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Tuesday's papers: Finno-Ugric aggro, mining licence fuss and Kuier's visa delay

Russian organisations have criticised the global umbrella organisation for Finno-Ugric peoples. 

Päijänne Asikkalan Aurinkovuorelta katsottuna
A mining firm has reserved exploration rights across a section of Lake Päijänne. Image: Elina Rantalainen / Yle

There are not many communities around the world where Finno-Ugric languages are spoken, but the World Congress of Finno-Ugric peoples is where they gather every four years.

In addition to Hungary, Finland and Estonia, delegates arrive from communities in Russia where Mari, Mordvin and other Ugric languages are spoken.

This year Tartu in Estonia is scheduled to host the delayed 2020 event, but the Russian association representing Finno-Ugric peoples, Afun, does not seem keen on the event.

Helsingin Sanomat reports that Afun has posted a statement online criticising the event, saying that representatives from Finland and Estonia are too arrogant and typically focus on criticising Russia at the congress, and questioning whether the congress should continue at all.

Finland-Russia association chair, and one of the organisers of the congress Niina Sinkko says she is mystified by the criticism.

"I would like to discuss this with Afun, but we have not been able to reach them after their statement was published," said Sinkko.

Tonu Seilenthal, one of the organisers in Estonia, said that Afun was not representative of Finno-Ugric people in Russia, but rather the local authorities in the districts and regions where they live.

"I have information suggesting that some of the representative's of Russia's [Finno-Ugric] peoples are not satisfied with the statement," said Seilenthal. "It could be supposed that the statement is the view of Afun's leadership."

HS says that it remains to be seen whether Russian representatives turn up in Tartu. Especially working age people in Russia might fear the consequences of attending the event, if it might be seen as defying the authorities.

Mining mystery

Iltalehti has been to Kalkkinen, a community in Häme currently concerned about a mining project that residents say could pollute their waters.

And these waters are important nationwide. Lake Päijänne is Finland's second-largest lake that provides drinking water for 1.5 million people in and around the capital city region via a tunnel running to Vantaa.

Iltalehti reports that Pallagen Oy has reserved rights to explore for minerals across an area covering some 468 square kilometres. The company's chair is Andrew Darcy, and a board member is Ian Lynch. Both have roles at the British mining firm Element-46.

That means that for the next two years they can excavate small areas, and for fifteen years after that it is possible to make bigger exploratory digs in search of copper, cobalt, gold, palladium, platinum and rhodium.

The area contains some 932 residential properties and 3,013 holiday homes. Many of the residents are upset, and have asked the company for answers.

After a residents' info evening the company said it may reduce the size of its claim, as the area they are interested in is quite small.

One expert interviewed by Yle says that companies tend to reserve large areas just to be on the safe side, as it is easy to do and there's little risk.

Municipalities have little power to intervene, but Finland's mining legislation is currently undergoing a review. One proposed change is to allow municipalities a veto over mining operations.

In the meantime, the online campaigns against this particular project have quickly gained support.

Kuier stuck in Finland

Finland's 19-year-old basketball star Awak Kuier should be starting her WNBA career on Friday, but she is unlikely to do so as she is still stuck in Finland.

Her Dallas Wings travel to Los Angeles Sparks on Friday, but Kuier is likely to be following the game from Finland as her visa has still not been processed.

Her agent tells Ilta-Sanomat that he's not sure she'll be able to play in May at all.

Kuier is the first Finn to be picked in the first round of the WNBA draft, and will be the first to play in the league when she makes her debut.

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