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In Russia“s St Petersburg, locals say Finland “making problems“ with NATO accession

2023-04-04T16:20:32Z

A Finnish border officer stands on duty at the border between Finland and Russia , as Finland becomes member of NATO, in Vaalimaa, Finland, April 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tom Little

Citizens of St Petersburg, the Russian city closest to Finland, on Tuesday accused their neighbour of turning its back on them by joining the Western military alliance NATO, following their government’s line that the accession was a hostile act.

Before Russia sent its armed forces into Ukraine early last year, people in Russia’s second city had been fond of visiting the Finnish capital Helsinki, about five hours’ drive away.

“I don’t think anything will change for us,” said St. Petersburg resident Yevgeny, who like others declined to give his surname. “It’ll only get worse for the Finns because we won’t go there, and they’ll only incur losses from this.”

Another resident, Nikolai, said Finland was “making problems for itself”.

“We used to consider it a brotherly country of the capitalist world, the closest to us in spirit, in relations, in mutually-beneficial economic relations,” he said. “But now we’ll consider it as a state that is unfriendly to us.”

None of the five people Reuters spoke to sympathised with Finland’s decision to give up its neutrality because of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, also a neighbour of Russia.

What Russia calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine to defuse a purported NATO threat to Russian security has echoes of the 1939 Soviet invasion of Finland, formerly part of the Russian empire, which resulted in Finland ceding a large part of its territory.

“This is just a conspiracy by the Anglo-Saxon world,” said Vasily, echoing the stance taken by the Kremlin. “We have always had good neighbourly relations with Finland.”

Another citizen, Alexei, had a recommendation for Finland: “If they wanted to unite with Russia against NATO, then I would be glad.”

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