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Finnish report
by Euro Reporter
2016-05-27 09:14:25
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Founder of Finland’s anti-migrant ‘Soldiers of Odin’ convicted of aggravated assault

finland_400_01One of the founders of far-right anti-refugee Finnish group the 'Soldiers of Odin' has been slapped with a suspended sentence of 18 months, a fine and community service for an assault on a man and a woman resulting in a broken jaw. The group, named for the Norse god of war and death, roams the streets of their native Finland and neighbouring states, claiming to protect locals from immigrant attacks. It was founded last year in the northern Finnish town of Kemi. The group says its actions are in response to local police struggling with the sheer number of crimes since the migrant influx last year. The group accuses “Islamist intruders” of increasing crime and distributes placards reading, “Migrants not welcome.”

The accused is Mika Ranta, 29, who has been sentenced for aggravated assault on a man that also resulted in violence against a woman who tried to stop it from happening. Both of the victims were Finnish citizens. Ranta got 18 months suspended sentence for assault and aggravated assault, and is also facing 50 hours of community service and a compensation payment of 7,000 euros to the male victim, who had his jaw broken in the attack.

Ranta refused to talk to the press. The group claims on Facebook that it has chapters in at least 10 countries, including the United Kingdom, France and the United States. Fears have spiked over the recent activity of the Soldiers of Odin, which has far-right leanings and neo-Nazi supporters, and the emergence of other similar movements in the country in the wake of last year’s arrival of some 250,000 asylum seekers to the Scandinavian and Baltic region. The authorities fear that citizens could be persuaded into carrying out vigilante attacks.


Still not Finn-ished: Cold-War over, spying against Finland continues

Despite the Cold War being long over, Finland claims to remain an appealing target for international espionage as the confrontation between East and West has mounted. Some of the country's political forces have exploited this phenomenon in preparations for joining NATO. Earlier this week, Interior Minister Petteri Orpo of the National Coalition Party acknowledged that the level of foreign intelligence operations in Finland was equitable to that of the Cold War era, whereas Security Police Senior Inspector Tuomas Portaankorva admitted that foreign intelligence activity has become "more aggressive." According to numerous experts, the reason for increased spying is the tightening confrontation between the East and the West.

It is about the general atmosphere abroad. As international contacts dwindle, and the use of diplomatic channels is reduced, as a result of which competition confrontation between the West and the East ensues. Then lesser countries get to play a bigger role as all the major powers are interested in, for instance, Finland's policy, that is which bloc to which we would like to belong to or who we are cooperating with," researcher Hanna Smith of the Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki told the newspaper Ilta-Sanomat. "Comparisons with the Cold War have been made due to the fact that the tensions have risen again between superpowers. In this situation, all parties become interested in information obtained through informal networks as official channels are not necessarily trusted," Smith said. The Aleksanteri Institute functions as a national centre of research, study and expertise pertaining to Russia and Eastern Europe. Unsurprisingly, one of the institute's recent works is aptly titled "Russia and Hybrid Warfare."

As said by Smith, joint decisions taken by Sweden and Finland are of major interest to other superpowers besides Russia, yet she still pointed out Moscow as a major contestant. According to Smith, Russia is particularly interested in three aspects of the neighbouring countries: defines capability, political unity, and popular views. "Russia is interested in how things are done on a practical level, as well as what one should be preparing to, should the bilateral tensions rise even more," she said. Foreign intelligence services are particularly interested in Finland's policy towards NATO and the EU, Senior Officer at Finland's Security Committee Juha-Antero Puistola said, citing Russia's desire to promote its interests through causing confusion by supporting forces that want to break up the unity of Europe. According to him, foreign powers above all seek information on Finland's stance on joining NATO, extending anti-Russian sanctions, pursuing a policy in the Arctic and updating its armed forces. Of late, Finns has been increasingly pressurized for continuing their non-committal relationship with NATO to completion, with numerous politicians pumping up the fictitious Russian "threat" as a pretext for joining the North Atlantic Treaty.


Microsoft retreats in smartphone battle, 1,850 jobs to go

Microsoft Corp announced more big cuts to its smartphone business on Wednesday, just two years after it bought handset maker Nokia in an ill-fated attempt to take on market leaders Apple and Samsung. The U.S. company said it would shed up to 1,850 jobs, most of them in Finland, and write down $950 million from the business. It did not say how many employees currently work on smartphones in the group as a whole. A Finnish union representative told Reuters the cuts would essentially put an end to Microsoft's development of new phones. "My understanding is that Windows 10 will go on as an operating system, but there will be no more phones made by Microsoft," said Kalle Kiili, a shop steward.

Microsoft said in a statement it would continue to develop the Windows 10 platform and support its Lumia smartphones, but gave no comment on whether it would develop new Windows phones. Microsoft bought Nokia's once-dominant handset business for about $7.2 billion in 2014, but failed to turn the business around and last year announced $7.5 billion of write-downs and 7,800 job cuts. Global market share of Windows smartphones fell below 1 percent in the first quarter of 2016, according to research firm Gartner. Earlier this month, Microsoft sold its entry-level feature phones business for $350 million. The company said on Wednesday it expected to cut all 1,350 jobs at its Finnish mobile phone unit and close down a research and development site in the country. A further 500 jobs will go in other countries, it said, without giving details. "We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation," said chief executive Satya Nadella in a statement. "We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms."

Nokia dominated around 40 percent of the world's mobile phone industry in 2008 before it was eclipsed by the rise of touch-screen smartphones. As a result, Nokia and Microsoft have slashed thousands of Finnish jobs over the past decade, and the lack of substitute jobs is the main reason for the country's current economic stagnation. "We have a very difficult situation at hand... We must quickly secure that new jobs can be found and created," Economy Minister Olli Rehn told a news conference.

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