The Kremlin uses the Syrian campaign to reduce terrorist threat in Russia
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Having intention to reduce tensions in the Caucasus and other Muslim highly concentrated regions of Russia, the Russian security services facilitated radical Russian citizens’ departure for areas of terrorist activity.
Russia’s involvement in the military campaign in Syria gave Moscow green light to bring to Syria a significant number of people intending to join terrorist groups in Russia, in particular, in the Caucasus. Thus, they were extracted and eliminated outside the Russian Federation.
The implementation of such a scheme to fight zealots within Russia explains the Kremlin’s anti-terrorism activity.From fight against terrorism standpoint, the Syrian campaign is aimed at eliminating the terrorist threat in Russia itself, especially in the Caucasus, the district from where potential members of such groups are extracted from the country.
Reportedly, the authorities of detention facilities encourage the recruitment of the people convicted of serious crimes into the ranks of ISIS.Thus, on the basis of data analysis, it can be argued that Russian security agencies directly encourage and facilitate the departure of radical Islamists abroad. For example, Sharapudinov, 38, told Reuters that in December 2012 Russian intelligence officers presented him with an unexpected offer. If he agreed to leave Russia, the authorities would not arrest him. In fact, they would facilitate his departure. ‘They said: ‘We want you to leave’. Sharapudinov agreed to go. A few months later, he was given a new passport in a new name, and a one-way plane ticket to Istanbul. Shortly after arriving in Turkey, he crossed into Syria and joined an Islamist group Sabri Jamaat that would later pledge allegiance to radical Sunni group Islamic State. Reuters has identified five other Russian radicals who, relatives and local officials say, also left Russia with direct or indirect help from the authoritiesand ended up in Syria1.” Magomed Abdurashidov, Anti-terrorist Commission of Makhachkala, said.
The investigation by ‘Novaya Gazeta’ journalist, Elena Milashina, of the village of Novosasitili in Dagestan’s Khasavyurt district, where, since 2011, nearly one-percent of the 2,500 residents have gone to Syria for jihad. “Milashina has concluded that the ‘Russian special services have controlled’ the flow of jihadists into Syria’. ‘The FSB established a ‘green corridor’ to allow [the Caucasian zealots] to migrate first to Turkey, and then to Syria’.
Rather than eliminating Salafi-jihadists, Russia is pushing them to emigrate, with both carrot and stick, offering to help zealots to serve their holy cause—just not in Russia— and accompanying it with a systematic campaign of harassment for those who try to do jihad locally.
Milashina spoke to the “negotiator” who came to Novosasitili and he told “herof his role as an intermediary between the FSB and local militants in arranging the latter’s departure to the Levant.” In 2012, the “negotiator” helped move the “emir of the northern sector” from Dagestan to Turkey and thence to Syria. ‘The FSB gave the emir a passport and acted as his travel agent. The condition was that he’d deal exclusively with the FSB and not inform any of his confederates of his true sponsor’. This one ‘negotiator’ sent at least five other men to Syria under thesame arrangement.
Prior to the Sochi Olympicsin February 2014, there are many accusations this was accompanied by Russia opening the borders and encouraging the Islamist militants to go abroad. A member of the security forces in the North Caucasus bluntly told the International Crisis Group: “Of course, we did.
We … helped them all out and closed the border behind them by criminalizing this type of fighting. If they want to return now, we are waiting for them at the borders. Everyone’s happy: they are dying on the path of Allah, and we have no terrorist acts here and are now bombing them in Latakia and Idlib.”
Official statements indicate that some elements among believers in mosques and suspected of supporting jihad were arrested at the Russia’s Council’s of Muftis prompting. But accordingto official data (September, 2015) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 1,800 Russian citizens were fighting on the side of ISIS forces.
The above described Russia’s strategy to extract radical Muslims outside the country requires of the FSB’s performing intense activity to stimulate radicalism in religious communities. Only constant work to identify the mood, views and readiness of individuals to participate in jihad makes it possible to achieve maximum coverage and keep eyes on the potential terrorist threat.
At that time,such work requires of the FSB’s provocations and incitement.It is impossible to quantify people the security services urged to join the terrorist organizations, that is, to become a decisive factor in making decisions (breaking the law).The existence of a strategy to extract radical Muslims for further participation in the terrorist organizations is confirmed by the actual cessation of major terrorist attacks in Russia itself. This very fact cannot be explained by the FSB’s effective anti-terrorism activity, since at the same time, within the Syrian campaign period, Russia has increased the number of people extracted to participate in terrorist activity in Islamic states. Thus, against the background of the actual increase of the number of radical Muslims, terrorist activity in Russia has declined and, thereby, proves the existence of a purposefully-created mechanism to ‘eliminate’ terrorist threat in Russia.