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Russia to develop countermeasures against Sweden’s NATO membership

Russia will closely monitor Sweden’s actions following the country’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and develop its response accordingly, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Wednesday, reported Xinhua. “We will closely monitor what Sweden will do within the aggressive military bloc, how it will implement its membership in practice … and develop our response policy based on this,” she said. Zakharova said that Moscow will choose which measures it will take, including military-technical ones, to curb threats to Russia’s national security. She said that Sweden’s traditional non-alignment policy used to be an important factor in maintaining stability in Northern Europe, adding that the country’s NATO membership will further undermine its sovereignty. Hungarian lawmakers on Monday approved a bill on Sweden’s bid to join NATO, clearing the way for Sweden’s accession to the military alliance.

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Russian drone forces Germany’s Baerbock to cut short visit in Ukraine

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had to cut short her visit of a waterworks facility in southern Ukraine on Sunday when a Russian spy drone was sighted, reported dpa, quoting a Foreign Office. Baerbock had been visiting the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv over the weekend when members of the delegation were asked to quickly return to the armoured vehicles in Baerbock’s convoy after a Russian drone was spotted flying over the area of the waterworks. Such reconnaissance drones are usually followed by direct airstrikes, the official said, noting that staying on the move is the best response in such instances. The spy drone then followed Baerbock’s column before turning away. Shortly after Baerbock’s column left, there was an air alert in the Mykolaiv region for around 15 minutes. Baerbock already had to go to a shelter in the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa on Saturday evening when air raid sirens began sounding for about 20 minutes in the city centre. According to a dpa reporter, Baerbock was in the shelter of her hotel together with members of her delegation and other guests. People in the delegation reported that it was a rocket alarm. An explosion was then heard in the Odessa region. It remained unclear whether there was a missile hit or whether the Ukrainian air defence fended off the projectile. Details about possible damage or casualties were not initially known. Shortly before Baerbock’s visit, two Russian drone attacks had left a total of four people dead and several injured in the city of Odessa.

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Stockmann mulls changing name to Lindex

The Board of Directors of Stockmann plc proposed that the name of Stockmann plc would be changed to Lindex Group plc, said the company in a press release on Friday. In Finnish the new name is proposed to be Lindex Group Oyj and in Swedish Lindex Group Abp. The possible name change would not affect Stockmann’s department stores or online store, which would continue to operate under the Stockmann brand. Furthermore, the Lindex fashion stores and online store would continue under the current Lindex brand. “The proposed name change would better reflect the Lindex division’s strengthened role in the Group’s business. In 2023, Lindex represented two thirds of the Group’s revenue and generated an adjusted operating result of over EUR 90 million. Lindex has had a fundamental role in improving the Group’s performance in recent years, which is reflected in the strategic refocus of the Group’s business on Lindex, as announced last September,” said Sari Pohjonen, Chair of Stockmann’s Board of Directors. “It is important to note that a proposed change of the parent company name would not impact the iconic Stockmann department store brand, the names of Stockmann department stores or the online store,” Pohjonen added. The proposed name change is subject to a decision by Stockmann plc shareholders at the Annual General Meeting on 21 March 2024 and to the registration of the change of business name in the Finnish Trade Register. On 25 September 2023, Stockmann plc’s Board of Directors decided to initiate a strategic assessment to crystallise shareholder value by refocusing the Group’s business on Lindex. As part of the strategic assessment, Stockmann plc continues to investigate strategic alternatives for the Stockmann Department Stores business. Stockmann expects the strategic assessment to be finalised during 2024.

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Ukraine deserves our full support: Niinistö

President Sauli Niinistö on Saturday expressed Finland´s support to the Peace Formula of his Ukranian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy and also said that Ukraine deserves full support of Finland. In a statement issued by the President Office marking the second anniversary of Russia´s invasion of Ukraine, he also said the capacity and resources to support Ukraine for the long run must be ensured. “Ukraine deserves our full support. And we must make sure that we have the capacity and resources to support in the long run. We need to rapidly ramp up our defence industrial production,” said Niinistö in the statement. He said that Ukrainians have been faced with unspeakable horrors of the war and at the same time, they have continued to heroically protect their freedom and independence. “At the same time, we must work towards peace. Finland supports President Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula and the initiative for a peace summit. Ukraine deserves a just and lasting peace that respects its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity,” the President added.

