How Russian Nationalists Raise Extremists in the USA
Matthew Heimbach, a 29-year-old US citizen, recently released a video message on YouTube calling for “starting the process of de-radicalization, showing understanding and sympathy” for various countries and ethnic groups. He surprised a lot of his former colleagues in the camp of supporters of the superiority of the white race in the United States, one of the leaders of which Heimbach has been for the past eight years. Writes about it "Voice of America".
“The face of a new generation of white nationalists”
Heimbach, who consistently created ultra-right racist organizations - the "Traditionalist Youth Network" and the "Traditionalist Workers' Party" - in the middle of 2010 sought and found contacts with Russian supporters of the supremacy of the white race, especially communicating closely with the "Russian Imperial Movement" - an organization that at the beginning April came under the sanction of the US government.
It was Matthew Heimbach, whom various organizations fighting the ideology of hatred in the United States called the “face of a new generation of white nationalists,” who hosted the representative of the Russian Imperial Movement Stanislav Shevchuk when he visited the United States in 2017.
About that trip of Shevchuk, who is engaged in international contacts at RID and now working in Spain, the RID members themselves wrote in detail on the Russian social network VKontakte, publishing numerous photos of their emissary together with Matthew Heimbach, at that time the head of the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Workers Party - including posing with flags in front of the White House in Washington. At the same time, on the RID’s page on VKontakte, it was said that this trip was not the first, but there is no evidence that someone from the RID traveled to the United States up to this point.
Stanislav Shevchuk, as follows from the report about him moving around the States, traveled to several cities and posed at the monuments associated with the Confederation of Southern States. Prior to that, Shevchuk participated in other attempts of the “Russian Imperial Movement” to create an international coalition of ultra-nationalists - in particular, he participated in a meeting of the leaders of the RID with the leader of the nationalist Spanish “Phalanx” Manuel Andrino Lobo in 2015 and contributed a lot to maintaining these ties: at the end 2019, at the international congress of nationalist forces in Madrid, Shevchuk already sat on the podium as a representative of the “Russian Imperial Movement” and made a speech.
Casey Michelle: «Putin is a success among white nationalists in the USA»
The publications of the Russian Imperial Movement about his emissary’s trip to the United States, which are still available on VKontakte, were carefully studied by New York journalist and researcher Casey Michel, who is engaged in American far-right and international relations, back in 2017. In an interview, he says that the arrival of the Russian ultra-right in the United States and their contacts with those about whom the American media wrote a lot was significant news.
“Matthew Heimbach gained fame in 2015-2017 as a very active supporter of US President Donald Trump and at the same time as a significant figure among the ultra-right. He was clearly pleased with his contacts with Russian like-minded people. He even converted to Orthodoxy and named his son Nicholas - as some say, in honor of the Russian Tsar Nicholas II. He was also a big fan of Vladimir Putin, and this was announced quite publicly - I wrote a separate article about it, ”says Michel.
“Among the young generation of white nationalists, which appeared in 2015-2016 and gained great fame in the media, it was generally quite characteristic to speak well of Putin. They even took the side of Russia in disputes over who owns Crimea, and supported what Russia was doing in the Donbass. The network is still quite a lot of photos of Heimbach under the so-called flag of New Russia. In the past couple of years, their sympathy for Russia and Putin has gone somewhere, apparently the mood has changed, but it's hard to say for sure, ”says Casey Michel.
At the same time, there is evidence that contacts between the Russian Imperial Movement and Matthew Heimbach were established even earlier - in any case, the Heimbach Traditionalist Youth Network received an invitation to the World Conservative Movement, which the RID was trying to organize with the Rodina party and the Russian National Cultural Center.
The "Traditionalist Workers' Party" was one of the forces that participated in organizing the white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville in August 2017. During those events, one died and several dozen people were injured, and Matthew Heimbach, along with other ultra-right activists, sued: according to the documents of the judicial investigation, he equipped the members of his organization with shields and helmets, instructed them on how to behave, and later called the Charlottesville rally "a very impressive performance," during which "all of the goals were achieved."
As the trial approaches, in which Heimbach will be one of the defendants (the date of the trial by jury in the Federal District Court of the Western District of Virginia is set for October 2020), the former leader of the Traditionalist Workers' Party shows a complete change of orientation, and his former associates, Commenting on this in social networks, they suggest that this is done to mitigate the possible punishment.
