The bilateral relations between Russia and Finland are cordial and comprehensive. They have deep roots and the Paasikivi-Kekkonen political course is a good example of the ties between neighboring states described in all textbooks destined for those who study political science and international relations. Still, there are some aspects, that cast shadow on the otherwise perfect relationship. The recent world events bring the issue up again to make it be seen in new light.
With the first shock caused by the Boston tragedy over, the focus has shifted to the perpetrators’ overseas connections, specifically the Caucasus Emirate or Kavkaz Center. The issue is in focus and there is no way to let it slide into oblivion now, even if somebody tries.
On April 19 the Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee reported that the Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev subscribed to Kavkaz Center terrorist site. (1) The publication offers robust evidence to prove the fact. It points out that it is however «impossible to guess if the brothers received instructions from Doku Umarov's Emerat Kavkaz directly or were merely «lone wolf» attackers inspired by terrorists propaganda». The Suomitaan Blogspot publication, posted on April 21, provides a comprehensive insight into the evidence that «Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev received instructions from Doku Umarov's «Kavkaz Center», an extremist website, listed as terrorist information channel of Doku Umarov». (2) The Daily Mail chimed in the same date with its article called Was Boston Bomber Inspired by Russia's Bin Laden? It elaborates on the theory «that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, who was in thrall to his older brother, may have been ‘inspired’ by a rebel leader known as Russia’s Bin Laden». (3)
Umarov and Kavkaz (Caucasus) Center
Doku Umarov is a terrorist ill-famed for much blood on his hands. In 2011 the UN Security Council listed Doku Umarov as a terrorist. The organization he heads, the Emarat Kavkaz, was listed as a terrorist organization, associated with Al-Qaeda. The Kavkaz Center is its mouthpiece, described by Umarov himself as «the official information organ of the Emarat Kavkaz». In Finland the «Center» enjoys quite a comfortable standing being located in downtown Helsinki… There it exercises its criminal activities like recruiting terrorists and delivering instructions and extremist messages and does so in broad daylight. It’s important to note the website is banned in many European countries.
Doku Umarov is known for leading death squads in Chechnya calling himself «the Emir of the Russian North Caucasus». He claimed responsibility for numerous bloody attacks, including the 2010 Moscow Metro bombings and the 2011 Domodedovo international airport bombing, earning himself a media nickname of «Russia's Osama Bin Laden». This criminal is on the Russia’s wanted list for the crimes of kidnapping, murder and treason. He is also high-up on the international most-wanted list.
The website has been criticized by Finnish Lutheran minister-turned-Russian Orthodox priest Juha Molari and Johan Backman of the Finnish-Caucasus Friendship Society as a mouthpiece for Chechen extremists like Umarov and others. Backman told the Russian news network RT that Finland may have promoted terrorism by allowing the Kavkaz Center to freely operate in the country. Backman said that Mr. Molari «told the Finnish public the truth about the activities of Doku Umarov in Finland because in Finland, the information channel of terrorists, the so-called Kavkaz Center has been operating for several years without any kind of reaction from the government or officials of Finland… Of course this raises questions about whether Finnish authorities and the government of Finland are promoting terrorism against Russia». (4)
The fact inevitably raises serious questions about the nature of the relationship between the Umarov-led organization and, at least, some circles making up part of Finish political elite.
Finland connives at terrorist activities
Finnish pro-Chechen activist Mr. Mikael Storsjö openly organized the illegal entry into Finland of dozens of Chechen militants, many of whom have been given jobs by Doku Umarov's Kavkaz Center website. Several internationally wanted terrorists have appeared in the office. Storsjö has publicly announced that he provides funds for the Chechen terrorist underground, including the resources for Kavkaz Center. The activities have received full political support from Heidi Hautala, a Finnish Green party politician and current Minister of Intentional Development.
Storsjö is openly supported by Antero Leitzinger, who works at the Finnish Migration Service. He is responsible for political asylum applications from the Caucasus. Thanks to his support, the Finnish Migration Service has granted asylum for dozens of militants, including alleged members of «Battalion of Chechen Martyrs», now operating the Kavkaz Center. Mr. Leitzinger is the author of the book called «The Chechens» and his statement the «To the People of Chechnya», where he overtly expresses support for terrorists no matter he works for a state agency.
In 2011 a priest in Finland was accused of inciting religious hatred after he described Doku Umarov as a 'terrorist'. The clergyman has been a long-time critic of the Kavkaz Center. Actually Pastor Juha Molari echoed the official definition adopted by the United Nations. At that, he was defrocked, fired from his ministry with no severance pay and forced to divorce his wife to protect her from death threats he received, «We advise you to stop your activity against the Kavkaz Center. If you don’t come to your senses we’ll cut off the heads of you and your family», as one of them said. (5)
According to Johan Backman, «the so-called Kavkaz Center has been operating for several years without any kind of reaction from the government or officials of Finland», he said. «Of course this raises questions about whether Finnish authorities and the government of Finland are promoting terrorism against Russia». He added, «I would say the reason is in the lobby – there is a very strong anti-Russian lobby going on in the European parliament and through all the EU member states across Europe. They are trying to recruit politicians, journalists and other people to carry out these anti-Russian activities and anti-Russian propaganda».
Looks like the Boston events may change the attitude. No matter adamantly supported before, the good old days for the militants mouthpiece may become a thing of the past. A few days ago the police officials asked Juha Molari to give it all the documents related to the facts of Kavkaz Center’s illegal activities. Two years ago Mr. Molari sent 200 pages of evidence against the website to the police, which was negligent enough to lose the information and seemed to forget the very fact the clergyman wanted the police to investigate the case.
According to Juha Molari, Finland is changing its stance on the notorious Kavkas Center website now. The shift may result in a shutdown of the outlet. The media reports that Tamerlan, the older of Tsarnayev brothers, could have been involved with Doku Umarov made Finnish authorities look differently at the matter. If Finland persisted in hosting the Kavkaz Center server, it could well end up on the list of terrorist supporting countries.
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Double standards promote international terrorism, no matter how it may be disguised. It is alarming that Finland is among the countries which connive at terrorist activities, to put it mildly, as they are overtly conducted on its soil. By allowing extremist websites, some European countries give a green light to extremists being inspired by their content. There is a clear link between terrorist action and terrorist propaganda, which is a part of global destructive effort.
Urho Kekkonen, former President of Finland, once said that, «Freedom of speech has also become in practice the freedom of the rich». Looks like today it has also become the freedom of criminals. The Boston tragedy proves there is only one step from extremist rhetoric to action. The admonitions on the part of Russia and the Juha Molari’s case appear to be missed warning calls.
Finland also keeps declining Russia’s extradition requests. This particular case echoes the refusal of the United Kingdom to extradite Ahmed Zakayev to Russia.
There is something relevant Russian President Vladimir Putin said in this connection when he held a regular question and answer straight line with the people session on April 25. According to him «The Boston bombing should spur closer security cooperation between Moscow and Washington but it also proves that the West was wrong in supporting militants in Chechnya». Putin said the two ethnic Chechen brothers «have proven the correctness of our thesis» about the need to pool efforts in the fight against terrorism. He criticized the West for refusing to declare Chechen militants terrorists and for offering them political and financial assistance in the past.(6)
The Boston bombing is a lesson to learn. This is the time for to see the world as it and remedy the mistakes to prevent further tragedies.