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Finland becomes 3rd most aid provider in EU to Ukraine

Finland reiterated its solidarity to the Ukrainian people marking the second anniversary of the Russia´s invasion of Ukraine. The second anniversary of the beginning of the Russia’s brutal war will be observed on Saturday. The Finnish Government will show its solidarity with Ukraine by flying the Finnish and Ukrainian flags on the anniversary, said a government press release. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ main building, Merikasarmi, will be illuminated in blue and yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo vowed to continue the support to Ukraine together with the European Union on the eve of the second anniversary of the attack. “Finland and the EU stand in solidarity with Ukraine, marking 2 years since Russia’s aggression. European Union will always support Ukraine´s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will ramp up our defence capacity & back Ukraine’s path to peace and European integration,” Orpo wrote in a post in his social media platform X on Friday. Over a period of two years, Ukraine has requested assistance 182 times and, as a result, European countries have made a total of 3,381 offers of assistance to Ukraine through the Civil Protection Mechanism. Finland has been the third most active provider of assistance with its 276 offers of assistance, said a government press release on Friday. The Ministry of the Interior coordinates the provision of material emergency assistance to Ukraine through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The range of assistance provided is broad and covers practically everything other than military equipment. Finland has already sent nearly 300 truckloads of material assistance to Ukraine, including large amounts of assistance for the energy sector, healthcare and rescue services. Emergency material assistance supports Ukraine’s resilience by maintaining the capacity of the Ukrainian authorities and society and by reducing the impact of Russian attacks. “It is fundamental to provide assistance, as this is a quick and effective way of remedying, for example, the destroyed energy infrastructure or rapidly addressing the deficiencies in healthcare caused by the war. We at the Ministry of the Interior are also prioritising the provision of support for Ukraine,” said Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen in the press release. Most recently, Finland has supplied transformers, generators, electricity network components, a large water tank, food containers, children’s hospital supplies, infusion pumps, mobility aids and other types of hospital supplies to Ukraine. Ukraine’s need for assistance will continue to be immense and cut through all of society in the future, which is why Finland and its partners and allies must continue to provide active assistance to Ukraine. Ukraine needs support in maintaining society’s critical functions and infrastructure. Energy sector needs include transformers, generators, heating equipment and supplies that protect the energy infrastructure, such as gabion baskets and sandbags. The maintenance of water management requires equipment and supplies related to water purification. Support is also needed to maintain the road and telecommunications infrastructure, including things such as road salt and ICT equipment. In addition to vehicles and rescue equipment, support for humanitarian mine clearance and preparedness for CBRN threats is needed in rescue services. Essential healthcare needs include medicines, various medical supplies and devices as well as mobility aids. In addition to nearly 300 truckloads of assistance, a total of 76 vehicles, including rescue service vehicles and buses, have been sent to Ukraine. “The monetary value of material assistance is approximately EUR 20 million, largely based on the materials’ depreciation prices. A large part of the material assistance sent is donations from different sectors of society. We extend our gratitude all the companies, agencies, municipalities, wellbeing services counties, organisations and other actors that have made donations,” said Specialist Heikki Honkanen from the Ministry of the Interior. In addition to emergency material assistance, the Civil Protection Mechanism has also been used for the provision of expert assistance to support the operation of the Mechanism in Ukraine’s neighbouring countries and for receiving patients in need of medical care evacuated from Ukraine. Support for Ukraine is a long-term and complex process that is not expected to end in the near future. Marking the day, the Government will show solidarity with Ukraine by flying flags at the Government Palace, Senate Square and Merikasarmi. Flags will also be flown by the University of Helsinki at Senate Square. Flags will be raised at Senate Square at 8.00 and lowered at 20.00, which is also the closing time of the Light for Ukraine event organised at the square. Ukraine will have Finland’s unwavering support as long as necessary. Ukraine deserves a just and lasting peace. Finland has directed EUR 2.5 billion in assistance to Ukraine over the past two years.

