10,000 Soldiers Join the Biggest Military Exercise of the Year in North Karelia – Antimilitarists Protest Among Gunfire

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A soldier sitting in a military truck during a practice session. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

10,000 men strong. That’s the amount of soldiers participating in the Wihuri2015 military exercise of the Finnish army, which is arranged in North Karelia, licking the border of Russia.

For almost two weeks, the navy, air forces and land forces – 2,000 reservists and 2,000 army vehicles practise defence tactics in unison.

The terrain is moist, covered in swamps, so in order to keep the soldiers dry, the preparation for the exercise started already in 2013.

The key word for the military manoeuvres is the modernisation of the land forces.

In the modern way, infantries practise present-day leadership, movement, night tactics and use of weapons as a coherent whole with army units across the country.

The modern way is aimed to securely defend the whole Finland and is being taught in military bases around all points of the compass.

Not everybody is happy about an exercise of this scale, which, after all, is the largest military training session conducted in Finland this year.

An organisation of conscientious objectors have arranged a camp, which currently hosts of somewhat 20 antimilitarists from around the country. The camp is located in an empty school at the village of Rumo, near the military headquarters.

They call their antimilitaristic counter camp Operation Headwind in response to the name of the military operation, Wihuri, which means the gust of wind.

The organisers of the antimilitarist action camp urge participants to, in addition of creating at least one coordinated action day, to conduct smaller deeds around the military camp – day and night. Anything but violence is encouraged.

“With the actions we want to protest the conscription system and the unnecessary army war games that are designed to further the militarisation of Finnish society,” the organisers say on their web page.

When the army faces the demonstrators, it follows a protocol of first calling the military police and then the police.

This time, the antimilitarists are safe from being shot as the army is shooting blanks.

The protesters were asked in an interview, whether they would go and protest across the Russian border, where similar military exercises are common.

“We are Finnish and we see that the situation in Finland and in these military units where Finland practices cooperation is the matter closest to us. Russia is a very militaristic society and its actions in Ukraine are far from acceptable, “ said Kaj Raninen, the secretary of the organisation.

“It’s good that the [Finnish] defence forces follow the principles of a democratic society and accept the freedom of an opinion,” Raninen said.

Source: The Finnish Defence Forces

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