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Monday's papers: Election buzz, Russian Christians seek asylum, basketball history

Following a landslide victory for Sauli Niinistö at the polls, Monday's headlines are full of post-election analyses and overviews. Other news includes persecuted Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia seeking asylum in Finland and NBA player Lauri Markkanen scoring big.

Lauri Markkanen ottaa levypallon kiinni.
Lauri Markkanen is now the top Finnish NBA scorer of all time. Image: AOP

Sauli Niinistö was chosen on January 28th to continue as the President of the Republic of Finland, and every paper carries news of his 62.7 percent win.

Yle News has covered the candidates and the voting, whereas daily Aamulehti zooms in on the clamour and glamour of the election night party. Held in Helsinki's Old Student House, the event gathered together Niinistö supporters from both the political and civilian sectors.

"It's great to be the president of such a fine country," Niinistö said in his victory speech. "Acknowledging opinions other than our own is one of Finland's strengths. Finland is a small but stable country."

AL writes that while Niinistö's pregnant wife, poet Jenni Haukio skipped the election do, the event was studded with MPs and ministers.

Christian Democrat chair Sari Essayah tells the paper that she believes independent running under voters' associations may become more popular in Finnish presidential races. Niinistö, she says, got support from across party lines.

National Coalition Party chair Petteri Orpo agrees that times are changing.

"Voters are challenging party politics, so parties have to learn to get with the times and approach people. The work needs to be put in every day," Orpo says.

Some 17,000 people worked on Niinistö's campaign, the budget of which rose to more than 1.5 million euros.

Jehovah's Witnesses flee to Finland

Meanwhile in neighbouring Russia practicing Jehovah's Witnesses face persecution from the government, resulting in more than a thousand people seeking asylum in several European countries, including Finland, according to top circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat.

The faith is considered an extremist group by the Russian state, and since April's ban on the group its meeting places and headquarters have been systematically shut down. Individual members have also been targeted, with some losing their jobs and facing vandalism.

"It all started last summer, and that's when the first Witnesses sought asylum in Finland," Finland's central Jehovah's Witness organisation spokesperson Veikko Leinonen says in HS. "Many dozens at least are still to come."

Most persecuted Russian believers have sought aid from other European countries, such as Ukraine, Poland and Germany. The Finnish Immigration Service's asylum unit chief Esko Repo says in HS that individual Jehovah's Witnesses from Russia have received both positive and negative asylum decisions.

"We are aware that rights have been infringed," Repo says shortly. "We are still gathering information on the ground to properly see the effects of the new legislation."

The laws in question came into effect in 2016, riding on a terrorist prevention platform and banning missionary work across Russia.

Markkanen top NBA Finn

And in sports, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat writes that Finnish NBA basketball player Lauri Markkanen has broken all records and now stands as the highest-scoring Finnish NBA player ever.

The 20-year-old Markkanen joined the Bulls in July of last year, and has since then scored a total of 721 points, beating prior Finnish flash Hanno Möttölä's 715-point record.

In Sunday's game the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Chicago Bulls by 110 – 96, but the game garnered Markkanen the record-crushing 17 points with ten rebounds and two assists.

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