Ukraine war: Russian diplomats trolled with parking space in Ukrainian colours

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By David Mac Dougall
The colours of Ukraine's flag painted in the parking space outside home of Russian Consul General, Turku, Finland. October 2022
The colours of Ukraine's flag painted in the parking space outside home of Russian Consul General, Turku, Finland. October 2022   -  Copyright  Ellen Into

Russian diplomats in the Finnish city of Turku can see reminders of Ukraine everywhere they go, at work or at home. 

A prominent bridge in Turku, which is on Finland's southwest coast, has been lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag since shortly after the Russian invasion. 

Meanwhile, a local man hoisted a Ukrainian flag up a tree right next to the Russian Consulate General. 

But now two Finns have taken the trolling to a whole new level by painting the personal parking space of Russia's Consul General blue and yellow, right outside the apartment building where he lives -- so the senior diplomat has no option but to see it when he drives to work each day. 

Turku authorities have allowed the colouring to remain.

Armed with buckets of paint and some rollers, Jarno Virtala put on a high-viz vest and got to work painting the flag in front of the building, which is owned by the Russian state, earlier this month.

"The idea behind it was because of this illegal and absurd Russian referendums in a foreign country," Virtala, who works as a property manager in another part of Finland, told Euronews.

"When I read there was a parking space reserved only for the Russian Consul General, in my mind, I decided to have a referendum that this parking spot belongs to Ukraine," he explained. 

He was soon joined by a passer-by, Markus Mattson, who was on the way to work but stopped and offered to help.

"We held a two-man referendum on annexing the parking spot to Ukraine, 100% of the voters agreed with the proposal," Mattson wrote on social media.

"No disagreeing proposals were expressed, so we decided to celebrate the result by painting a flag of Ukraine,"  he added.

Blue-and-yellow paint in parking space 'doesn't hurt anyone'

Local authorities have been happy to leave the new 'artwork' in place, especially since it adds to their own efforts to show solidarity with Ukraine.

"The city of Turku wants to indicate our ongoing support to Ukraine and the Ukrainians as long as Russia continues its brutal attack war. Turku has been powerful in its actions to help Ukraine and it is important that the support is also visible in the city scenery," said Saara Malila, the city's director of communications. 

So far, most of the reaction to the blue and yellow parking space has been "very positive," Malila told Euronews.

"The main messages have been 'well done, go for it, and proud of my city'. In the media’s news stories the people's comments have been 95% positive. There have been a few comments saying that the line is too strict and that we’d need to think about the future and future relationships with Russia, whatever that might be."

Markus Mattson said he particularly liked the idea of a non-violent protest since painting the blue and yellow flag in the Consul General's designated parking space "doesn't hurt anyone, or damage anyone's property."

"I encourage people to act in a non-violent manner which causes no discomfort for outsiders."

Turku -- Finland's fourth largest city -- has also developed a plan of action that goes beyond symbolic paint, flags and lights to help Ukrainians who had to flee their homeland. 

This includes donating €150,000 to aid appeals and providing extensive help for Ukrainian refugees who needed homes, food, school places and mental health support. 

The Port of Turku has also refused to let Russian ships dock, while officials removed a statue of Lenin from the city centre and took down a sign commemorating a visit by President Putin in 2013. 

A Turku House in St Petersburg, which promoted a range of links between the two cities, was closed in February, and the twin cities deal was scrapped. Instead, Turku has started a "sister city" relationship with the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. 

Russia maintains a large embassy compound for its diplomats in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, in addition to Consulate Generals in Turku and Åland.

So far, Russian diplomats in Finland have not complained about the new paint on their personal parking space or any of the other visible reminders about Finnish support for Ukraine. 

"There has been no communication since Russia's attack on Ukraine," said Malila.