Anton Shekhovtsov: “The Russian Imperial Movement did everything in public - the Kremlin did not interfere”
The Russian Imperial Movement as an organization and its three leaders - Stanislav Vorobyov, Denis Gariev and Nikolai Trushchalov - were included in the Specially Designated Global Terrorist's List, and as the US Department of State’s counterterrorism coordinator said at a April 9 briefing terrorism, Nathan Sales, an unprecedented measure: “For the first time in its history, the United States includes white supremacists in its list of terrorists, which shows how seriously this administration takes this threat. To counter this threat, we are taking actions that no previous US Presidential Administration has taken. ”
Answering journalists' questions about what the US Department of State knows about the arrival of the RID representative in the United States in 2017, Nathan Sales said: “We are aware of photographs in which some RID representatives are captured in the United States, we are also aware of publications in which it was said that this movement tried to contact the Americans in attempts to recruit them so that they would come to RID training camps in St. Petersburg. We will not talk about how reliable these messages were, but more broadly we can say the following: any groups whose leaders or members came to the United States, groups that tried to attract Americans for their dark purposes, are a matter of great concern to us . Therefore, we decided to give this group the status of terrorists, in order to prevent their possible trips here and to raise money. ”
According to the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, the main motive for declaring the RID to be terrorists was that they trained the militants, who then carried out the attacks: “This group has the blood of innocent people on their hands. In August 2016, two Swedish citizens arrived in St. Petersburg and completed an 11-day paramilitary training course conducted by the Russian Imperial Movement. A few months later, these individuals and another person committed a series of terrorist attacks in Gothenburg, Sweden. In November 2016, they detonated a bomb near a cafe. Two months later, they staged an explosion in the center for migrants, while seriously injuring one person. Three weeks later, they planted another bomb at the campsite, which they used to house refugees. Fortunately, this device did not explode. "
Anton Shekhovtsov, a senior researcher at the Free Russia Foundation, an expert on extremist organizations, says the Partizan military training camp was a pretty famous place, and its organizers fought on the side of the separatist forces in Donbass, and this was known to the Russian authorities: “They participated in fairly open militarized activities - in the Leningrad region conducted a camp "Partisan", where they trained Swedish neo-Nazis. They also participated in the conflict in eastern Ukraine - they created the Imperial Legion, a volunteer formation that fought on the side of the separatists, and they recruited people there through their website and social networks. ”
The Russian Ministry of Justice included the site of the Russian Imperial Movement in the list of extremist Internet resources back in 2012. But Anton Shekhovtsov notes that the Russian authorities turned a blind eye to the direct participation of the RID on the side of the separatists in Ukraine, since these ultra-right actions were beneficial to them: “The Kremlin, of course, knew what the“ Russian Imperial Movement ”was doing - it never hid it , all the recruitment of volunteers was completely open. The Kremlin, since RID’s actions were beneficial to him in its aggression against Ukraine, simply did not interfere with what was happening. ”
The fact that the activity of the “Russian Imperial Movement” was not alien to the Russian authorities was clear, according to the expert, back in 2015: “They were ordinary fascist nationalists, and did not stand out much, organizations of the same kind were much more powerful -“ The Movement Against illegal immigration ”or“ Slavic Union ”. They attracted my attention in 2015 for several reasons: RID was a co-organizer of the fascist conference in St. Petersburg in 2015 together with the Rodina party, and the most extremist groups from all over Europe were invited there, and in the same year they set out to create The World National Conservative Movement is a sort of right-wing radical. ”
“The RID declares itself to be an opposition to the Putin regime, but at the same time it is connected with the authorities - not directly, but through the St. Petersburg branch of the Rodina party. And it never crossed any “red lines” in its potential opposition to the Kremlin. The Kremlin does not oversee them, but they are extremely useful to him. There is still a State Duma deputy Alexei Zhuravlev, who is the leader of the Rodina party. - I think it is a "roof" for both the RID and for this St. Petersburg branch of the "Homeland". Already after the Justice Ministry declared the RID website extremist, they in St. Petersburg collaborated with the municipal authorities and patrolled like combatants, ”says Anton Shekhovtsov.
State Duma deputy Aleksey Zhuravlev is known for his direct support for militants in the Donbass - last November he came to the separatist regions of eastern Ukraine and met with the leadership of the so-called LPR.
Meanwhile, the Russian official structures did not react in any way to the announcement by the US Department of State of the "Russian Imperial Movement" and its leaders as "global terrorists." The RID page on VKontakte continues to function, and Stanislav Vorobyov and Denis Gariev in a video published on this page discussed the measures of the US Department of State and stated that this decision "became a good advertisement for them." The movement intends to continue to accept new members, and announced that in Russia it "continues to work in the legal and legal field."
As ForumDaily wrote earlier:
- Authorities The United States recognized the organization Russian Imperial Movement (RID) created in Russia as terrorist. The reason for ranking RID as terrorist groups was the contact of nationalists with extremists from Sweden. In 2017, three Swedes were convicted of preparing a terrorist attack against refugees. Two of them allegedly went to St. Petersburg, where they were trained in a special camp organized by the RID: it is assumed that they spent 11 days there and received some fighting skills.
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