Human rights protest greets Putin’s arrival

Dozens of protesters, organised by Amnesty International, gathered as close to the Presidential Palace as security allows.

File picture of Amnesty Finland protest, August 21st 2019 / Credit: Amnesty Finland

Human rights protesters are highlighting the bleak situation in Russia, and staging a protest to coincide with the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital.

Dozens of protesters gathered next to the Havis Amanda statue in Helsinki, the closest place they could get to the Presidential Palace due to security restrictions.

“We wanted to showcase what has been happening in Russia in the last couple of months with big demonstrations and lots of arrests” explains Amnesty’s Frank Johansson

“Recently 2500 people were arrested in a peaceful demonstration. About 10 to 15 of them are in danger of up to 10 years in prison for inciting rebellion. It was a peaceful demonstration until the police came” says Johannson.

Protesters held banners reading “Putin, why are you afraid?” and “Putin vs Freedom of Speech” as they waited for the Russian President’s convoy to arrive – although it’s not clear that Putin, who has been in power for 20 years, will even see them.

“We also want to lift up the situation of human rights defenders in Russia, the harassment they are facing, how they are targeted by financial authorities and police. We have written to President Niinistö and requested that he raise these issues in the talks” Johannson tells News Now Finland.

Some Finnish Members of Parliament have also been urging more direct discussion about the authoritarian situation in Russia, adding their voices to the discussion.

“Human rights and democracy must be boldly raised when Putin visits Helsinki. The repression of recent peaceful demonstrations in Moscow is completely unacceptable” writes Left Alliance MP Veronika Honkasalo.