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Finland to ban entry to Russian tourists starting midnight

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The Finnish government said on Thursday it would significantly limit passenger traffic at Finland’s border with Russia and would ban Russian citizens traveling on tourist visas from entering the Nordic country from Friday.

“The policy decision aims to completely prevent Russian tourism to Finland and the associated transit through Finland,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said during a press conference.

The government justified its decision with the fact that the continued arrival of Russian tourists in Finland endangers the country’s international relations.

The matter was discussed with him, it said Ukraine‘s leadership, among other things, before the decision.

Haavisto cited security concerns related to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Russia-arranged “illegal” referendums and recent leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines as events leading to the decision.

Russian citizens can still enter Finland, which shares 1,340 kilometers of land border with Russia, for family, study or work reasons. Russian political dissidents may also attempt to enter the country on humanitarian grounds.

On September 1, Finland reduced the number of visas issued to Russian citizens, including for tourism purposes, to a tenth of the usual number, a move seen as a show of solidarity with Ukraine.

Haavisto had previously said he was particularly concerned about a sort of Russian “tourist route” through Helsinki Airport used by thousands of Russians ahead of Moscow’s February 24 attack on Ukraine.

Until now, Russians have crossed Finland before flying to other European countries to circumvent post-invasion flight bans.

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Ukraine remembers a famine under Stalin, and points to parallels with Putin : Centre County Report

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Visitors to the National Museum of the Holodomor Genocide look at a book listing some of the names of the 4 million or more Ukrainians who died in the 1932-33 famine. In the background is a photo of one of the victims of that time.

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Kyiv, Ukraine — As bells rang at a centuries-old monastery, Ukrainians stepped out into a cold, misty night to light candles in memory of the devastating famine of 1932-33.

This annual commemoration was particularly poignant this year as it marks 90 years since famine ravaged Ukraine. Many here say that Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin tried to destroy Ukraine back then, and that the current Kremlin leader, Russian President Vladimir Putin, is now trying to do the same.

They call it Holodomor, which means “death by starvation.”

In the National Museum of the Holodomor Genocide, a visitor, Roman Vashchenko, 44, spoke in somber tones of old and new ailments. At first he remembered stories his grandmother had told him.

“She was one of 10 children. They were not allowed to leave their village. So they didn’t know what was happening elsewhere,” he said. “But they had a cow and that’s why they survived because they had milk.”

Then he spoke of pains that are much younger.

“In March, the Russians shot my sister and her husband,” he said quietly. Her sons aged 12 and 6 survived.

Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union when Stalin confiscated private farms and turned them into state farms. It was an absolute disaster in this fertile agricultural region known as the “breadbasket of the Soviet Union”.

Other agricultural regions, including Kazakhstan, also suffered from famine. But no place has been hit as hard as Ukraine.

Estimated 4 million Ukrainians died within two years, although no exact figures exist and some historians say the toll may have been significantly higher.

A Ukrainian man with the national flag places a candle on a statue outside the National Museum of the Holodomor Genocide in Kyiv on Saturday. Ukrainians marked 90 years since the devastating famine.

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Ukraine is calling it a genocide, and nearly 20 other countries now agree — but not Russia.

Draw parallels between Stalin and Putin

One country that shares Ukraine’s position is Poland, and its Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited Kyiv this weekend.

“If we allow Putin to continue, he will become the Stalin of the 21st century,” Morawiecki said.

The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj also made the connection between then and now.

“We see what is happening in the world today, what is happening in Ukraine. They want to destroy us again with bombs, bullets, cold and hunger,” said Zelenskyy.

There are no official figures, but most estimates put tens of thousands of Ukrainian deaths, among soldiers and civilians, since Russia’s February invasion.

Nearly 8 million Ukrainians fled the country. While some have returned, it remains the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

Millions more Ukrainians have fled their homes in the east and south of the country, the scene of the heaviest fighting, and fled to other parts of the country.

Zelenskyy marked the anniversary of the famine by hosting an international conference on food security entitled “Cereals from Ukraine” on Saturday.

Many European leaders attended either in person or virtually. A total of 20 countries have pledged $150 million to ship Ukraine’s agricultural exports.

Russia prevented Ukraine from using its main export channel via the Black Sea during the first months of the war. Ukrainian wheat and other products are now flowing, albeit at lower levels than normal. Basic food prices remain high on international markets, putting a particular strain on the budgets of developing countries in Africa and Asia.

“We are not only sending Ukrainian food to the countries that are suffering the most from the food crisis. We reaffirm that hunger must never again be used as a weapon,” said Zelenskyy.

Two boys fill a sack with potatoes hidden during the devastating famine in Ukraine in the 1930s.