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Bayern coach Tuchel to leave in June

Bayern Munich head coach Thomas Tuchel have mutually agreed to part ways in June, the Bundesliga giants confirmed via their official website on Wednesday, reported Xinhua. Although Tuchel’s contract was due to expire in June 2025, both parties agreed to part company one year ahead of schedule after what was called an “amicable conversation” between Tuchel and Bayern CEO Jan-Christian Dreesen. After two straight league defeats, Bayern currently sit second in the Bundesliga, eight points behind leaders Bayer Leverkusen, and lost their UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg tie 1-0 to Lazio last week. Earlier in the season, the club also suffered an embarrassing exit in the German Cup at the hands of lower league outfit Saarbrucken. “In an open and good conversation, we came to the decision to mutually end our collaboration in the summer,” said Dreesen. “Our goal is to carry out a realignment with a new coach for the 2024/25 season. Until then, every individual in the club is expressly asked to achieve the maximum possible in the Champions League and the Bundesliga. “I also explicitly hold the team responsible. Especially in the Champions League, we are convinced that after the defeat in the first leg at Lazio, we will advance to the quarterfinals in the second leg in our sold-out Allianz Arena with our fans behind us,” Dreesen added. 50-year-old former Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain coach Tuchel succeeded Julian Nagelsmann as coach of Bayern in March 2023. Two months later, he dramatically lifted the Bundesliga title after Borussia Dortmund could only draw against Mainz on the final day. “We have agreed that we will end our collaboration after this season. Until then, I will of course continue to do everything I can with my coaching team to achieve maximum success,” said Tuchel. Bayern take on RB Leipzig and Freiburg in their next two Bundesliga games, before their second leg against Lazio on home soil on March 5.

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Govt survives no-confidence motion over labour market unrest

The four-party alliance right-wing government on Wednesday survived a no-confidence motion brought against it in the parliament by three opposition parties over the labour market unrest in the country. The government won the motion by 89 votes to 73 with 36 lawmakers remaining absent and one abstained. Two other opposition parties Suomen Keskusta (Centre Party of Finland) and Liike Nyt (Movement Now), however, did not join the motion.

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Electric car registration doubles in 2023

A total of 87,509 new passenger cars were registered in Mainland Finland in 2023, which was 7 per cent more than in 2022, according to Statistics Finland. In all, 149,652 new vehicles were registered in 2023. First registrations decreased by one per cent compared to 2022. Of first-time registered passenger cars in Mainland Finland, 34 per cent were fully electric. The number of electric cars registrations was 29,537, which was double compared to the number of electric cars registered in 2022. Used imported passenger cars numbered 38,252, which was 8 per cent fewer than in 2022.

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Gymnastics WC ends in Cairo with medalists eyeing Paris 2024

The 2024 Artistic Gymnastics Apparatus World Cup in Cairo concluded on Sunday evening with medalists taking a big step toward individual qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics, reported Xinhua. Belgium made a 1-2 finish in the women’s balance beam final, with Nina Derwael taking the gold with 13.633 points and Erika Pinxten sealing the silver with 13.166. Japan’s Mana Okamura finished third with 13.133. “I am very happy to get the first place now and take a good step in the direction of Paris,” 23-year-old Derwael told Xinhua, adding praise for Pinxten who turns 17 on Wednesday. “I am so proud of how she did and how she handled the stress in the beam final. She’s such a great young inspiring gymnast and I see great things for her in the future,” Derwael added. It was a big day for 18-year-old Okamura, who also snatched the gold in floor exercise with 13.066 points. Emma Malabuyo, representing the Philippines, took the floor exercise silver medal with 12.666 points, followed by Spain’s Laura Casabuena with 12.633 points. “I am honestly so happy and overwhelmed, and I am so grateful to be representing the Philippines and honored to bag this medal,” said Malabuyo. “My eye is on Paris, but the main goal is to enjoy this entire process, and just do my best and work really hard,” the 21-year-old athlete told Xinhua. As for the men’s vault final, Armenia’s 2022 World Champion Artur Davtyan, also the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bronze medalist, dominated his favorite event with a total score of 14.933. Davtyan, 31, who had already qualified for Paris 2024, said participating in the Cairo event was still important to him “to stay in shape and keep fit.” “After every competition you gain a new experience, learn new things, and analyse your mistakes and work on them to improve your performance,” Davtyan told Xinhua. “I wish for gold in Paris, but it’s sports anyway and it’s unpredictable. I will still work hard to reach my goal,” he added. Nazar Chepurnyi of Ukraine came in second in the men’s vault final and Shek Wai-hung of Hong Kong, China was third. Ukraine enjoyed a 1-2 finish on parallel bars, with Illia Kovtun winning the gold and Oleg Verniaiev securing the silver. Colombia’s Jossimar Calvo Moreno got the bronze. Tang Chia-hung from Chinese Taipei won the men’s high bar, followed by Britain’s Joe Fraser and Colombia’s Angel Barajas. Organized by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), the Cairo event is one of the four 2024 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Cup series, with the next three to be held in the German city of Cottbus, Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, and Qatar’s capital Doha. The event was held at Cairo International Stadium from February 15 to 18, gathering some 293 gymnasts from about 70 countries and regions.

