First it was the pandemic. And now the war. In the Finnish town of Imatra, with 26,000 inhabitants, and in neighboring Lappeenranta, they closely follow the evolution of the armed conflict in Ukraine, as can be seen in this video. And it is so because these cities live largely on the money left by the many Russian tourists who visit each year. Covid put a stop to the flow and, just as they were beginning to recover, Putin’s war has made things even worse.
In 2019, almost two million people visited the area, most of them Russians, and left more than 300 million euros. They were not only going to shop in their stores and enjoy their spas. They also came to visit the many Russians, friends and family, who live there. “There are many personal connections, we have more than 3,000 inhabitants who speak Russian as their first language and we have many university students who come from Russia. And, of course, family and friendship relationships that, in some way, are also being put to the test, ”explains the mayor of Lappeenranta, Kimmo Jarva, in the video.
NATO on the horizon
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced this week that she, along with Sweden, has accelerated plans to join NATO following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s response has been to threaten to deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic. This situation increases the tension in Imatra, where the neighbors are no longer concerned only with the economy. “Maybe people should prepare for the fact that we might have to run away,” concludes Katri Latt, president of the Imatra theater festival, in the video.