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Finland-Russia Society leader says relations between the countries strong

YLE NewsEye on the Arctic

A leader of the Finland-Russia Society says the crisis in Ukraine has not affected cultural cooperation between the countries.

However, the newspapers Helsingin Sanomat and Helsingin Uutiset report that the Russian Defense Ministry has canceled a planned tour of Finland by the Red Army Choir.

Although many Finnish politicians have taken a stand of late, issuing harsh words on Russia’s activities in the Crimean area of Ukraine, Finland-Russia Society Council Vice-President Olli Nepponen says events near the Black Sea have not affected relations between Finland and Russia in any way, as least not yet.

“I do not believe that the crisis will make the slightest difference in the short term. If it becomes prolonged, or restrictions on movement come into force, for example, the situation could be quite different,” says Nepponen.

Diplomacy and reason will win the day

The regions of Eastern Finland and Southern Savo have long enjoyed close cultural cooperation with Russia. Among other things, the famous Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has visited the Mikkeli Music Festival for years and is scheduled to serve as its artistic director this summer.

Nepponen is very doubtful that Gergiev or any other Russian star would withdraw from their trip to Finland due to the crisis in Ukraine. He says relations would really have to cool before Russia would halt its very fruitful cultural exchange.

“I don’t see this on the horizon,” says Nepponen.

He is more worried about the planned economic sanctions affecting Russia.

“Russia is an important trading partner for Finland. If Eastern trade dries up, it would have an immediate effect on Eastern Finland and Southern Savo.

Nepponen has no interest in predicting bad things before they happen. ”Actually, I believe and hope that diplomacy and common sense will win on this issue,” he told Yle.

Meanwhile Helsingin Sanomat and Helsingin Uutiset report that the Russian Defense Ministry has canceled a planned tour of Finland by the Red Army Choir, ballet and orchestra. The St Petersburg troup, including more than 100 members, was to have performed in Helsinki, Tampere, Imatra, Pori and Rauma in the coming weeks.

Tiina Kudjoi, a concert organizer from the west-coast city of Pori, says that the reason given for the cancelation is that members of the Russian military have been forbidden to leave the country because of the Ukraine crisis.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.