Washington, DC – In an unprecedented move, the Trump administration designated a white supremacist group a terrorist organization and levied sanctions against three of its leaders.
“Today, the State Department is designating the Russian Imperial Movement – also known as RIM – as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, or SDGT. We’re also designating three of RIM’s leaders as SDGTs – Stanislav Anatolyevich Vorobyev, Denis Valliullovich Gariyev, and Nikolay Nikolayevich Trushchalov,” U.S. Department of State Counterterrorism Coordinator Nathan Sales announced at an April 6 press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Sales said the move illustrated how seriously President Donald Trump’s administration took the threat from white supremacist groups.
“These designations are unprecedented,” he said. “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.”
The designation placed a travel ban on Vorobyev, Gariyev, and Trushchalov and froze any assets they held within U.S. borders.
“RIM is 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,” the counterterrorism expert explained. “RIM has two training facilities in St. Petersburg, which likely are being used for woodland and urban assault, tactical weapons, and hand-to-hand combat training.”
Sales said the group has been credited with the radicalization and training of two Swedish men who, after undergoing 11 days of RIM’s paramilitary training, went on to commit a series of terrorist attacks in the Swedish city of Gothenburg.
Going forward, the designation will make it easier for the state department to label terrorist groups.
“Thanks to this order, the state department can now designate groups and individuals that participate in training to commit acts of terrorism,” Sales explained. “We can also designate the leaders of terrorist groups, without needing to show that they were involved in particular attacks.”
“We’ve seen 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. … [Designating RIM] enables us to better protect our borders, to keep these terrorists out of our country and to deny them resources they may use to plan additional training that could harm our interests,” he said, according to ABC News.
Sales wouldn’t say what assets RIM had that the United States wanted to seize.
He also would not reveal whether President Trump’s administration had reached out to Vladimir Putin’s government ahead of the terrorist designation announcement, ABC News reported.