The Finnish lawyer, Kari Silvennoinen, was arrested on his arrival at Moscow airport on 27 September 2013. The Russian authorities gave no reason for his arrest. Mr Silvennoinen has been held without food and drink over night.
Mr Silvennoinen said that he had flown in from Helsinki for a business meeting in Moscow, and that his papers were in order. He was due to fly from Moscow to London or Rome. The Finnish consul service in Moscow was assisting him.
Mr Silvennoinen suspected that the reason for his arrest was that he has written two books, “The Soviet Guilt” and “Soviet War Crimes Against Finland”, that are highly critical of the role of the Soviet Union in European history.
Mr Silvennoinen’s arrest comes amid a major DDoS attack against several websites connected with the Finnish non-governmental organisation, Pro Karelia, which has highlighted many of the same issues as Mr Silvennoinen.
UPDATE: Lawyer Escaped From Aeroflot Plane
Kari Silvennoinen was kept without food and water for 14 hours. Finnish embassy officials managed to bring him breakfast at around 10am on Saturday. “The breakfast at [Moscow airport’s] cell will, no doubt, taste better than in the Moscow Hilton,” Mr Silvennoinen commented wryly.
The border guard officer on duty at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport informed Mr Silvennoinen’s Russian partner, Vasily Davydov, that they would release Mr Silvennoinen and escort him onto an Aeroflot flight to Helsinki. They insisted that Mr Silvennoinen was not arrested officially.
“They say that I have not been arrested, but this is a locked room,” Mr Silvennoinen told Finnish daily Ilta-Sanomat. “I was able to call my Russian partner in St Petersburg. He talked with the border guard officers, but even he could not find out what this was all about.”
Mr Davydov said Mr Silvennoinen’s arrest was connected with a criminal case that his partner was pursuing in Finland. They would have had a “very important meeting” related to the case in Moscow on Monday. The arrest was an attempt to scare Mr Silvennoinen off the case, Mr Davydov alleged.
Mr Silvennoinen landed at Helsinki Airport on an Aeroflot flight some time after 5pm local time on Saturday. He told Ilta-Sanomat that he had to “escape” from the plane as Aeroflot’s flight crew had confiscated his passport and tried to prevent him from exiting the plane.
Russian border guards had given Mr Silvennoinen’s passport to the flight crew at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. When the plane landed at Helsinki, he was asked to wait until the other passengers had exited. The flight crew claimed that Finnish police had been called to pick him up.
Mr Silvennoinen suspected that something was wrong and decided to vacate the aircraft together with everyone else. At the exit, however, Aeroflot personnel physically took hold of Mr Silvennoinen and tried to stop him. Yet he managed to yank himself free and exit the aircraft.
Mr Silvennoinen told Finnish border guards that he had escaped from the Aeroflot plane, and that the crew personnel were still holding his passport. The border guards then entered the plane and recovered the passport; they regarded the incident as “very strange.”
Mr Silvennoinen insisted that the flight crew had no legal right to confiscate his passport. “They said that Finnish police had been called to the scene, but that was not what this was about. I do have to wonder who exactly was supposed to come to the plane,” he told MTV3.
Neither the Finnish Foreign Ministry nor the Finnish Embassy in Moscow commented the incident. Mr Silvennoinen expressed gratitude to the Finnish border guards, saying they had “saved him.” Russia’s Embassy in Helsinki said they would offer their version of events on Monday.
“I do realise that I am not wanted in Russia. Back in time, I was persona non grata in the Soviet Union — now I am the same in Russia as well. […] I would like to know the official reason [for my arrest]. Naturally, they will never disclose the actual reason,” Mr Silvennoinen surmised.
Mr Silvennoinen suspected that he was arrested because of his investigations into Soviet war crimes against Finland. In an interview with Ilta-Sanomat, he was apparently alluding to a proposed law that would criminalise deviations from Moscow’s official history of World War II.
Mr Silvennoinen told Uusi Suomi that he would not return to Russia. “I will have to arrange my meetings with my Russian clients in Finland now. In the past few years, Russia has gone full Soviet again. It is better to stay away. There is no better way to tell me this. So it is goodbye, then.”
Mr Silvennoinen’s arrest gave rise to widespread consternation in Finland and elsewhere. His friends and colleagues were asking whether the arrest was linked to the ongoing DDoS attack against Pro Karelia, Carelia Club, and Karjalan Kuvalehti. The coincidence certainly seems striking.
“Russia has made an interesting addition to the discussion on visa-free travel between the EU and Russia by arresting Kari Silvennoinen, a senior lawyer and expert on international law,” Antti-Pekka Mustonen, Chairman of the Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee, quipped on his Facebook page.
Mr Mustonen demanded Aeroflot for an explanation about its treatment of Mr Silvennoinen. Reacting to the Finnish Foreign Ministry’s refusal to comment Mr Silvennoinen’s arrest, Mr Mustonen said he hoped the ministry would demonstrate better acumen in dealing with the situation.
Commenting the incident, Mikael Storsjö, Vice-Chairman of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, asked whether it would behove the Finnish government to freeze the negotiations on visa-free travel with Russia until Moscow first learned how to treat people travelling on valid visas.
Russia expert Paul Goble added his voice to the international chorus of consternation: “This is very, very bad, especially since Putin has said that the Winter War allowed Stalin “to correct a Bolshevik mistake.” I hope there will be an international outrage. I fear there won’t be.”
Veikko Saksi, editor-in-chief of Karjalan Kuvalehti, agreed with Professor Goble’s assessment, lambasting Finnish officials for keeping mum about the incident. “The international community should take a hard stance on the continuing deterioration of human rights in Russia,” he stated.