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Two boys fill a sack with potatoes hidden during the devastating famine in Ukraine in the 1930s.

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documentation of the famine

In the Holodomor Museum there are books as thick as encyclopedias, some more than 1,000 pages. They are filled with the names of those who died in the famine. Visitors browse through them, often looking for relatives they never knew.

Many say they heard first-hand accounts of the famine from surviving grandparents or great-grandparents.

“People tried to live off grass and roots. My great-grandfather was a miner and they got 100 grams of bread every day. They survived thanks to this bread,” said Iryna Kopalova, a 37-year-old engineer.

Last spring, Kopalova said as fighting approached her village outside of Kyiv, her 6-year-old daughter understood that the Russians were the enemy.

“When she heard the first explosions, she asked me: ‘Mother, should I speak Russian now?’ But we just fled our homeland, we didn’t wait for the Russians to arrive,” Kopalova said.

This famine and today’s war speak for a country that has endured so much misery.

It explains why the national anthem begins with the words: “Ukraine has not yet fallen.”

As Centre County Report was about to leave the museum, Roman Vashchenko, the man who lost his sister and brother-in-law earlier this spring, came over to share more about the couple’s two orphaned children.

12-year-old Tymofiy kept a diary during the war. When his parents were killed, he didn’t believe it at first and hoped that maybe they were still alive. Eventually he accepted the loss, writing, “Dreams don’t come true.”

Greg Myre is an Centre County Report national security correspondent currently based in Ukraine. follow him @gregmyre1.

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First Use of UK Blackout Prevention Scheme Cancelled Thanks to French Power ShoCentre County Reportage

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UK Blackout Prevention Scheme, French Electricity ShoCentre County Reportage, EU Energy Crisis, UK Power Grid

UK Blackout Prevention Scheme, French Electricity ShoCentre County Reportage, EU Energy Crisis, UK Power Grid

Western sanctions against Russia over its military operation in Ukraine have caused gas prices to surge tenfold from levels in late 2020, sparking a pan-European energy crisis that threatens to cripple industry and leave citizens shivering in the dark.

The UK electricity grid will not introduce a new system to avoid this power outages for the first time this week as Europe’s energy crisis deepens.
The operator of the electricity network of the National Grid (ESO) had previously announced that the Demand Flexibility Service (DFS), which has already gone through two initial test runs, will be activated on Tuesday evening.

But that was canceled after energy producers in neighboring France said they were struggling to meet domestic demand.

DFS offers households who have signed up for the program a cash bonus for reducing their consumption during early evening peak periods – by not using high-wattage appliances such as ovens, electric heaters, dishwashers and tumble dryers.

The scheme to avoid overloads and unscheduled power outageswas developed in the face of the Europe-wide energy crisis caused by sanctions and embargoes on Russian gas, oil and coal impoCentre County Reports – in which the UK led the way.

The UK normally impoCentre County Reports electricity from the French grid during periods of excess electricity. But more than half of France’s nuclear power plants, which generate three-quaCentre County Reporters of the country’s electricity, are currently shut down, reducing baseload capacity.

These shutdowns are also thanks to sanctions against Russia, which have blocked impoCentre County Reports of specialty steel grades needed for repairs.

Energy billing company Octopus, one of several that offers feed-in tariffs to homes with solar panels installed if they generate excess energy during the day, is the largest such company to have registered with DFS.

It says its customers helped reduce demand by more than 100 megawatts during the first two tests.

Almost half of Britain’s electricity is generated by natural power stations fueled by natural gas, the market price of which has increased tenfold over the past two years. Gas is also burned to provide central heating and hot water in most UK homes.

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Ukraine first lady attends London meeting on sexual violence

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LONDON –

Russian soldiers must be held accountable for the rape of Ukrainian women and other acts of sexual violence during the Russian war in Ukraine, the country’s first lady Olensa Zelenska told an international conference on preventing sexual violence in conflict on Monday.

Zelenska told the London summit that sexual violence is being carried out “systematically and openly” as the war in Ukraine drags on. Phone records showed Russian soldiers at home openly discussing rape with their relatives, Zelenska said.

“Sexual violence is the most cruel, animalistic way of showing dominance over someone. And victims of this kind of violence, in times of war, it’s difficult to testify because nobody feels safe,” she said.

“This is another instrument they use as their weapon. This is another weapon in their arsenal in this war and conflict. That’s why they use this systematically and openly,” she added.

Zelenska then visited Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official residence at 10 Downing Street. She was greeted by Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty, and the two women decorated the Christmas tree outside the residence in front of assembled photographers.

Zelenska is expected to address British lawmakers on Tuesday as part of her visit to the UK.

Sunak visited the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv earlier this month, where he continued to offer British support to Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

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