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TOPIC: finland

Geopolitics

How Blocking Sweden's NATO Bid Plays Right Into Erdogan's Election Campaign

Turkey's objections to Swedish membership of NATO may mean that Finland joins first. But as he approaches his highly contested reelection bid at home, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is ready to use the issue to his advantage.

-Analysis-

PARIS — This story has all the key elements of our age: the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, the excessive ambitions of an autocrat, the opportunism of a right-wing demagogue, Islamophobia... And at the end, a country, Sweden, whose NATO membership, which should have been only a formality, has been blocked.

Last spring, under the shock of the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin's Russia, Sweden and Finland, two neutral countries in northern Europe, decided to apply for membership in NATO. For Sweden, this is a major turning point: the kingdom’s neutrality had lasted more than 150 years.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised objections. It demanded that Sweden stop sheltering Kurdish opponents in its country. This has nothing to do with NATO or Ukraine, but everything to do with Erdogan's electoral agenda, as he campaigns for the Turkish presidential elections next May.

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What Does Santa Claus Look Like Around The World?

He's making a list, he's checking it twice... But he doesn't always wear a red suit. From Aruba to Finland and Liberia, here's what Christmas looks like around the world.

Across the globe, Santa Claus is recognized as the Christmas gift bearer. But he is not always known as a red-suited jolly man. The tradition of a man bringing gifts to children is traced to stories about the early Greek bishop St. Nicholas of Myra, a small city in modern-day Turkey.

Santa Claus today not only goes by different names, like Father Christmas and Old St. Nick, but is linked to different folktales and cultural practices. Here are lesser known variations of Santa, from the beaches of Aruba to the snow-capped mountains of Finland.

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How To Welcome Russians Fleeing Conscription? Europe Should Be Careful

Europe should welcome the exodus of conscientious objectors from Russia. But the conditions vary across the continent, and there needs to be some security precautions.

-Analysis-

BERLIN — Russia's President Vladimir Putin is currently suffering his greatest defeat in the battle for terrain, but also public opinion.

The Kremlin may spread as much propaganda as it likes, but the pictures of kilometer-long lines of cars at the borders and thousands of young men fleeing abroad to avoid the draft with hastily packed bags show clearly what the Russian population thinks of Moscow's war of aggression.

In this sense, one can only hope that the stream will continue to flow for a long time.

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But how should European governments deal with the mass of fleeing conscientious objectors?

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Ukraine Convoy Attack, Kabul School Blast, The King’s Coins

👋 Akkam!*

Welcome to Friday, where an attack on a line of civilian cars kills at least 25 in Ukraine, a suicide bomb attack in Kabul leaves 23 dead, and the first coins with King Charles’ portrait are unveiled. Meanwhile, Timour Ozturk reports from Istanbul for French daily Les Echos on how the historic Turkish city becomes the prime destination for Russians fleeing military conscription.

[*Oromo, Ethiopia]

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In The News
Cameron Manley, Chloe Touchard, Sophia Constantino, and Emma Albright

Kremlin Confirms Annexation Of 18% Of Ukraine, Putin Doubles Down On Escalation

Russian President Vladimir Putin will sign the annexation Friday of four occupied regions of Ukraine to become part of Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced this morning.

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The Kremlin will host a ceremony on Friday where agreements will be signed on the annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. Peskov said the ceremony would take place on Friday at 3 p.m. local time. Taken together the regions in the east and south make up 18% of Ukraine’s territory. The move follows the 2014 annexation of Crimea, which many consider the less violent pre-cursor to Russia's all-out invasion of Ukraine.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Sophia Constantino, Bertrand Hauger, Chloe Touchard and Emma Albright

Tracking Massive Russian Exodus, From Finland To Mongolia

Russia’s neighbors — from Finland in the west to Mongolia 3,100 miles (5,076 km) to the east — are being flooded with the arrival of men fleeing the national draft announced last week as Moscow's invasion of Ukraine falters. Some 2,000 miles to the south of Helsinki, at the border with Georgia, there are reports of long lines of cars and bicycles trying to leave and Russian crackdowns on men trying to flee.

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In the first two days after Vladimir Putin announced the mobilization, 261,000 men of conscription age have left the country. Observers believe that has likely doubled since. The most popular destinations are the neighboring countries where one can enter without a visa or even without an international passport, such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia.

