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Friday's papers: Russian toxic waste row, politicians' phone tap claims and Ku Klux Klan in Lahti demo

Finland's press this morning tackles the question of what to do with a landfill site in St Petersburg which is leaking dangerous chemicals into the Gulf of Finland.They also report claims by prominent political figures that their phone calls have been tapped. And a gang – one of whom wore white robes – threw fireworks at refugees and migrants arriving in Lahti Thursday night.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

Helsingin Sanomat's top story this morning is the ongoing negotiations between labour groups and the government to try and reach a collective agreement on pay and working conditions. The paper reports that the latest proposal by the SAK union confederation to freeze salaries received a cool reception from the government, who want to impose a package of holiday pay cuts and extend working hours. But talks are continuing, Hesari says.

Inside, the paper carries a report on how a rubbish dump south of St Petersburg is leaking dangerous chemicals into the Gulf of Finland, according to Greenpeace water sampling tests carried out this August. The environmental activists detected carbon tetrachloride at many times higher than permitted levels, and also found traces of banned PCB compounds, which were widely used in electronics in the past.

But although the Krasnyi Bor site - which was a tipping ground for St Petersburg's problem waste from the '70s onwards - is no longer in use, it is continuing to pollute the environment and debate is raging about what should happen to the area, HS reports. On the one hand, the Russian arm of Finnish engineering firm Pöyry has won a contract to build a plant to incinerate the waste. The plan will reduce the amount of harmful substances, claim the local authorities. They will present their proposals to the public in mid-October.

But environmentalists, including Greenpeace, oppose burning the waste in principle, while local residents at the very least want any incineration to take place further away from their homes. There is one thing that all sides do agree on, however, the paper says, and that is that something must be done as soon as possible to address the problem.

Politicians' phones tapped?

HBL leads this morning with the claim by two prominent Finnish defence politicians that their phones have been tapped by foreign agencies. The claim arose during the paper's phone interview with Ilkka Kanerva, NCP Member of Parliament and president of the OSCE's parliamentary assembly. Midway through the conversation the line started to make unusual noises before disconnecting.

When the call resumed, Kanerva told the journalist that this happens to him regularly, and he asserted that eavesdropping by foreign intelligence agencies was the reason.

"Who'd want to listen to this conversation?" the journalist asks. "I don't know," Kanerva replies, adding, "But I don't think it's the Portuguese security services."

The chair of parliament's defence committee subsequently declined to elaborate on who he believes is listening in. But he said the situation has affected which subjects he discusses over the phone.

Kanerva: "This happens all the time."

"This never seems to happen when I'm talking about sport, or Finnish internal affairs," Kanerva went on to say.

He told the surprised journalist that his line of work means that the possibility of being listened in on cannot be excluded.

In his OSCE role Kanerva has mediated between Kiev and pro-Russian rebel groups in the Ukrainian conflict. He says that he's informed Finland's security services of his eavesdropping claims.

HBL also reports that former defence minister Carl Haglund, who remains leader of the Swedish People's Party, then came forward to say that he had experienced the same strange noises and cut-offs on his phone line "dozens of times" shortly after taking up his ministerial post. He said that from the start he did not discuss sensitive issues on the phone.

Ku Klux Klan in Lahti protest

The country's two tabloids carry more coverage of the refugee and migrant situation this morning, with both of them reporting from the southern Finnish town of Lahti. Two buses bringing around 100 new arrivals to an accommodation centre in a former army barracks were met by a group of up to 40 people who shouted abuse and threw fireworks, Ilta Sanomat said as it picked up a report from national broadcaster Yle. Police issued at least one fine over the incident the paper said.

And while the Finnish national ice hockey team yesterday asked people to stop wearing the team's shirts to anti-immigration protests, Iltalehti reports that among the gang in Lahti was someone wearing the white hood and iconic robes of the Ku Klux Klan.

"You have to wonder what is going on inside the head of someone like that," an accompanying Red Cross worker told the paper.

A further 150 people are due to arrive at the temporary accommodation, which is intended to house new arrivals for up to three months, the paper says.

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