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'Just like Banksy': Dog poo protester creates 'art' at Russia's embassy in Finland

Risto Karmavuo and his dog Milo, Helsinki Finland 1st March 2022
Risto Karmavuo and his dog Milo, Helsinki Finland 1st March 2022 Copyright (R. Karmavuo)
Copyright (R. Karmavuo)
By David Mac Dougall
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Risto Karmavuo and his dog, Milo, are aiming to leave their own mark on history.

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A mild-mannered dog owner in Finland has found his own unique way to protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine - but is it art?

Risto Karmavuo and his miniature Schnauzer, Milo, walk past the Russian embassy in Helsinki every day. Over the years the building has seen history unfold, as the site of a 1975 meeting between Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev and US President Gerald Ford; and as the hub of Russian intrigue and influence during the 'Finlandisation' era of the 1960s and 1970s.

But Risto and Milo are aiming to leave their own mark on history: with dog poo.

"I usually pass by there with my dog in the evenings and all of a sudden I had a bag of the 'doings' in my hand and just threw it to the yard, over the fence, thinking this will be a smelly protest," he tells Euronews.

"This war came very close in a way. Our neighbouring country attacking a European country. And I felt very powerless. And something had to be done."

Vesa Klemetti/Lehtikuva
FILE - US President Gerald Ford, Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev & PM Andrei Gromyko, Soviet Embassy Helsinki, August 1975Vesa Klemetti/Lehtikuva

Risto explains that he's not the type of person who usually attends demonstrations. On Saturday, several thousand people protested in front of the embassy; while on Tuesday evening a choir sang a patriotic song in honour of Ukraine outside the diplomatic mission, so he had to come up with a different way to show his feelings.

"You could say it's a biological weapon," he says. "And Milo is very helpful with things. Three times a day I get fresh ammunition for this protest!"

Vesa Moilanen/AP
File picture of Russian Embassy Helsinki, FinlandVesa Moilanen/AP

Dirty protest goes viral on social media - with some literary help

Risto's first post on a local social media group - suggesting that other people take their dogs walking past the Russian embassy - was quickly taken down by moderators.

But not before it was spotted by Finland's most famous modern writer Sofi Oksanen, whose latest novel is coincidentally called 'Dog Park'.

"Creative protesting from Finland," she wrote. "Dog owners are suggested to gather the dog shit after them and leave the litter at the Russian embassy."

Risto says he's surprised that Sofi Oksanen noticed his post but is happy she shared it, as it gained a lot of traction on local Facebook groups.

An art critic might consider the protest to be a creative form of expression.

"Human creativity is every time close to art. And art is many times a protest as we can see from Banksy, he is also doing art which is considered illegal, he is painting walls that he is not permitted to paint," says Karmavuo.

Author Sofi Oksanen shares Risto Karmavuo's social media post

How have the Russians responded?

When Risto and Milo go for their walks in front of the embassy building they've been looking for signs that other people and their canine companions have joined in the art attack.

A few poo bags have been spotted so far, along with footprints in the snow which seem to indicate someone is coming out to clear up the 'works of art'.

So is Risto worried about any official complaints from the Russian embassy? There's been no response yet to this unusual artistic protest and Risto says he's not bothered about the consequences.

"What would the charges be?" he asks. "Littering?"

"If Ukrainians are facing tanks, I can face a fine."

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