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In Lappeenranta, the fear of a new iron curtain

Soldiers, police, border guards, but also doctors, teachers and municipal employees: since March 7, all have been on a war footing in South Karelia, this region of eastern Finland, neighboring Russia. From the sabotage of the electricity network to the massive arrival of refugees, via a disinformation campaign, many scenarios have been imagined. A few weeks ago, war seemed far away. Since February 24 and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, it has been on everyone’s mind.

For the moment, it is only a local defense exercise, planned for a long time, “as we often do” , specifies Ari-Pekka Meuronen. This debonair reserve officer of almost 60 years old is the head of security for Lappeenranta, a town of 73,000 inhabitants, located about thirty kilometers from the Russian border, 200 kilometers from Saint Petersburg and as many from Helsinki. “We are not afraid, ” he says. But we are preparing for everything, as we have never stopped doing in Finland” , a country which, he recalls, shares 1,340 kilometers of border with Russia.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers War in Ukraine: In Finland, the conflict stirs up anti-Russian sentiment
In his office on the fourth floor of the town hall of Lappeenranta, the mayor, Kimmo Jarva, returns from vacation. He was in Spain with his family when war broke out in Ukraine. His last contact with Russia dates back to February 20: the head of international affairs in Saint Petersburg had sent him a message to congratulate him, after the victory of the Finnish hockey players against the Russians at the Olympic Games. Since then, it has been radio silence.

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