HELSINKI – About 2,500 protesters demonstrated in support of human rights, democracy and the environment in Helsinki on Sunday, a day before U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a summit in the Finnish capital.
Demonstrators brandished banners that read “Make peace, not war”, “Refugees are welcome” and “Make human rights great again!” Some waved gay rainbow flags to protest against what they see as homophobic laws and attitudes in Russia.
“The current world order… has been challenged by admiration of force and an attitude of ‘every man for himself’. And this is what these two men, Trump and Putin, have in common – contempt for democracy, contempt for international agreements, contempt for human rights,” Heidi Hautala, a member of the European Parliament from the Greens of Finland, told the rally.
Trump was due to arrive in Helsinki later on Sunday from Scotland. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against his visit to London on Friday and several thousand more protested on Saturday in Scotland, where he spent much of the weekend playing golf.
Putin was due to arrive in Helsinki just ahead of the talks on Monday.
Helsinki — a venue which evokes memories of Cold War show-downs between the Soviet Union and the United States — has introduced security measures for the summit, including temporary border checks.
At another square in Helsinki on Sunday, a small group of people, including members of the nationalist Finns Party, staged a pro-Trump rally.
In total, some 16 demonstrations are expected to be held in Helsinki on Sunday and Monday.
Helsinki mayor Jan Vapaavuori said he was not worried about the protests, saying Finland has a long history of peaceful demonstrations.
“I would be much more worried if we weren’t preparing ourselves for some demonstrations,” he said.
EU state Finland is seen as a neutral venue as it is not a member of the U.S.-led NATO military alliance. It shares a long border with Russia, which ruled it for more than a century until the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, when Finland won its independence.
Trump has said he and Putin will discuss among other issues reducing nuclear weapons. Trump has also said he has low expectations for the meeting, which could be overshadowed by accusations that Russians meddled in the U.S. 2016 election.