Ukraine's secret service says it has arrested a network of neo-Nazi admirers of the Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant, who were publishing the gunman's so-called manifesto in a bid to stoke white nationalist terrorism.
The Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, said it had carried out two simultaneous raids on premises Wednesday in Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, where the group was printing illegal extremist literature. Guns, explosive devices, ammunition and Nazi paraphernalia were also seized during the raids.
In a statement, the SBU described the neo-Nazis as "followers" of Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist who shot dead 51 worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March last year. The statement described Tarrant, who pleaded guilty to the attack in March, as "a propagandist of ethnic and cultural genocide, who calls for acts of terrorism and mass killing".
The SBU said that to promote their ideology, the group had published extremist material using secret printworks in Kyiv and Kharkiv. The texts were then distributed at underground meetings and "theme parties", as well as on Telegram groups with thousands of members.
Photographs from the raids released by the SBU showed a Nazi flag hanging on a wall, a large pile of bound books, and what appeared to be an explosive device. The statement said that the network was led by a Russian, and that some of the extremist material had been sent from Russia. The SBU was continuing its investigation into allegations the group had incited terrorist attacks, it said.
A report by the investigative website Bellingcat in August revealed how Ukraine-based neo-Nazis were disseminating Ukrainian and Russian translations of Tarrant's document, including promoting the text on Telegram. Tarrant had posted the racist screed to the message board 8chan shortly before he launched his attacks, along with a link to a livestream of the killings.
In a Ukrainian-language Telegram group apparently associated with the neo-Nazi network, one poster responded to Wednesday's raids and blamed the Bellingcat report for helping to trigger the SBU probe, but vowed that the distribution of the manifesto would continue.
"After formatting and taking a few additional precautions, the books will continue to be sold," said the post, urging members of the group to attend court in support for the arrested men.
"Never retreat, fight and win," it continued. "Sieg Heil!"
Tarrant's act of mass murder was reportedly cited as an inspiration by a string of racist killers around the world, from an attack on a synagogue in California to a failed assault on a mosque in Norway. A livestreamed attack by a German neo-Nazi on a synagogue in Halle last year, which resulted in the killing of two people, was also an apparent attempt to emulate the Christchurch attacks.
Colin P. Clarke, senior research fellow at The Soufan Center, told VICE News that Ukraine raids highlighted how Tarrant had become an icon of the global white supremacist movement, like the Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik before him.
"These figures transcend their individual acts and have gone on to become martyrs for the movements they represent, helping to drive recruitment and radicalize new followers," he said.
The same dynamic held true for jihadist and incel terrorists, he said. "Being able to display a symbol or picture of an individual in order to convey what you and your group or movement stand for is invaluable."