Finland sees propaganda attack from former master Russia

Finland sees propaganda attack from former master Russia

Finland is becoming increasingly worried about what it sees as Russian propaganda against it, including Russian questioning about the legality of its 1917 independence. The country shares a 1,340km border and a difficult and bloody history with Russia, of which it was once a part. Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and sabre-rattling in the Baltic Sea have raised security concerns in the militarily neutral European Union country. Earlier this month, Finland and Estonia both accused Russian fighter jets of violating their airspace. Russia has also started moving nuclear-capable missiles into its Kaliningrad enclave bordering Poland and Lithuania. Sitting in his office in the government palace – built for Russia’s Grand Duchy of Finland – Markku Mantila leads a network of officials who monitor attempts to influence the country. He says Finland is facing intensifying media attacks led by Kremlin. “We believe this aggressive influencing from Russia aims at creating distrust between leaders and citizens, and to have us make decisions harmful to ourselves,” he said. “It also aims to make citizens suspicious about the European Union, and to warn Finland over not joining Nato.” Finland won independence during Russia’s revolution of 1917 but nearly lost it fighting the Soviet Union in World War Two. It kept close to the West economically and politically during the Cold War but avoided confrontation with Moscow. Mantila, who is also the head of government communications, says Russian media last month reported on “cold-blooded” Finnish authorities taking custody of children from a Russian family living in Finland “due to their nationality”. The Finnish government denied the reports, while declining to comment on an individual case due to the legal procedure. However, the story has been replicated hundreds of times in Russia over the past few weeks. A report by Kremlin-led NTV said “even the locals call Finland a land of ruthless and irrational child terror.” PLAQUE HIT WITH AXE Mantila, showing on his laptop what he said were false news pictures, skewed authority statements and pro-Kremlin online discussions, said his network has verified around 20 cases of clear information operations against Finland from the past few years, and around 30 “very likely” such operations. “There is a systematic lying campaign going on… It is not a question of bad journalism, I believe it is controlled from the centre,” he said. Kremlin and Russian foreign ministry officials were not immediately available for a comment. Foreign Minister Timo Soini has also acknowledged the alleged propaganda, saying the government was countering false information with…

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