But Finland too has reported a major uptick, with nearly 19,000 arriving, compared to 9,000 crossing in the opposite direction. "The arrival rate is about double what it was a week ago," Mert Sasioglu of the Finnish border guard told AFP.

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, Chloé Touchard and Bertrand Hauger

Offline Zaporizhzhia, Planning Abe’s Funeral, Djoko Out Of U.S. Open

👋 Alo!*

Welcome to Friday, where tension is high around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia power plant, Japan announces expected cost of former PM Shinzo Abe’s funeral, and unvaccinated tennis champion Novak Djokovic won’t be let in for the U.S. Open. Meanwhile, for NGO Climate Tracker, Camila Parodi looks at the disastrous environmental and human cost of lithium production.

[*Haitian Creole]

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In The News
Lisa Berdet, Chloé Touchard, Lila Paulou and Bertrand Hauger

Ukraine Refutes Dugina Accusations, UK Migrants Record, Jupiter’s Auroras

👋 Dobrý deň!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Ukrainian ridicule Russian accusations that it is behind the murder Darya Dugina last week, the UK sees a record daily number of migrants reaching its shores, and the James Webb Telescope wows us again. Meanwhile, Hong-Kong-based outlet The Initium looks at the weight of new religious groups in Japan in the wake of Shinzo Abe’s assassination by a member of the Unification Church.

[*Slovak]

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In The News
Cameron Manley, Bertrand Hauger and Emma Albright

Nuclear Security On Top Of Agenda As Guterres And Erdogan Meet Zelensky

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan are due in Lviv today for a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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The three will discuss grain and nuclear safety, while Erdogan is also reportedly planning to offer Ukrainian President Zelensky to organize a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Geopolitics
Johannes Jauhiainen

Why Turkey Could Still Block NATO Membership For Sweden And Finland

The U.S. Senate has ratified NATO membership for the two Nordic countries. But one sticking point remains: Turkey wants the Nordic nations to adopt tougher anti-Kurdish policies.

HELSINKI — Sweden's and Finland's NATO membership took another leap forward this week as the United States voted in favor of the Nordic countries joining the military alliance, with 95 senators for and one against. After the vote Wednesday night, the ratification is still pending in seven countries. But all eyes will now be on just one: Turkey.

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NATO cannot accept new members without the green light of all its member states, so Helsinki and Stockholm have had no other choice than to listen to Ankara’s demands. Many fear that this will make it more difficult to criticize Turkey for human rights violations — something both Nordic countries have done in the past.

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In The News
Anna Akage, Meike Eijsberg, and Emma Albright

Belarus Fires Barrage Of Missiles At Ukraine In Most Sustained Attack To Date

More than 20 missiles were fired in just over an hour, leaving at least 15 injuries, and may be a sign that Putin ally Alexander Lukashenko is ready to join the invasion as an active participant.

In a 70-minute span early Thursday, Ukraine was the target of multiple missile attacks from Belarus in what is believed to be by far the most sustained attack from within that country since the Russian invasion began.

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Between 5:20 and 6:30 a.m., between 20 and 25 missiles were launched from the territory of Belarus across the border into Ukraine. There are reports of at least 15 casualties.

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Geopolitics
Johannes Jauhiainen

Finland May Ban Tourist Visas For Russians In New Move By Nordic Neighbor

Finland has recently joined Sweden in seeking NATO membership in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Now Finnish politicians say they also support blocking Russian tourists from coming across the 1,340-km-long border the two countries share. It would be a bold move.

HELSINKI — For Russians, particularly the rising middle class in and around the city of Saint Petersburg, Finland has become a favorite travel destination. The capital Helsinki is only a three-and-half hour train ride away, the scenic Finnish lakeside town of Imatra sits across the border from Svetogorsk and Russian skiers flock to Lapland mountain resorts each winter.

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But this tourist traffic may be about to vanish as a growing number of Finnish politicians are calling for restrictions on visas, a move that would broaden the scope of the sanctions against Russia to target ordinary people in addition to state enterprises, public officials and Oligarchs.

Such a clampdown would also come after the historic decision of Finland, which shares a 1,340 kilometer (830 mile) border with Russia, to seek NATO membership (alongside Sweden) in response to the invasion of Moscow’s southern neighbor, Ukraine.

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