The Trump administration reportedly plans to designate the far-right Russian Imperial Movement as a terrorist organization, the first time the designation has been applied to a white supremacist group.
The designation will allow the 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.
Officials said the U.S. will also designate three of the organization’s leaders, Stanislav Anatolyevich Vorobyev, Denis Valliullovich Gariev and Nikolay Nikolayevich Trushchalov, as terrorists, making them subject to similar sanctions at a personal level.
The group, an ultranationalist Russian organization, has aided in the recruitment of soldiers to back up pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, and in 2017, Swedish prosecutors said three men accused of plotting bomb attacks against asylum-seekers were trained by members of the organization in St. Petersburg.
“These designations are unprecedented,” Ambassador Nathan A. Sales, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, told The New York Times. “This is the first time the United States has ever designated white supremacists as terrorists, and this illustrates how seriously this administration takes the white supremacist terrorist threat. We are doing things no previous administration has done to counter this threat.”
The move comes amid pressure on the administration to apply the designation to white supremacist groups.
Rep. Max RoseMax RoseMax Rose preparing for rematch with Nicole Malliotakis: report 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Overnight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage MORE (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, last year led a letter to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoChristie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group America needs a new strategy for Pacific Island Countries Harris to hold fundraiser for McAuliffe ahead of Virginia governor's race MORE asking why groups such as Ukraine's Azov Battalion and Finland's Nordic Resistance Movement were not designated foreign terrorist organizations.
Rose and others have noted that, until now, the designation and its attendant sanctions have been overwhelmingly used for Islamist groups.
Mary McCord, a former head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, called the expansion “important.”
“Far-right extremist causes, in particular white supremacy and white nationalism, have become more international,” she told the Times. “It is appropriate for the State Department to have been scrutinizing whether there are organizations that meet the criteria for that designation because with it, the organization becomes poison in terms of doing business with it or providing funds, goods or services to it.”