Finland’s intelligence service says the Nordic nation must prepare for Russian interference and hybrid attacks as the country continues a debate about NATO membership.
The security police Supo says Russia could resort to old-fashioned tactics like blackmailing politicians, or employ new technology like deep fake videos to influence the discussion.
“Finnish society as a whole should be prepared for various measures from Russia seeking to influence policymaking in Finland on the NATO issue,” said Supo Director Antti Pelttari in the service’s latest annual report released this week.
“Public authorities must secure the conditions for a full and frank debate without intimidation, and ensure that outsiders are unable to influence security policy decisions made by Finland,” he adds.
The report highlighted the danger of “extensive Russian interference and illegal surveillance” with Pelttari telling journalists in Helsinki that tactics might include allegations about abuse or harassment of people with a Russian background in Finland, blackmail of politicians, and deep fake videos of real people.
The report also warns Finnish businesses to be on “constant alert” over cyber security. While Supo says Russian resources have been tied up domestically and in Ukraine since the start of the war, that could still change.
“Supo considers it likely that Russia will expand its cyber and information operations from Ukraine to the West. An increase in operations targeting Finland is therefore also considered probable in the coming months.”
The majority off cyber attacks in Finland are denial-of-service attacks, but Supo warned there’s an increased risk of energy utilities infrastructure networks being targeted in future.
Finland’s changing national discussion on NATO
Since Russian forces launched an invasion against Ukraine at the end of February, public support for joining Nato has risen sharply.
The latest poll released on Wednesday for Helsingin Sanomat newspaper shows 61% of Finns are in favour of joining the military alliance, a figure that had held stable around 20-25% for the last few decades.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö acknowledges that a NATO membership application could provoke an “impetuous” response from Russia, including airspace or territorial violations. But Niinistö also says being part of the NATO family, with Article V security guarantees, would have a “preventive effect” on aggression against Finland.
The Finnish government has ruled out the idea of an emergency application for NATO membership but has been carrying out wide-ranging political consultations for the last month.
However, no decision on a possible parliamentary debate will be taken before the conclusions of a new strategic review on its security situation, expected in April.
A history of hybrid attacks
Finnish society is no stranger to Russian hybrid attacks – from hacking cases at several ministries, to disruption of GPS signals and human trafficking provocation along the 1340km border.
“Being under the influence of Russian hybrid operations is nothing new to our society” says Anders Adlerkreutz, parliamentary group leader of the Swedish People’s Party, one of the five parties that make up Finland’s coalition government.
“We have plenty of experience of that during the past decade, whether it’s general disinformation, targeted trade sanctions to test the resiliency of our society or targeted streams of asylum seekers at certain points of our border,” Adlerkreutz tells Euronews.
“It is worth noting, that every time Russia threatens Finland with actions if it pursues a NATO membership the support for a membership goes up,” he adds.
“There’s a broad spectrum of malicious methods including things that we probably haven’t thought about. It’s thus important not only to maintain capabilities to manage and counter specific threats but to strengthen the societal resilience by maintaining a high-trust society and strengthening the institutional base of democracy,” says the first-term MP, whose party is also one of the five in government.
But the landscape of hybrid threats is constantly shifting, and Harjanne notes that many Russian channels of influence no longer exist, or have become weaker now due to economic sanctions.
Looking more widely, MPs are taking into consideration that Russian attempts at influencing any likely NATO application don’t necessarily have to happen inside Finland.
“A membership needs to be approved by every NATO country. That means that quite a few parliaments might be subject to Russian hybrid actions” cautions Adlerkreutz.
“For that to not be effective it is important that all member countries get real information and are aware that Finland would have a quite significant positive impact on the capabilities of NATO. Thus our membership would have a stabilising effect.”
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Connecticut student jailed after fight, accused of bringing gun and high-capacity magazine to school
A Connecticut student was jailed on numerous charges Wednesday after a fight in school led to the discovery of a gun and a high-capacity magazine hidden in a classroom closet.
The 18-year-old student was first charged with assault and disorderly conduct on Tuesday after an altercation with a 16-year-old at the Hamden Collaborative Learning Center, police said.
Officers were called back later in the morning after school security received a report that handgun was in the school. They recovered the 9-millimeter gun and loaded magazine from inside the closet, police said. Police rearrested the 18-year-old on charges of carrying a pistol without a permit, negligent storage of a firearm, first-degree reckless endangerment, possession of a weapon on school grounds and illegal possession of a large-capacity magazine.
He is being held in lieu of a $150,000 bond. It was not clear Wednesday if he had hired an attorney.
Hamden police said they plan to have a school resource officer meet with staff and students daily at the school, which the district describes as an “alternative education program for students, grades 10-12, who have not achieved success in the larger school environment.”
Hamden, a New Haven suburb, is about 28 miles from Newtown, where 26 students and educators were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
LeBron James breaks NBA all-time scoring record
LeBron James has become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 39-year-old record.
Los Angeles Lakers star James, 38, hit 38 points in a 133-130 defeat by the Oklahoma City Thunder to surpass Abdul-Jabbar’s mark of 38,387.
Abdul-Jabbar initially broke the scoring record in April 1984, eight months before James was born.
“To be able to be in the presence of a legend and great as Kareem, it means so much to me,” said James.
James, who needed 36 points to break the record, did so with a fadeaway jumper at the end of the third quarter and he finished the match with a career total of 38,390.
An emotional James rose both arms in celebration while 75-year-old Abdul-Jabbar, who was at the match at the Lakers home court, stood and applauded.
