Finland’s leader apologizes for party photo at summer home

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Finland’s prime minister apologized after the publication of a photo that showed two women kissing and posing topless at the official summer residence of the country’s leader.

The photo came out after a video that showed Prime Minister Sanna Marin dancing and singing with friends prompted a debate about whether the 36-year-old head of government is entitled to party heartily.

Marin confirmed the photo was taken in a bathroom at an official residence of Finnish prime ministers following a music festival in early July. Marin does not appear in the image; the two women featured have their breasts covered with a sign that says, “Finland.”

One of the women, described as a social media influencer, reportedly posted the photo, which was removed shortly after news outlets started reporting about it.

“In my opinion, that photo is not appropriate, I apologize for that. That photo shouldn’t have been taken,” Marin said Tuesday, according to Finnish broadcaster YLE.

She said the post-festival gathering was a private party and the names of all guests were provided to the security detail that monitors the Kesäranta property, located in the northern part of Helsinki.

The two-story wooden villa from 1873 features a seaside sauna, a pavilion, a jetty, and a tennis court.

“We were using the sauna facilities and the garden area, but we did not spend time inside the Kesäranta house, although the downstairs guest toilets were in use,” Marin said, according to YLE.

On Wednesday, the prime minister addressed a crowd in the southern Finland town of Lathi and mentioned the glimpses of her private life that became public.

“I am also human,” Finnish media quoted Marin as saying with a broken voice and red eyes. She added that she had never failed to attend to a single work task because she took time off.

“I do my job. I learn from this,” Marin said. “This week has not been easy. It has been difficult. But I want to believe that people look at the work we do, not what we do in our free time.”

In the video leaked last week, Marin appeared with friends at a different private party. She has acknowledged that she and her friends celebrated in a “boisterous way” and that alcohol — but, to her knowledge, no drugs — was involved.

Marin said she attended the party in recent weeks, but refused to say exactly where and when. She said Friday that she took a drug test to put an end to speculation about illegal substance use. The results were negative, Marin reported Monday, adding she paid for the test herself.

One of Finland’s major newspapers, Helsingin Sanomat, reported that with a general election scheduled next year, frustration is growing among member’s of the prime minister’s Social Democratic Party.

While no one is talking about pressuring Marin to resign and she remains popular within the party, some members interviewed by the newspaper were critical of her judgment amid the war in Ukraine and Finland’s pending bid to join NATO.

One party member Helsingin Sanomat quoted anonymously noted that Finland still is a relatively conservative country, especially outside the capital region.

Marin heads a five-party governing coalition, and it has won praise for guiding the country steadfastly through the COVID-19 pandemic and the NATO application process.

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