This handout photo taken on September 28, 2022 from an aircraft of the Swedish Coast Guard (Kustbevakningen) shows the release of gas emanating from a leak on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, in the Swedish economic zone in the Baltic Sea. LEHTIKUVA

Finland in the world press

Here is a selection of what the international press has published about Finland in the last week:

Finland faces growing Russian online threat, Finnish security services say

Finland experiencing a surge in online espionage attempts from Russia following the latter’s invasion of Ukraine, was covered in an article by The Guardian on October 18. 

The article gives details of the information by the Finnish security and intelligence service, Supo, which reported that the country is facing multiple threats from Russia, including cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns.

“Russia’s espionage attempts towards us have increased during the war, mainly in the cybersphere,” Suvi Alvari, a senior analyst for Supo, said.

Following the expulsion of diplomats from Helsinki, Russia appears to be redirecting its intelligence efforts towards online activities. In June, Finland expelled nine individuals from the Russian embassy, citing their actions as a breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This expulsion comes in the wake of similar actions taken by Norway and Sweden, who have also expelled Russian individuals, alleging their involvement as intelligence officers.

Key areas of interest in cyberattacks on Finland include its NATO membership, support for Ukraine, and potential sanctions evasion through the country. These attacks aim to create a perception of disrupted services, although it is assessed as unlikely that Russia would target Finland’s critical infrastructure physically on Finnish soil in the near future.

“It’s obvious Russia has the capability in the cybersphere so we’re prepared,” Alvari said. “We assess that it’s likely that Russia will continue to use denial of service attacks [when hackers make information systems, devices and other resources inaccessible to legitimate users] towards us.”

Original story was published by The Guardian on 18.10.2023 and can be found here.

Finnish police complete on-site probe at damaged Baltic Sea pipeline

Finnish police completing their crime scene investigation into the damage to a subsea gas pipeline connecting Finland and Estonia, was covered in an article by Reuters on October 19. The article provides details of the damage as Balticconnector pipeline linking Finland and Estonia ruptured earlier this month

The authorities said may have been a deliberate act of sabotage, cutting off the flow of gas between the two countries until April at least.

Samples collected at the site of the subsea gas pipeline damage in cooperation with Finland’s armed forces and coast guard will be analyzed, according to a statement by the police.

“Although the scene investigation into the damage in the gas pipeline has been completed, investigations and the presence of authorities still continue in the area,” the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation said.

“Subsequently the area surrounding the damage will be widely examined,” they added.

Original story was published by Reuters on 19.10.2023 and can be found here.

With Finland in NATO, Russia restructures forces, depriving the Northern Fleet of the status as a military district

Russia’s defence ministry’s proposal of a draft presidential decree that would remove the Northern Fleet’s status as a military district, was covered in an article by The Barents Observer on October 10. The article explores how the Northern Fleet will be integrated into a reconstituted Leningrad Military District, if the proposal is approved. This is a return to the structure prior to 2010 when the Western Military Districts were divided.

The Northern Fleet Joint Strategic Command gained military district status on January 1, 2021, signifying the significance of Russia’s Arctic regions. Geographically, the Northern Fleet is the third largest of Russia’s five military districts.

This move is seen as a response to Finland and Sweden’s NATO aspirations and NATO’s efforts to bolster military capabilities near Russian borders. Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu emphasized the need for retaliatory measures to establish an appropriate troop presence in Northwest Russia.

“Given NATO’s desire to build up military potential near the Russian borders, as well as to expand the North Atlantic Alliance at the expense of Finland and Sweden, retaliatory measures are required to create an appropriate grouping of troops in Northwest Russia,” Sergei Shoigu said.

From the Russian perspective, this restructuring aims to enhance their ability to engage in full-scale land operations along the Finnish border and in the Baltic theater of military operations. This leads to changes in command and personnel organization, effectively reversing some of the military reforms implemented between 2008-2012.

Original story was published by The Barents Observer on 10.10.2023 and can be found here.

Bank of Finland initiates development of Finnish instant payment solution aligned with European standards

The Bank of Finland (BOF) spearheading the developing a Finnish instant payment solution that complies with European standards, was covered in an article by Cryptonews on October 19. The article highlights the BOF's active role in promoting innovative payment methods.

Tuomas Välimäki, a member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB), acknowledged the declining use of cash for transactions in Finland and Europe, despite the continued circulation of physical cash. In Finland, cash represents a small fraction of daily transactions, and a minority of the population uses it as their primary payment method.

Välimäki mentioned the digital euro as an alternative payment method, highlighting it as a significant ongoing project in European payment systems. Nevertheless, he stressed the importance of ensuring continued access and convenience for those who rely on cash for their daily financial activities.

“The core objectives of the digital euro align with the Eurosystem’s responsibility to uphold the reliability and efficiency of payment and settlement systems in an increasingly digitalized landscape, particularly as cash usage diminishes,” Välimäki said.

Original story was published by Cryptonews on 19.10.2023 and can be found here.

Finland Blocks Property Sales to Russians on Security Grounds

Finnish authorities blocking three property sales to Russian buyers, citing defense and security concerns, was covered in an article by Bloomberg on October 19. These properties are situated near the southeastern border. The article looks into the move by Finland as the defence ministry expressed that allowing these real estate acquisitions would have compromised Finland’s ability to safeguard its territorial integrity.

At the beginning of the year, a new law granted authorities expanded powers to prevent property transactions if they raise national security concerns.

The decision to block property sales to Russian buyers, signed by Defense Minister Antti Hakkanen, pertains to two properties in Ruokolahti and one in Kitee, as stated by the government. In the previous year, authorities also prevented the sale of a former nursing home property in Kankaanpaa, located in the western part of Finland near an army site.

Original story was published by Bloomberg on 19.10.2023 and can be found here.

Archaeologists find crusader era cemetery and sword

Archaeologists discovering a cemetery with burials dating back to the Crusader Era in Salo, Finland was covered in an article by Heritage Daily on October 14. The article gives details of the discovery while shedding light upon the impact of the Crusader Era in Finland.

The Crusader Era marks the introduction of Christianity, although its historical existence is debated due to limited early records. The discovery was made when a landowner found an ancient sword during excavation work, and reported to archaeologists from Turku University and the Turku Museum Centre. The sword, believed to date from the Crusader Era (AD 1050 to 1150), was found with a bent blade, a straight bar-like hilt, and a three-sided oval pommel. In the same soil pile, archaeologists also discovered part of the sword's scabbard, additional blade fragments, iron artifacts, and human remains.

Among the significant discoveries at the cemetery in Salo, is a leather belt adorned with thirty square rosette-patterned bronze ornaments, along with a buckle, end and animal head buckles, strap dividers, and partially preserved leather. Further examination has indicated the presence of a mortuary cemetery, with evidence of a grave pattern along the pipe trench, implying the possibility of dozens or even hundreds of additional burials yet to be uncovered.

According to a press announcement by the Turku University, “The observation can be considered very significant from a research point of view, because cremation cemeteries from the time of the Crusades are clearly less known in Finland than cremation cemeteries that preceded them in time. So far, this is also the only confirmed burials dating to the end of the Iron Age from the Salon or Uskelanjoki valley. Also notable, is the fact that the deceased have been buried in the cemetery with Christian customs.”

Original story was published by Heritage Daily on 14.10.2023 and can be found here.