Thief Next Door: Russia's rich history of annexing neighboring countries

09:00, 08 June 2016
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Ukraine Today tells of Finland’s Aland islands which once were under the rule of the Russian Empire. And seemingly, Russia's interest in the Finnish autonomy has not faded yet.

Just like Ukraine's Crimea, Aland is an autonomous region and although nowadays it is the only Swedish-speaking region in Finland. Ukraine Today figured out what it is like for the Finns to live right beside a neighbor that stole a part of their land. From a Ukrainian standpoint that sounds way-too-familiar.

Decades later Moscow's invasion still an open wound in Finland. The Kremlin grip on the neighboring ex-Soviet states is evident, but it's not that easy to spot in Finland, at least not with a naked eye.

There is a phenomenon of cross-border shopping. It is a part of the Finland/Russia frontier, too. The Russian language can be heard everywhere here. Special buses bring shoppers here several times a day.

The border between the two countries seems to be getting closer and closer. There are more busses full of Russians, gas stations with women who look very Russian offering cheap cigarettes in exchange for cheap Made-in-China underwear.

Vaalimaa is a cross-border point between Finland and the Russian Federation. It is one of the largest customs service centers in Finland. At one point, before Crimea and Donbas - Russians would come here by the thousands, but now their purchasing power decreased drastically. And now the lot here is empty.

Read alsoRussian FSB’s plan to neutralize Mejlis drafted in 2015 - mediaFinland strongly supported sanctions against Putin's regime, despite closing several plants that were working solely for the Russian market, the Finns stand firm in their position.

Ordinary citizens though say they share Ukrainians' pain. Russia stole a part of their land once, so they know what it's like.

Read alsoSweden votes yes to controversial NATO dealThe Finnish government that has been known to stay neutral dramatically shifted its international position in recent months. The country is starting to invest more in its military, increasing training exercises and actually contemplating the thought of joining NATO, which of course is ruffling Russia's feathers.

See’s video section for more of the latest news from Ukraine in video from Ukraine Today, Ukraine’s 24-hour English-language news channel.

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