Nathan Sales, the department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, announced Monday the designation of the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) and three of its leaders: Stanislav Anatolyevich Vorobyev, Denis Valliullovich Gariev, and Nikolay Nikolayevich Trushchalov.
Sales described RIM as “a terrorist group that provides paramilitary-style training to neo-Nazis and white supremacists.”
“And it plays a prominent role in trying to rally like-minded Europeans and Americans into a common front against their perceived enemies,” he said.
“This is the first time the United States has ever designated white supremacist terrorists, illustrating how seriously this administration takes the threat,” Sales said.
Monday’s designation comes as officials have warned that the threat from white supremacist terror is on the rise at home and abroad and deadly attacks have claimed dozens of lives and wrought fear in communities around the globe.
Although the State Department doesn’t “have the authority to designate groups with a substantial connection to the United States,” Sales noted that the designation was meant to prevent the spread of RIM’s dangerous tactics to America.
“We see what RIM-trained terrorists can do in Europe and we want to make sure that RIM is not able — or any terrorist group is not able — to accomplish something similar here in the United States. That is to say, providing training that could enable violent attacks and deadly attacks here in the homeland,” Sales said. “That is why we are designating RIM today, because it enables us to better protect our borders to keep these terrorists out of our country and to deny them resources they might use to plan additional training that could harm our interests.”
Last year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order which gave the US government greater latitude to go after groups who train terrorists, not only groups that carry out terrorist attacks. Monday’s designation will deny RIM members from accessing the US financial system, with the intention of making it more challenging for them to move money through the international system and fund their efforts.
According to Sales, RIM was responsible for training two Swedish men in 2016 who carried out a series of bombings in Gothenburg, Sweden. He not detail more recent attacks associated with the group — which currently has two training facilities in St. Petersburg — but said they are still actively training and recruiting.
“RIM is still very much in the business of providing training to like-minded neo-Nazis and white supremacists across Europe,” Sales said. “We know that they have recruited individuals from other countries in Europe and continue to do so.”
He said the department was aware of reports that the white supremacist group had made outreach to Americans, and that RIM fighters fought in Ukraine among pro-separatist forces. The counterterrorism coordinator would not speak about potential connections between the Russian government and RIM, saying only that, “we encourage the Russian Federation, to live up to the commitments that it has made to countering terrorism.”
“We have identified this group as a terrorist organization and we encourage all partners around the world, including the Russian government to take that threat as seriously as we take it,” Sales said.
Sales did not preview any additional white supremacist groups that could be designated as terrorists using this same new justification but indicated that additional designations are possible.
Sales said that the US government is “always on the lookout” for other groups that meet the designation requirements and pose a threat to Americans.