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Soldiers of Odin’s secret Facebook group: Weapons, Nazi symbols and links to MV Lehti

Screenshots acquired by Yle show how senior figures in the Soldiers of Odin group pose with weapons and display Nazi symbols in their private Facebook group. The material also shows links between the founder of Soldiers of Odin and MV Lehti, a popular racist website distributing misinformation online.

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Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

“Morning racists”

That’s a normal greeting in the secret Facebook group for leading figures in the Soldiers of Odin (S.O.O.). The S.O.O. Päällystö group (loosely translated as ‘S.O.O. officers’) includes about 80 members. The majority of them are men, but there are also a few women. They’re based in towns the length and breadth of Finland.

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Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Yle acquired screenshots of activity in the group to shine a light on what the Soldiers of Odin discuss when they think nobody is looking. The group was established by a neo-Nazi in Kemi last year in response to the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers in Finland. S.O.O. claims it is dedicated to street patrols that help ensure public safety.

Messages between the organisation's leading figures, however, suggest racism is rampant in its higher echelons.

One member posts a picture of a black child in a bucket, along with the text ‘a bucketful of shit’. Another ‘likes’ the post. A third posts a picture of a Koran with bacon and excrement on top. A picture of female members making Nazi salutes, or a club house decorated with Nazi symbols is greeted with a heart smiley.

Members of the secret group also seem to like guns. Several pictures show men in Odin-branded clothes posing with rifles or showing off their ammunition or knives. “That’s the way” responded one observer, adding a smiley.

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Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Internal rules: “Knives leave too messy a scene”

Soldiers of Odin have denied in interviews and on their public Facebook page that they are a racist or neo-Nazi group, and have said that they will only use violence in self-defence. The purpose of their street patrols is, according to the group, to protect people and especially women from immigrant criminals, but “to help everyone regardless of their ethnic background”.

The material gathered by Yle, from the SOO Päällystö Facebook group and other sources, suggests otherwise. All the screenshots in this article were taken in early 2016.

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Internal rules are laid down in the group. Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

According to Yle’s information Odin members’ own rules allow them to use “telescopic batons, pepper spray and knuckle dusters, but with a knife the wounds are too ugly”.

The club recommends a minimum of 10 people in a street patrol, but smaller groups can also “cause a bit of a provocation”.

Marching on the same day as neo-Nazis—coincidence?

On 23 February S.O.O. organised a march in Tampere which they said was in memory of a member who’d died. Some 150 people turned up, most clad in black jackets sporting the S.O.O. logo. On the same day in Germany neo-Nazis held their annual march in honour of Nazi icon Horst Wessel.

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Pictures from the S.O.O. Tampere club house. Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Horst Wessel is also a hero of the Finnish Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi organisation.

On the day of the march a member of the S.O.O. Päällystö Facebook group posted a picture from premises used as a club house by S.O.O. in Tampere. On the wall is an SS flag. The Soldiers of Odin’s Kemi base has already been reported to contain plenty of Nazi memorabilia.

According to Soldiers of Odin every member has “the freedom to write what they want and adopt whatever ideology they like”, but private individuals’ ideologies are not the club’s ideology.

Links to MV Lehti

The registered association through which Soldiers of Odin is organised names Mika Ranta as its chair and Jani Valikainen as vice-chair. Both are from the Kemi-Tornio area, where the organisation was founded last autumn.

Mika Ranta is also known to be a member of the Finnish Resistance Movement or SVL. That is an openly national socialist, white supremacist organisation that advocates violent, far-right revolution.

Of all the far right movements in Finland, the Security Police has been most concerned about the SVL and its campaign against asylum seekers. Ranta has denied that there is any link between the Odin street patrols and the SVL.

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Mika Ranta reveals his links to MV Lehti. Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

According to information obtained by Yle, however, during the Tampere march the Soldiers of Odin published a video in which the SVL logo was shown. The film disappeared from the internet quickly.

Mika Ranta also has links to MV Lehti, a website that has consistently published racist and inaccurate articles but has nevertheless gained a large following in Finland. In one screenshot Ranta tells senior Odin members that he also belongs to a secret MV Lehti group, which according to Ranta guarantees the Soldiers of Odin “as much publicity as we want” on MV Lehti.

Mika Ranta’s latest assault case heading to court

Soldiers of Odin have admitted that some of their members have criminal backgrounds, but says that that is water under the bridge.

According to Yle’s sources, however, the group’s founder Mika Ranta has faces proceedings dating back to last summer. Charges were finalised at the end of February and the case will be heard at Kemi-Tornio district court.

According to Yle’s sources Ranta is accused of aggravated assault of a man and a woman.

Many other senior members of the group also have criminal records. For example Yle has found that the head of Odin cells in the group’s main strongholds—Kemi, Joensuu, Pori and Kouvola—have convictions for assault, robbery or drink-driving.

The club says it has zero tolerance for transgressions and those accused of breaking the rules will be expelled. Police are currently investigating one assault case in Imatra a week and a half ago in which they have evidence that three men in Odin jackets assaulted two other men.

Yle asked Mika Ranta for an interview but he refused to comment about anything to do with Soldiers of Odin.

Similarities to motorcycle gangs

“Loyalty, respect and honour”. That’s one of many Soldiers of Odin slogans that have similarities with those used by motorcycle gangs—and the group’s organisational structure also resembles the motorcycle clubs.

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S.O.O imitate motorcycle gangs in their organisational structures. Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka
S.O.O. tries to create an image of a strict internal hierarchy. Those in the leadership have different insignia than rank and file members or ‘supporters’. The group also talks of “prospects”, meaning those newbies who will only be accepted as members after a trial period in which they have to prove their reliability.

Infiltrators are feared and those who leave the group are hated. That is why “the leadership is closed” and you cannot “breach our confidentiality”.

Soldiers of Odin claims it operates in 27 towns, divided into four “chapters”: the Northern Division centred on Kemi, Eastern Finland based around Joensuu, Western Finland with headquarters in Pori and Southern Finland, which is led from Kouvola.

Although the active street patrolling remains scant compared to the group’s public statements, one topic comes up again and again: waiting for spring and summer.

“Just wait brothers and sisters, when spring comes current police numbers are completely inadequate to take care of business.”

“Exactly! Then it’s our time.”

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