There was a brief break in play for a ceremony to mark the achievement, with James taking a microphone to make a speech on court.
“Everybody that has ever been a part of this run with me the last 20-plus years, I want to say thank you so much because I wouldn’t be me without all you. You all helped. Your passion and sacrifices helped me to get to this point,” he said.
“And to the NBA to Adam Silver, to the late great David Stern, thank you very much for allowing me to be a part of something I always dreamed about. I would never in a million years dreamt this to be even better than what it is tonight.”
Abdul-Jabbar ceremoniously handed over the ball to James to recognise his new record in front of a cheering crowd that included tennis legend John McEnroe, music stars Jay-Z, LL Cool J and Bad Bunny, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr and actor Denzel Washington.
“I thought it had every chance of being broken. It just had to have someone that the offense focused on continually,” said Abdul-Jabbar, who retired in 1989.
“LeBron’s career is one of someone who planned to dominate this game. You have to give him credit for just the way he played and for the way he’s lasted and dominated.”
Four-time NBA champion James is in his 20th season in the NBA, having been drafted first overall by hometown team the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.
The forward joined the Miami Heat in 2010, winning two titles, before returning to lead Cleveland to the only NBA title in their history in 2016.
He has been with the Lakers since 2018 and helped them win the 2020 title, which was also the fourth time he has been named NBA finals MVP.
Two-time Olympic champion James has won four regular season MVP titles and appeared in the NBA Finals 10 times.
Abdul-Jabbar played in the NBA for 20 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and Lakers, during which he won six titles, six regular season MVP crowns and was named finals MVP twice.
Asked after the game whether he is the best NBA player of all time, James said: “I’ll let everybody else decide who that is or just talk about it, but it’s great barbershop talk.
“Me personally, I’m going to take myself against anybody who’s ever played this game. But everyone’s going to decide who their favourite is.”
Nesta McGregor, BBC Sport
Many thought this was an insurmountable milestone, but it’s finally been surpassed.
Lebron ‘The King’ James has added a new jewel to his crown.
For two decades he has been the dominant force in the NBA – playing for his home town team Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and now LA Lakers – winning a championship with each.
Amongst all his achievements, this may be considered the greatest yet. He’d already overtaken superstars like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, but for some, breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s long-standing record cements James’ status as the best ever.
Lebron is still performing at the very top level. He still averages 30 points a game. So the big question now is how much longer can he continue?
As he celebrates this achievement with his loved ones, James has made no secret of the fact he wants to stick around long enough to pay with – or against – his eldest son Bronny, 18.
And who would bet against him?
James holds the records as the youngest player to reach every significant points tally from 5,000 to 35,000.
He passed six-time NBA champion Jordan into fourth overall in March 2019 and late Lakers great Bryant to move into third all-time in January 2020.
James then surpassed Karl Malone into second overall in March last year, a month after he beat Abdul-Jabbar’s record for the most combined regular season and play-off points. The NBA’s official all-time scoring list only takes into account regular season points.
James, a 19-time All-Star, scored 23,119 points in 849 games for the Cavaliers during 11 seasons across two spells.
He scored 7,919 points for the Heat in 294 games over four seasons and now has 7,314 points in 266 games over five seasons for the Lakers.
James is also in the top-10 all-time lists for assists, steals, defensive rebounds, field goals made and three-pointers made.
‘You elevated the game’ – Lebron James tributes
US President Joe Biden: “LeBron, congratulations. With your whole heart and soul you broke a hell of a record. You elevated the game. More than that, like Kareem, Bill Russell and others who came before you, you challenged and inspired the nation to be better, do better and live up to our full promise.”
Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson: “I never thought that Kareem’s scoring record would be broken by anybody. It means more to myself and to our fans because you’re wearing that purple and gold and broke it as a Laker. This historic moment is so special because we will never see another LeBron James.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: “It’s a towering achievement that speaks to his sustained excellence over 20 seasons in the league. And quite amazingly, LeBron continues to play at an elite level and his basketball history is still being written.”
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry: Your sustained level of play for 20 years, reaching this pinnacle of scoring in basketball, it is unbelievable. Way down the road, when we’re reflecting back on our careers, we’ll be able to be at that level knowing what it was like to battle at the highest level.”
Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant: “It’s even funny to just even say that, you know coming from where you have come from, how hard you grinded for this long. It’s been an inspiration since day one. Much love and keep setting the bar high.”
Timeline of success
26 June 2003 – drafted number one by the Cleveland Cavaliers
30 October 2003 – makes debut aged 18 against the Sacramento Kings, recording 25 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals
20 February 2005 – makes All-Star Game debut, the first of 19 appearances
7 June 2007 – first NBA Finals appearance for Cleveland, who go on to lose to San Antonio Spurs
24 August 2008 – wins Olympic gold with the USA at Beijing Games
4 May 2009 – wins the first of his four regular season MVP titles
8 July 2010 – joins the Miami Heat after seven seasons with the Cavaliers
21 June 2012 – wins first NBA championship with the Heat and claim first of four Finals MVP titles
12 August 2012 – wins second Olympic gold at London Games
20 June 2013 – becomes back-to-back NBA champion with the Heat
11 July 2014 – returns to Cleveland after four seasons in Miami
19 June 2016 – leads the Cavaliers back from 3-1 down against the Golden State Warriors to win their first NBA Championship
9 July 2018 – signs for the Los Angeles Lakers after four years during second stint in Cleveland
11 October 2020 – claims fourth NBA title by beating the Miami Heat, also becoming first player to win Finals MVP for three different teams
8 February 2023 – passes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become NBA’s all-time leading points scorer
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