| by Taylor Chin

two photos scrapped together, one of the RIM flag and the other of militia holding the flag while posing for a photo

The white supremacist Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) and its leaders Stanislav Vorobyev and Denis Gariev pose an underestimated threat to the United States that may soon call for greater proactive vigilance, such as designating the group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). RIM’s growing threat is evidenced by the group’s two-decade survival, incriminating activity on social media, and uncompromising ideological principles.

Originally designated an SDGT for providing training to terrorists from the Nordic Resistance Movement, RIM claims on social media that it has quadrupled program attendance since joining the war in Ukraine. It has also bolstered its presence on multiple social media platforms (including US-based platforms on which it is banned) to forge alliances with like-minded organizations and post propaganda and free paramilitary training tutorials — evidence that it provides terrorist training not only in person, but also online.

This report argues that RIM has used social media, particularly YouTube, to build a more global network that focuses on militant accelerationism, making it a growing threat to the US and western allies. By analyzing RIM’s actions, propaganda, media, and militant presence in Ukraine, this report presents new research findings to the counterterrorism academic community and argues why RIM should be designated an FTO.

Regardless of the geopolitical landscape in Russia and Ukraine, it is highly improbable that RIM will waver from its accelerationist goals or ideology, which may target US nationals abroad in the short term, or even US citizens at home in the long term. Designating RIM as an FTO will grant the United States greater range to investigate activity associated with this group, as well as the ability to criminally prosecute accelerationist actors within the US who provide material support and resources to the group’s activities. RIM has demonstrated, especially in the past year, that it not only meets all three criteria of an FTO designation, but also that such a designation would avail new opportunities to the US and its western allies to address domestic accelerationist actors and tech companies regarding better, updated violent extremist content policies.

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To cite this paper: 

Chin, Taylor. “The Justification for Designating the Russian Imperial Movement as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.” Center on Terrorism, Extremism and Counterterrorism, Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Occasional paper. June 2024.

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Taylor Chin is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC). Her research interests include militant accelerationism, extremism in Eastern Europe, terrorist and extremist social media activity, and financial crime. She holds a Master’s degree in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies with a specialization in Russian language and Financial Crime Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University.

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