- On April 6, 2020, the U.S. State Department announced the designation of the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) and three of its senior leaders pursuant to Executive Order 13224.
- RIM’s designation, a precedential action taken by the U.S. Department of State, represents the first white supremacist group to be placed on the U.S. terrorist list.
- The consequences of the action include significant financial restrictions on the group, criminal penalties for those who consider doing business with it and expanding Treasury’s authorities to go after other RIM-associated actors.
- RIM maintains an active social media presence that will likely now be curbed following the State Department’s determination.
On April 6, 2020, the U.S. State Department designated the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity pursuant to Executive Order 13224. At the same time, also pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, the State Department designated three of the group’s leaders, Stanislav Anataolyevich Vorobyev, Denis Valliullovich Gariev, and Nikolay Nikolayevich Trushchalov. The State Department designation is unique in that RIM, and its leadership, are the first white supremacist group and individuals to be sanctioned pursuant to U.S. law, joining hundreds of groups and individuals, the vast majority of which are Salafi-jihadist groups. While RIM was not added to the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list, today’s set of designations provide critical leverage to other U.S. agencies as they try to counter the white supremacist movement. The United States is also the first country to sanction RIM. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, have sanctioned white supremacist groups before, but to date, neither have targeted RIM for designation. The Soufan Center has provided a thorough analysis of the group in its September 2019 report on white supremacist extremists (WSE) groups and their transnational links, as well as the need for WSE groups like RIM to be designated as terrorist organizations.
The E.O. 13224 RIM designations mean that U.S. financial institutions must block (and freeze as appropriate) any transactions associated with the group and individuals. The State Department’s listing of RIM is communicated to the banking sector on behalf of the State Department by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. As a result, RIM is now listed on the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s (a part of Treasury) Specially Designated National list. Second, in addition to the financial impact associated with the asset freeze, the State Department’s E.O. 13224 listings may result in criminal penalties for anyone who seeks to carry out business with RIM, Vorobyev, Gariev, and/or Trushchalov. Third, the State Department’s E.O. 13224 designation provides the Treasury Department derivative authorities to pursue new E.O. 13224 designations of other RIM members and those who act on behalf of the group.
From an ideological standpoint, RIM is a nationalist group that believes in the notion of a Russian autocratic monarchy that harkens to the days of imperial rule under monarchists like Nikolai II. The group’s membership is rigid and adheres to the dualistic beliefs that members should be part of the Russian Orthodox Church and conform to the group’s view of the necessity of creating a Russian Imperial state. The group’s vitriol is aimed at Jews and Ukrainian nationalists. Gariev, the militant leader of RIM, was quoted as saying that, ‘We [RIM] see Ukrainian-ness as rabies…either quarantine or liquidation, or he’ll infect everyone.’ RIM also views the West, as represented by the United States and Europe, as enemies that are attempting to weaken, kill, or otherwise undermine Russian nationalism and Russian influence throughout the world.
As of April 6, RIM maintains a very active social media presence with a YouTube Channel and Facebook page to spread its ideology. In its online propaganda videos, the group highlights its paramilitary training regiment, with connections to St. Petersburg, and which includes the use of various firearms. RIM’s online narrative circulates in both English and Russian languages and is used as a mechanism to define its enemies, propagate its ideology, and recruit new members. With yesterday’s State Department designations, it is now likely that the group will quickly lose access to its YouTube Channel and Facebook page, as it is inevitable that social media companies will now take enforcement action against RIM. The State Department designation provides these companies with important legal tools in removing content associated with RIM. The designation may also put pressure on other countries, like the Russian Federation, to counter RIM’s activities. Finally, the designation is an essential step in the U.S. government’s ramping up of countering white supremacy terrorism – a plague that has inflicted great harm both in the United States and overseas.