United in call for peace on frozen border to Russia
The borderline between Norway and Russia follows the Pasvik River in northernmost Europe. People on both sides have for the past three decades worked to enhance contact and cooperation. The last few days, however, have dramatically changed relations between the two countries.
When Putin launched his war on Ukraine on February 24 people were watching the news with shock. For many, fears are growing that the days of the Cold War with little or no contact across the border are coming back.
Before 1992, the Pasvik River was one of only two places in Europe where the Soviet Union had a direct border to a NATO member state. The other was between Turkey and Armenia.
Many that marched in demonstration this Sunday were not born in the days of the last Cold War.
“Stop Putin - Stop the War,” read signs carried by children. The demonstration could both be seen and heard from the Russian side of the river.
Although Ukraine is far away from Russia’s northern border to Europe, the ripple effects of the war are being felt here. Few Russians are allowed to cross the land border, air traffic is stopped and on Monday, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry warned its citizens not to travel to Russia.
A few kilometers east of the border, in the Pechenga valley, are the garrisons for the Northern Fleet’s 200. Motorized Rifle Brigade and the 61. Naval Infantry Brigade. Both now have soldiers fighting in Ukraine.
At the Russian border, the protesters sang Norwegian poet Nordahl Grieg’s famous text “Surrounded by Enemies” (To the Youth) with lyrics protesting against war and extremism. The song is Norway’s most touching peace anthems and got world-famous after the terror attack on the Utøya summer camp of the Labor Party’s Youth organization in 2011.
Olof Palme quote
In his speech before the protest march, member of the Labor Union in Kirkenes, Torbjørn Brox Webber, quoted former Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme’s criticism of the Franco Regime in Spain, calling the fascist regime ‘goddamn murderer’’ (Swedish: ‘satans mördare’).
“Today, we can say to President Vladimir Putin: You are also a goddamn murderer,” Brox Webber said.