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April 6, 2020 1:56 pm

In Unprecedented Move, US State Department Designates Russian Neo-Nazi Group as ‘Terrorist Organization’

avatar by Ben Cohen

Swedish neo-Nazis Anton Thulin and Viktor Melin (back row, on left) are seen at a paramilitary training camp organized by the Russian Imperial Movement. Photo: Swedish Security Police.

The US State Department on Monday sanctioned a violent Russian neo-Nazi group as a terrorist organization — marking the first time that a white supremacist group has been designated in this manner.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales announced the move against the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) and its leaders at a virtual press briefing.

As well as forbidding American citizens from interacting with RIM and freezing any assets the group has in the US, the move also placed sanctions on three of the group’s leaders — Stanislav Anatolyevich Vorobyev, Denis Valliullovich Gariev and Nikolay Nikolayevich Trushchalov.

“These designations are unprecedented,” Sales told the briefing. “This is the first time the United States has ever designated white supremacist terrorists, illustrating how seriously this administration takes the threat. We are taking actions no previous administration has taken to counter this threat.”

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The RIM is alleged by US officials to provide paramilitary training to neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Russia and elsewhere from two camps it runs in St. Petersburg.

A September 2019 report on international white supremacist groups by an independent US national security think tank, The Soufan Center, categorized the RIM as “an ultranationalist, quasi-paramilitary organization that describes itself as monarchist and stridently Orthodox.”

“Concerned with fighting against globalization, multiculturalism, and liberalism, the RIM is part and parcel of the broader international White Supremacist Extremist (WSE) project,” the report observed. “To this end, the group has hosted paramilitary training camps and cultivated contacts with other WSE movements and individuals, such as convicted Swedish neo-Nazi bombers Viktor Melin and Anton Thulin, who attended a RIM-affiliated training camp. There are also indications of RIM involvement in the Donbass war [in Ukraine,] as well as potential linkages with American WSE groups.”

The group maintains a paramilitary unit calling itself the Imperial Legion, the report noted.

Monday’s State Department announcement was warmly welcomed by the chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism in the US Congress.

A spokesperson for Rep. Max Rose (D-NY) said that the congressman had “been the leading voice in calling for violent foreign white supremacists to be labeled as the terrorists that they are.”

In a statement last month, following initial reports that the State Department was considering a terrorism designation, Rose had pledged to carry on “leading the fight to treat violent white supremacist groups for what they are: foreign terrorist organizations.”

On Monday, however, Rose’s spokesperson cautioned that the State Department’s announcement was “only a first step.”

“The threats these groups pose are real, global in nature, and this designation gives our law enforcement the tools necessary to protect our homeland,” the spokesperson said.

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