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Finns Sign Up for Defence Prep Courses in Droves Amid Russia's Ukraine Special Op

CC0 / / Shooting target
Shooting target - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.03.2022
On 24 February, Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine aimed at protecting the republics of the Donbass region it had formally recognised earlier that week. Moscow has made a point of saying that it has no occupation plans and that the operation's goal is to protect civilians from genocide.
Russia's special operation in Ukraine, meant to demilitarise and de-Nazify the country, which the West continues to portray as an "invasion", appears to have prompted Finns to seek defence preparedness courses.
According to national broadcaster Yle, the training sessions offered by the National Defence Training Association (MPK) are filling up at an unprecedented pace.
A this time of the year, some 150 people typically register for training, but in recent days the numbers have reached around 700, and the rate of sign-ups appears to be growing faster, according to MRK communications chief Miia Iivari.
The association offers more than 2,000 different courses each year, with some of them geared toward military reservists and other training open to civilians. The most popular deal with the use of firearms. According to Yle, more such courses are being offered due to rising demand.
Remarkably, the demand has even grown for women's courses offered by the Women's National Emergency Preparedness Association. Out of the first five training courses offered by the group this spring, four were fully-booked within minutes, according to spokeswoman Sonja Airikka.
Finns' general interest for national defence and preparedness has grown this year amid a spike in tensions between Russia and the West.
The Finnish Reservists' Association (FRA) announced earlier this week that it had received an exceptional number of new membership applications in January and February, double the amount during the same period last year.
In related security issues, a historic Yle poll earlier this week indicated record support for NATO accession, as 53 percent of Finns said they were in favour of abandoning their historic non-alignment and only 28 percent opposed doing so. This represents a marked change in Finnish attitudes, as NATO support has spiked by some 34 percentage points since 2017.
A similar change in views has occurred in neighbouring Sweden, where a lively debate about joining NATO is going on as well. Finland and Sweden have an "enhanced partnership" with NATO and take part in drills and overseas operations.
Earlier in February, Russia launched a special military operation to offer protection to the republics of Donbass it had formally recognised earlier that week.
Moscow has made it clear that it harbours no occupation plans and that the operation's goal is to protect the civilians of Donbass from genocide.
The Russian Defence Ministry emphasised that the operation only targets Ukrainian military infrastructure with high-precision weapons.
Western nations have since enhanced sanctions pressure on Russia, slapping a number of Russian banks with bans and blacklisting a number of senior Russian officials, while freezing their assets abroad.
The West has furthermore unleashed a censorship campaign against Russian foreign-language media over the conflict in Ukraine, shutting down websites and broadcasts, and blocking or otherwise limiting access to Sputnik and RT on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
The US and its allies have additionally promised to ramp up military assistance and lethal aid to Ukraine.
After an initial round of negotiations in Belarus, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said he was ready to “talk with” his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
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