In a first, U.S. slaps sanctions on Russian white supremacists

Clay Curtis
April 6, 2020

The Russian Imperial Movement, which campaigns for the restoration of an ethnic Russian empire ruled by an orthodox Christian absolute monarchy, was added to the State Department's list of designated foreign terrorist organisations on Monday.

The designation will allow the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to seize assets belonging to the organization in the U.S. and prohibit Americans from financial dealings with the group.

Sales, in a phone call with reporters on Monday, said he has seen public reports of outreach by the group to Americans but did not have evidence that it has trained any Americans or enjoyed the support of the Russian government.

Stanislav Anatolyevich Vorobyev, Denis Valliullovich Gariev and Nikolay Nikolayevich Trushchalov are the three individuals that the administration is designating as terrorists along with the RIM group.

Rose and others have noted that, until now, the designation and its attendant sanctions have been overwhelmingly used for Islamist groups.

Sales said that combating the threat of white supremacist terror "is a top priority for this administration" and said they are "taking decisive actions" to do so.

Russian Imperial Movement, Sales said, had "innocent blood on its hands" and cited a series of attacks from late 2016 in the Swedish city of Gothenburg carried out by two members of RIM who Sales said had received paramilitary-style training in Russia.

The move against the Russian Imperial Movement is the first time a white supremacist group has been named a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" group and comes amid doubts the administration believes extremist organizations of that type merit such sanctions.

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The group is not believed to be state-sponsored but Russian President Vladimir Putin has "tolerated" its activities, the New York Times reports.

The group has also been linked to Western far-right extremists.

Now, however, the USA is considering similar or even greater dangers sponsored or instigated from overseas, which could be a destabilising force not just in the United States but among its allies, as well. Far-right extremism appears to have inspired the 2019 Christchurch shooting at a mosque in New Zealand and attacks in Scandinavia.

Swedish authorities arrested, tried and convicted the attackers, Sales said.

As is often the case these past few years, the test will now be whether the president echoes the concerns of his administration officials - or contradicts them. President Trump has been accused by Democrats of not taking a strong enough stance against domestic white supremacists, though he has repeatedly denounced them.

In 2017 he declared there were "good people on both sides" of a neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Va., that left one counter-protester dead.

This past summer, the U.S. faced a wave of mass violence and attempted attacks, many of them targeting specific minority groups.

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