Posted on Apr 06, 2020
The U.S. State Department has designated ultranationalist Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), held responsible for 2016 Gothenburg, as a terrorist organisation, in the first such move against a white supremacist group.
“These designations are unprecedented,” Nathan Sales, Coordinator for U.S. Counter Terrorism, said in a statement.
“RIM is still very much in the business of providing training to like-minded Neo-Nazis and white supremacists across Europe. We know that they have recruited individuals from other countries in Europe and continue to do so,” he said in a teleconference with journalists.
The movement’s members portray themselves as Russian Orthodox nationalists are based in St. Petersburg and are believed to be responsible for training neo-Nazi militants.
Russian Imperial Movement, Sales said, had “innocent blood on its hands” and cited a series of attacks from late 2016 which targeted immigrants in the Swedish city of Gothenburg and were carried out by two members of RIM who Sales said had received 11 days of paramilitary-style training in Russia.
Swedish authorities arrested, tried and convicted the attackers, Sales said. “The prosecutor who handled their case blamed RIM for radicalising them and providing the training that enabled the attacks".
It is known that as early as September 2015, representatives of RIM were in Sweden meeting with far-right groups. According to Anton Shekhovtsov, author of Russia and the Western Far Right (2017), RIM leader Stanislav Vorobyov (pictured left) warned about "a full-scale war against the traditional values of Western civilisation" and explained that the uniform in which he showed up at the meeting was a symbol of their fight against "the Jewish oligarchs in Ukraine" on the side of pro-Russian extremists in Eastern Ukraine.
Sales declined to say whether or not Monday’s designation was communicated to the Russian government ahead of time, nor did he say whether or not Washington believes the Russian government is linked to the group, however he stated “We encourage the Russian federation to live up to the commitments it has made to countering terrorism".
The far-right in Russia, which emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was in its infancy instinctively "anti-establishment", and certainly hostile towards then president Boris Yeltsin. However, it is now firmly loyal to Vladimir Putin.
Sales further stated that the State Department was aware of reports that RIM was among the forces that fought in Ukraine on behalf of pro-Russian separatists, but did not elaborate further apart from repeating the U.S. stance that Washington has supported Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The State Department is also specifically blacklisting three people - Stanislav Anatolyevich Vorobyev, Denis Valliullovich Gariev and Denis Valliullovich Gariev - deemed as leaders of the group.
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