The leader of a Russian nationalist group designated by the US as a global terrorist organisation has accused Donald Trump of pressing diplomats into making a "political decision" to win him votes at November's election.
Stanislav Vorobyev, a founder of the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), said last week's decision was "illogical and strange" and could only be explained as political opportunism.
"We think there are two main reasons. The first is Trump's election. He needs to show he is fighting someone. He has to fulfil that expectation, and it doesn't matter who.
"The second reason we think, a more global reason, is the general war against Christianity. They have opened the window to calling political Christian organisations terrorists, but down the road they could outlaw Christianity in its entirety," he added.
The US State Department declared the RIM and three of its leaders - Mr Vorobyev, Denis Gariev and Nikolay Trushchalov - global terrorists. US officials said it was part of a commitment to target "white supremacist extremists", adding the RIM had been targeted because of its links to bomb attacks by Swedish neo-Nazis in Gothenburg in 2016 and 2017.
Two of the men convicted of those attacks, Viktor Melin and Anton Thulin, spent 11 days in St Petersburg on paramilitary training with members of the RIM.
Founded in 2002 following a split in Russia's marginal monarchist community, the RIM was for most of its existence just one of myriad marginal right-wing groups that proliferated across Russia in the 1990s and 2000s.
Its aims, laid out on a website now blocked by the Russian government, are at first glance harmlessly eccentric: restore the Russian empire, its monarchy, and the central role in public life of Orthodox Christianity.
But its rhetoric is radical with strong racial nationalist overtones. In its manifesto, the group declares the Russian people are the largest ethnic group denied a land of their own - an idea not miles from "Russia for the Russians", the rallying cry of violent skinhead groups that proliferated after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Mr Vorobyev describes RIM as essentially a family-values political pressure group, mostly preoccupied with campaigning against abortion.
"Everything we do is strictly within the law," he insisted. "We are an organisation that doesn't have any relation to the propaganda of white supremacism." (© Daily Telegraph, London)