Voislav Torden, shown on the right side of the split screen wearing a cap and a checkered shirt, attended his detention hearing at the District Court of East Uusimaa via a video link from Vantaa Prison on Friday, 25 August 2023. Torden, who is also known as Jan Petrovsky, is a founding member of Rusitš, a Russian neo-Nazi group that was involved in fighting in Eastern Ukraine in 2014–2015. (Seppo Samuli – Lehtikuva)


VOISLAV TORDEN, a 36-year-old Russian citizen who is wanted for war and terrorist crimes by Ukraine, has been granted a one-year residence permit in Finland, according to YLE and Helsingin Sanomat.

Helsingin Sanomat on Sunday reported that Torden, who is also known as Yan Petrovsky, was granted the residence permit on grounds of the study-based residence permit of his wife.

Petrovsky is the subject of sanctions and an entry ban by the European Union. He is a founding member of Rusitš, a Russian neo-Nazi organisation with reported ties to the notorious mercenary group Wagner. Rusitš has declared that it will not engage in any fighting unless Russia calls for the release of Petrovsky.

Reports about his residence in Finland emerged on Friday, as the District Court of East Uusimaa ruled in favour of a police request to extend his remand indefinitely in order to facilitate consideration of the extradition request from Ukraine. A decision on the extradition will be made later by the Ministry of Justice.

YLE on Monday reported that Torden was apprehended at Helsinki Airport in July after border officials had determined his former identity based on intelligence.

The criminal suspicions relate reportedly to the role of Rusitš in Eastern Ukraine in 2014–2015. Natalia Malgina, the legal counsel of Torden, told Helsingin Sanomat on Saturday that her client admits to participating in “political activity” in the country in 2014 but denies having participated in fighting or carrying out terrorist acts.

Ilkka Haahtela, the director general of the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri), on Monday stated to YLE that no suspicions emerged about the identity of the man during the application process. Because Migri was unaware of his former identity, it was also unaware of the entry ban and his inclusion on the sanctions list.

“Of course we’d never make a residence permit decision for a person whose identity was unclear or hasn’t been reliably verified,” he said.

Haahtela pointed out that co-operation between authorities has led to the apprehension of several people who have used forged identification documents to try to enter Finland and Europe. It may be necessary, he added, to re-examine the co-operation to ensure immigration officials have access to all relevant information.

“Our activities alone aren’t enough because we don’t have access to all the information that could be relevant in certain cases. We’ll have to talk about how we could receive enough information from all security authorities when necessary,” he said.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) on Sunday stated during what was his first regular interview with the public broadcasting company that the uncertainty surrounding Wagner, following the death of its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, poses a serious threat to Finland.

He said he is concerned about the situation especially from the viewpoint of border security and the ability of authorities to reliably determine the identities of everyone seeking access to Finland. The government, he indicated, will weigh up the possibility of tightening entry rules in response to the situation.

“I’ve asked for updated information on the different kinds of cross-border traffic and an assessment of whether we should be doing even more,” he commented.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT