Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Two sides of the same coin

The curious standoff between two types of political extremism on the fringes of Europe – yet in close proximity to the Russian Federation – continues unabated. Most recently,  Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat daily newspaper reported on one aspect of the affair, namely the news that Finland’s public prosecutor is demanding a jail term for the Finnish businessman Mikael Storsjö, who is accused of illegally helping dozens of Chechen refugees to enter Finland. But this is only a part of the ongoing situation, which involves a vitriolic campaign by two Finnish pro-Russian activists – the Lutheran pastor Juha Molari and the university lecturer Johan Bäckman – whose aim is apparently to call into question the activities of human rights campaigners in the North Caucasus, and also at the same time to challenge the policies of governments in the Baltic states, particularly those of Estonia and Latvia, with regard to their Russian-speaking minorities.

The problem for outside observers who are trying to make sense of it all is that the confrontation between Molari/Bäckman on the one hand, and Storsjö/pro-Islamist (Doku Umarov) Kavkaz Center website on the other, looks suspiciously like a manufactured conflict representing two sides of the same extremist coin.  Since most of the details are published either in Finnish or Russian on websites not normally visited or read by Western media, the potential for disinformation on these and related issues is probably rather high.


Update: Mikael Storsjö's reply, and my own further response, can be read here. (There appears to be a technical problem with the comments on the Blogger version of this site - the one you are reading now -  so I've suspended them until the matter can be put right. Comments on the Wordpress version will appear as usual.)
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