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Thursday's papers: Free pass for Putin, GPS jamming and climate change anxiety

Finnish dailies analyse the Russian leader's Wednesday visit, and clock concern for the planet's welfare.

Sauli Niinistö ja Vladimir Putin vierailemassa Suomenlinnassa keskiviikkona.
Niinistö and Putin visited the Suomenlinna sea fortress. Image: Alexei Druzhinin / Kremlin pool / EPA

The country's most widely-read daily Helsingin Sanomat discusses Finnish President Sauli Niinistö's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday in Helsinki. The National Defence University's Russian security expert Katri Pynnönniemi called Niinistö out for "not questioning any of Putin's interpretations" in his remarks.

"In my opinion, the most important thing was that Putin got all of his key talking points across. The thrust of his message matched Russia's long-term communication strategy which says that the US is making decisions over Europe's head, without consideration for the interests of its allies," she told the paper.

She said President Niinistö could have challenged many of Putin's comments about the US' lack of communication with EU allies about its missile technology or US involvement in the European energy market – the latter of which conveniently painted the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as better-suited to European interests.

"He [Niinistö] surely could have said that the relationship between European and Nato countries and the US is a good one, or that Europeans still make their own, independent decisions," Pynnönniemi said.

Another missed opportunity in her eyes concerned the subject of a crackdown on demonstrations for free elections in Moscow. At this juncture, the Finnish President commented that it would be "too easy to say that nothing similar happens in Finland".

"Niinistö's criticism on this point was quite cloaked in that [...] there is no way you can compare the Finnish political system to what is happening in Russia right now," she told HS.

Scrambled GPS and a downed police site

Finland's tabloids talk about some of the knock-on effects the working visit had in Helsinki, in addition to the enhanced security presence and the closure of streets, markets and harbours. Ilta-Sanomat reports that GPS systems were apparently jammed for about a half-hour around the time of Putin's late arrival at roughly 4:30 pm.

Readers told IS that while Putin's motorcade was en route from the Helsinki Airport to the Presidential Palace, map services on their phones provided inaccurate location data. One man said he checked both his work and personal phone at his home in the Helsinki district of Viikki, only to have one show that he was sitting in the neighbouring city of Espoo and the other pinpoint his location in the district of Itäkeskus, in eastern Helsinki. He said that once Putin had arrived at his destination downtown, the services once again worked accurately.

The incident is not the first of its kind in Finland, as air navigation authorities detected GPS jamming in November 2018 during NATO exercises in northern Finland and Norway. Norwegian authorities said at the time that their data indicated that the signal disruption was coming from Russia.

Meanwhile tabloid Iltalehti reports that the website of the Finnish Police crashed on Wednesday evening while the Russian leader was in Helsinki, although "there is no information yet if the disturbance is associated with Putin's visit".

Worried about the planet's future

The Lahti-based newspaper Etelä-Suomen Sanomat reports on a poll assessing climate change anxiety in Finland's population.

Some 27 percent of the over 2,000 respondents to the Sitra-commissioned poll said anxiety is "very or somewhat good" descriptor of their feelings about climate change. For the subset of people between the age of 15 and 30, this percentage rose to 38 percent, or more than one in three.

Finns in the survey also reported feeling frustration, inadequacy, powerlessness and hope in the face of climate change. 60 percent said they have noted scepticism of global warming in their social circles, but less than half a percentage point said they have encountered outright climate change denial in Finland.

The poll also inquired after people's happiness levels. 55 percent said they felt very or somewhat happy, with about a quarter saying they were "a little or not at all happy".

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