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Karelian Charged for Appeal to Secede to Finland

A Karelian man has been charged with extremism for calling for a referendum to return the northern republic and parts of the Murmansk and Leningrad regions to Finland, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The man, identified only as a 47-year-old Petrozavodsk resident, said the territories near Russia's border with Finland were "groundlessly" annexed by the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1947, prosecutors said.

He put leaflets into mailboxes in the Karelian town of Sortavala and e-mailed his appeal to Russian and foreign media outlets and nongovernmental organizations.

The suspect "called for the violent change of Russia's territorial integrity," Marina Kozyreva, a spokeswoman for Karelia's prosecutor's office, said by telephone.

She said, however, that she could not remember what sort of violence he had proposed.

The suspect faces up to three years in prison if convicted of making public calls to extremist activity.

Dmitry Dubrovsky, a senior researcher at the Russian Ethnographic Museum, told The Moscow Times that he saw nothing criminal in the leaflets and that police had opted not to use him as an official expert in their case after he told them that they did not breach anti-extremism laws.

The Soviet Union annexed the Karelian Isthmus, including the towns of Vyborg and Sortavala, and Lake Ladoga after the Winter War with Finland in 1939-40. Finland ceded two more northern regions after World War II, losing 10 percent of its territory as a result of the two conflicts.

Deputy Valentina Pivnenko, who represents Karelia in the State Duma, suggested in February that the affair aimed to derail the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which is to pass through Finland on its way from Russia to Germany, Nevskoye Vremya reported.

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