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Leverkusen win to extend lead at top amid more tennis ball chaos

Unbeaten Bayer Leverkusen went eight points clear at the top of the Bundesliga on Saturday after a 2-1 win at Heidenheim while four other games in the German top flight were again interrupted by fan protests. Right wingback Jeremie Frimpong netted with his left foot on the break and Amine Adli rounded the goalkeeper to boost Leverkusen ahead of second-placed Bayern Munich going to Bochum on Sunday. The win was a 32nd game unbeaten in all competitions, equalling an old German record held by Bayern. “It’s a very important win for us,” coach Xabi Alonso told a news conference. “Winning here is never easy, but the team went about it professionally. We did well with what we prepared and discussed. Overall, I’m pleased with the performance and the result.” Leverkusen beat champions Bayern 3-0 last weekend as they target a first ever Bundesliga title. Alonso’s side have been one of the stories of the season, but so have frequent fan protests against the German Football League (DFL) seeking an external marketing investor for the top-two tiers. Supporters again threw tennis balls onto the pitch at various points of Borussia Dortmund’s 1-1 draw at Wolfsburg, VfB Stuttgart’s 2-1 victory at bottom side Darmstadt, Union Berlin’s 1-0 triumph at Hoffenheim and Mainz’s 1-0 success over Augsburg. The games were all interrupted, with players having to go back into the dressing room at times to wait for the supporters to calm down. The protests have been going on for weeks, with fans hoping to halt the DFL plans as they believe the league is trying to put profit over supporters and tradition. The only game not to have demonstrations was fifth-placed RB Leipzig’s 2-0 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach in the late game. Dutch star Xavi Simons cushioned the ball on his thigh before firing home a brilliant volley to help give the hosts only a second win in seven in all competitions. Loïs Openda made it 2-0 on 57 minutes. Leipzig’s controversial history, a medical emergency in the stands and a Gladbach fan dying in a car crash meant there were no protests. There were demonstrations at Heidenheim, but only in the stands using placards, chants and whistles, so the game was not disrupted. Leverkusen’s Frimpong finished off a flowing move via a deflection just before the break. Adli then struck in the second half shortly after Florian Wirtz had hit the bar on Alonso’s 500th day in charge of a side whom he took over near the bottom of the standings. Set-piece kings Heidenheim pulled one back with four minutes to go through Tim Kleindienst but the leaders hung on. It was Leverkusen’s 18th win from 22 games. Bayern – champions for the last 11 seasons – also play their 22nd match of the league campaign on Sunday against a Bochum side who are strong at home. Freiburg also host Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday. Stuttgart remain third, four points behind Bayern, after Serhou Guirassy headed in off the bar early in Darmstadt on his first start since the African Nations Cup. The Guinea striker now has 18 Bundesliga goals while Mahmoud Dahoud made the game safe late on before Aaron Seydel’s consolation. Darmstadt are 10 points from absolute safety despite Stuttgart being down to 10 men for a half after Pascal Stenzel’s second yellow card. Fourth-placed Dortmund, now only a point above Leipzig, slipped up again after Wolfsburg’s Yannick Gerhardt equalized with a header following a scramble after Niclas Füllkrug’s early opener. Dortmund captain Emre Can told Sky: “Football wouldn’t be what it is without fans, everyone knows that. But…we’re really suffering due to the protests, losing our rhythm. I hope it comes to an end soon.” Union edged further away from the drop zone after substitute Brenden Aaronson scored his first of the campaign late on at Hoffenheim. The supporter protests clearly affected the players, with tensions leading to Stanley Nsoki and Kevin Volland, harshly, both being dismissed for second bookings for either side. New Mainz coach Bo Henriksen celebrated his first game in charge with a battling win over Augsburg, coached by his fellow Dane Jess Thorup. Sepp van den Berg made the difference in the first half and Augsburg’s Mads Pedersen, also a Dane, was sent off on 90 minutes. A mass brawl between fans before kick-off also marred the matchday.

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