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Finns React To Historic U.S.-Russia Summit


Well, the city of Helsinki has hosted these kinds of summits before, so Finns were ready for the traffic and the media circus. Sorry, guys. They were also ready with messages for both President Trump and President Putin. I hit the streets of Helsinki to find out what Finns were saying.

(Reading) Welcome to Finland, President Trump. I'm reading from a sign that is plastered across the front windows of Finlayson Department Store. They sell bedding and towels - that type thing. They've got a big sign blocking the front windows. The sign says, (reading) welcome to Finland, President Trump. We are slightly worried. The goal of politics is to make the world as good as possible for everyone. Please make good decisions.

So polite, but worried. That's one window into how Finns view this historic day that's unfolded in their capital.

Down the block, we wandered into one of the many bars in Helsinki that is selling out of a limited-edition summit beer. Can we have a beer at the bar? Perfect. We like this one, the Let's Settle This Like Adults dry-hopped lager. A picture of Putin and Trump Making Lager Great Again. You ready? Bottoms up.


KELLY: On the label, the two presidents are facing each other, fist-to-fist, playing Rock, Paper, Scissors. The suggestion being it's as good a way as any to settle diplomatic differences. The bartender here at Roster, Jori Mikkonen, told us he's half-Finnish, half-Russian.

Are you getting a lot of business from the summit?

JORI MIKKONEN: Yeah. Actually, like yesterday, one person just bought, like, 'cause he wanted the bottle. He didn't even drink beer.

KELLY: Not everyone here is so mellow about the visit of these two particular presidents. As final preparations were being made yesterday for the high-stakes diplomacy inside the Presidential Palace, we came upon this scene.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Through megaphone) Helsinki, are you with me?

KELLY: We're about to wade our way into this rally that is gathering on the steps of Senate Square. This is right in the middle of Helsinki. We were told this is an anti-Trump, also an anti-Putin rally. So let's go see who we can meet.

There were about a thousand people gathered. Protesters dressed as characters from "The Handmaid's Tale." Signs written in English, Finnish and Russian. Finns of all ages. One of them, Pinga Luumi - she's 18, from Helsinki, in her first year at university, hair and makeup that's edging towards goth.

PINGA LUUMI: I definitely don't like Trump. And, like, well, I hate him with a passion. But I'm mostly here to resist Putin and Russia.

KELLY: Pinga's sign reads, Putin is a tyrant. Her big message is about Crimea - that President Trump absolutely must not recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea.

LUUMI: Why I'm afraid of that is that if he does it, it gives Russia the sign that they get to do anything they want in Europe. They could even occupy Finland, since we're not, like, a part of NATO. I'm really afraid 'cause, you know, he'll give a sign that the U.S. doesn't care.

KELLY: A reporter did ask Putin about Crimea at the press conference today. Putin said that Trump believes the annexation of Crimea in 2014 was an illegal action. But the topic quickly changed to whether or not Russia had compromising material on Trump.

Meanwhile, Pinga has a message for people her age who are not paying attention to today's summit, not paying attention to everything going on in the world today.

LUUMI: Wake up. Wake up. These are not things that are not your business because it's everyone's business what happens in the world. So please pay attention.

KELLY: Pinga Luumi, one of the many people watching closely as the presidents of the United States and of Russia sat down today to talk.


And with Mary Louise Kelly in Helsinki, I'm Ari Shapiro in Washington. You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.