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Uusimaa closure may keep conscripts confined to bases, even on leave

On Friday evening, MPs were still weighing the constitutional issues involved in the Uusimaa closure. 

Varusmiehiä tuvassaan.
Some young conscripts may have to spend their days off on base. Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

Travel in and out of the southern Uusimaa region is expected to be halted late Friday or Saturday, and police have asked the Finnish Defence Forces (FDF) to assist in checking traffic on the region’s borders.

The closure was still being weighed by the parliamentary Constitutional Law Committee on Friday evening.

As a result of these changes, the FDF is planning changes at garrisons where conscripts are trained. Conscripts serving at bases in Uusimaa who live elsewhere will not be allowed to go home if Uusimaa is cordoned off as expected.

The travel issue particularly impacts the Dragsvik garrison in Raseborg, western Uusimaa. Hundreds of conscripts carrying out their compulsory military service there are from Ostrobothnia on the west coast.

The base is home to some 800 Swedish-speaking conscripts serving in the Finnish Navy’s Nyland Brigade, along with some expatriate Finns.

Correspondingly conscripts from Uusimaa will not be allowed to go home if they are serving elsewhere in the country. However they must return to service as usual if they are now on leave.

Mika Immonen, Chief of Staff at the Nyland Brigade, told Yle that the garrison plans to shift a new arrangement where conscripts will be on leave for two weeks at a time and four weeks on duty. Of these four weeks, two will be spent on base and two out on wilderness manoeuvres.

“This is aimed at preventing and slowing the spread of the illness,” Immonen said.

He said that an R&R programme will be arranged for conscripts who are not allowed to return for leave, and that they will be kept separate from other soldiers on base.

“Everyone will be extremely well taken care of; they will have plenty of reasonable, interesting things to do,” Immonen said.

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