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FINROSFORUM 2011 | Speaker Profiles

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM) promotes cooperation between the peoples of Finland and Russia by supporting civic initiatives for democracy, human rights, and free speech.




The fifth annual conference of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM) begins on 10 December 2011 at the Sofia Cultural Centre in Helsinki’s Vuosaari district. Guest speakers include a number of grassroots civic activists and experts from Russia, Finland, and elsewhere. Below, short introductions of the speakers.


Olga Andronova, an entrepreneur from St Petersburg, is leader of the popular movement, Spasi Piter (Save St Pete), which was established to coordinate the campaign against Russian gas corporation Gazprom’s project to build a 400-metre-high skyscraper in the historic city centre of St Petersburg. In addition, Spasi Piter has been involved in campaigns and legal battles to protest election fraud in St Petersburg.


Oksana Chelysheva is Board Member of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, Member of the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, and Deputy Executive Director of the Helsinki-based Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, which was banned in Russia. Ms Chelysheva is a member of the editorial collective of the Finnish version of Novaya Gazeta.


Heidi Hautala is a founding member of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum. She served as Chair and then as Deputy Chair of the organisation up until her appointment to the post of Minister for International Development in the current Finnish government earlier this year. Prior to her ministerial appointment, Ms Hautala was Member of the European Parliament and Chair of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights.


Vadim Kononenko is Political Advisor to the Finnish Member of the European Parliament, Tarja Cronberg. Mr Kononenko is on leave on absence from his position as Researcher of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood and Russia research programme at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.


Yulia Naberezhnaya is an ecological engineer and member of the Russian environmental organisation, Ecological Watch of North Caucasus (EkoVahta). Ms Naberezhnaya works at the Russian Geographical Society. She has been an active participant of campaigns in her home town of Sochi against problems caused by projects related to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

NAPARA Yelizaveta

Yelizaveta Napara is a lawyer working for the St Petersburg-based organisation, Spasi Piter. She has defended the interests of Russian citizens before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The cases she has worked on include the campaign against the building of Russian gas corporation Gazprom’s skyscraper, election violations, and repression of opposition activists in St Petersburg.


Yaroslav Nikitenko is leader of the Russian environmental organisation, Sreda Obitaniya (Habitat). He has been one of the leading activists in the grassroots campaign to defend the historic Khimki Forest, which is being destroyed to make way for the building of a toll highway between Moscow and St Petersburg. Mr Nikitenko’s organisation is involved in a number of campaigns to defend environmental rights in the Moscow region.


Kerkko Paananen is a founding member and current Chairman of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum. He also serves as the organisation’s Information Secretary. Mr Paananen is a civic activist with a background in defending the rights of Russia’s Finno-Ugric minorities and in trade union work. He is a member of the editorial collective of the Finnish version of Novaya Gazeta.


Olexi Pasyuk is Coordinator for the Central and Eastern European Bankwatch Network in the former Soviet Union region, based in Kiev. Bankwatch works to prevent funding of environmentally and socially destructive projects by International financial institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank. The network educates and assists civil society groups in their campaigns against IFI-funded projects. Mr Pasyuk has campaigning experience in energy and climate issues.


Mikhail Plotnikov is a member of the Russian environmental organisation, Ecological Watch of North Caucasus (EkoVahta), and member of the Sochi branch of the Russian Geographical Society. Mr Plotnikov works as expert on environmental protection in North Caucasus at the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU).


Katri Pynnöniemi is Researcher of the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood and Russia research programme at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. Ms Pynnöniemi’s expertise is in Russian foreign policy and foreign economic relations, Russia-EU relations, domestic developments in Russia, and Russia’s transport and infrastructure policies. Her ongoing research projects are Russia’s foreign policy and the quest for leadership in the Eurasian economic space and the Political constraints on Russia’s economic development.


Rauno Sairinen, Professor of Environmental Policy at the University of Eastern Finland. Professor Sairinen has worked as researcher of urban planning and head of research. He was appointed Professor of Environmental Research at Joensuu University in 2007.

SOBOL Lyubov

Lyubov Sobol is a legal expert working for the Russian anti-corruption project, RosPil. The project was initiated in late 2010 by Russia’s most famous anti-corruption fighter, Alexey Navalny. RosPil exposes and investigates corruption in the awarding of government contracts. The project is run through contributions from supporters. RosPil’s legal experts process and verify the information received from the general public.


Birthe Weijola is Russia Coordinator of the Finnish Nature League. The organisation was established in 1943. The league is a non-governmental organisation engaged in nature protection and environmental education. The league is a member of the Taiga Rescue Network and the Forest Stewardship Council. Ms Weijola has worked as information coordinator for the Taiga Rescue Network. She has been active in the Friends of the Earth, focusing on developing cooperation with Russian environmental NGOs.


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