises in covering Russia.

Headlined 'Back to Crimea!', the campaign gave details about travelling to the disputed territory by train, bus and ferry.

Finland does not recognise Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, which cut the peninsula off from mainland Ukraine's railway network.

Rail travellers now have to get there by ferry across the Kerch Strait, which juts out from the Krasnodar Krai region of southern Russia, as Ukraine stopped all trains to Crimea and prevents tourists from travelling there from Ukrainian territory.

Joint venture

Ukrainian law also prohibits travel to Crimea from Russia, with a maximum penalty of three years in prison. The European Union has banned travel agencies from offering trips to Crimea, and cruise ships from stopping at Crimean ports.

VR explained that Allegro is a joint venture with the Russian railway company RZD, and the Crimea ads appeared in the section produced by RZD.

"VR does not offer or arrange trips to Crimea," said VR Communications chief Mika Heijari. "But VR has in any case decided to take this edition of the Allegro magazine out of circulation."

Three years ago the same publication was at the centre of a storm when it refused an advert from a Helsinki gay nightclub. The magazine follows both Finnish and Russian law, and in Russia the "promotion" of homosexuality is illegal.

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