The Finnish Presidential campaign debate that culminated in January had quite unexpected results when last year in October the media released a published report analyzing and describing the threats posed by Russia to the nation, the people and the upcoming Presidential elections.
Saul Niinistö, who was elected President, last month for a second term, repeated in debates the media’s previous peaceful views about the influence of Russia. He found that the people of Finland had learned to think critically over the past hundred years and are therefore unbreakable in information warfare. At the same time, Niinistö has brought out many times in his talks, examples like Johan Bäckman who has been very active in Finland but who has not been very successful in doing so.
The repeated appearance of Bäckman has led the blog editor to look into his activities and influence in Finnish society as well as in the wider international scene.
When looking for information about his activities in public, we had to admit that he is well known in Estonia as well and is quite active here, where he has tried to represent Russia’s interests and sow confusion through several various organizations.
The two most notorious ones, which have been active for years are the Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee and Finland without Nazism. Both are members of the Russian active kremlin minded umbrella organization „ A world without Nazism“ and they receive support for their activities from there. In Estonia, the NGO Altmedia, the Estonian Left Party, the NGO Russian School in Estonia owned by organizations in Estonia such as the Night Watch, Baltnews and Baltija.ee portals as well as a number of other Russian minded associations in Estonia are also part of this organization.
The Russian minded European Independent Hybrid Threats Research Association registered in Finland has been able to create a lot of confusion due to its similarity in name to the The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats active in a dozen countries and created by the European Union and NATO. In addition to its name, the fake organization has created confusion by the similarity to its social media accounts, home page addresses as well as similar logos.
The most recent and probably the most scandalous Kremlin backed event in Finland culminated in December of last year when a „representative office“ of the self proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic was opened by Johan Bäckman in Helsinki.
Where have the marionette associations been fruitful in their activities?
Organizations that are Russian minded or directly sponsored by the Kremlin while registered in Finland leave the impression that a Finnish citizen is speaking and is representing a Finnish organization.
The Security Police in its 2016 summary wrote a similar statement: „Russian funded NGO’s or GONGO representatives“ portray themselves as „ independent representatives of Estonian civil society“ at events and meetings of international organizations. They send their comments to organizations associated with Estonia in reviewing the situation of minorities and human rights in Estonia and if their views are reflected in the reviews of the aforementioned international organizations, Russia will be able to demonstrate that its criticism has been justified by referring to the so called independent third parties, when in fact Russia is justifying its fictitious accusations with its own fantasies.
A similar campaign was used by the fake Hybrid Threats centre in the Spring of 2017 when on the opening day of the real The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats created by NATO and EU partner countries, an „international conference“ was organized in Helsinki by the fake centre dealing with issues such as „Russo phobia and NATO propaganda in Western media“ or „ NATO influencing operations against Nordic Journalists“ which gave the impression that the conference was organized by NATO and the EU.
The focus of the last two events in Finland have been closely linked to the propaganda promotion of the annexation of Crimea and the creation of the Donetsk republic there. The association of these organizations and the individuals with Finland and the messages circulated there have been of concern to many European Union officials as well as the Ukrainian Ambassador to Finland.
The creation and use of similar marionette associations in spreading kremlin friendly messages has grown significantly in recent years internationally including in Finland.
In 2017, for example the newly created association RUFI in Helsinki and Porkkala organized a peace march that sparked anger among both the Finnish public and activists in the Finnish- Russian club.
Propastop is planning a more comprehensive posting in the near future on the subject of GONGO’s (government-organized non-governmental organization)
Photo: DFR Lab/Medius, screen shot from RUFI home page