June 23. 2024. 1:07

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Finns demand closure of Russian consulate in Åland

A citizen’s initiative demanding the closure of the Russian consulate in Mariehamn, the capital of the Autonomous and demilitarised region of Åland that was launched at the start of last week has already gathered more than 16,120 signatures of the 50,000 needed within six months for parliament to consider the initiative.

The self-governing province of Åland off the southwest coast of Finland consists of more than 6,700 islands with a population of some 30,000 people. Still, its Russian consulate in Mariehamn – there since 1940 to monitor the demilitarised status – has long been an issue for many.

Reignited after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and intensified after Finland’s accession to NATO over the closure of a consulate viewed as an obsolete relic from the past has now been refuelled by the citizen’s initiative.

Until now, politicians have toned down the debate, however.

While Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said that changing the current status of Åland and the Russian consulate had not been on the agenda during NATO accession talks, the MP for Åland Mats Löfström told Iltalehti on Saturday that Finland and Åland cannot unilaterally change international law.

(Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)