Thursday, August 23, 2018

Terrorism in Chechnya has Changed; but Officials Respond as If It Hadn’t, Milashina Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 22 – Terrorist actions in Chechnya have changed in recent months, with ever more the work of individuals rather than groups and perpetrators increasingly youthful, according to Elena Milashina. But officials are responding with the same blunt instruments they used earlier, thus opening the way for more such violence in the future.

            “Under the influence of events in the Middle East,” the Novaya gazeta director of special projects says, “the ideology and forms of terrorism in the entire world, including in the North Caucasus and Chechnya have changed significantly. [They] have evolved and modernized” (

            But “unfortunately,” those in Chechnya responsible for countering terrorism haven’t recognized what is taking place and therefore are not prepared to counter such actions in an effective way. Instead, the police, who are the ones primarily responsible for responding, are understaffed and spend most of their time trying to put on a show for their bosses.

            As a result, the special rapid reaction units that are supposed to deal with any terrorist challenge seldom arrive at the site of a terrorist action in a timely fashion, leading other officials to engage in a blame game among themselves and the arrest of the relatives of terrorists “often after the fact.”

            “The new form of terrorism which relies on individual and unpredictable attacks using means at hand,” Milashina says, “are in fact impossible to prevent without the help of families or the immediate entourage of a potential terrorist. But the relationship of the people and the police in this case” requires that each sees the other as an ally, something not now true.

            “To counter present-day terrorist threats,” the journalist continues, “requires not so much force [of the kind the Chechen authorities routinely rely] as brains,” the use of intelligence in order to gain the information that officials need if they are to have any chance of blocking more terrorist actions.

            According to Milashina, “’the brain center’ for countering terrorism in Chechnya is not the interior ministry but the republic branch of the FSB.” But all too often it simply provides support for the police in their use of massive force, something that has the effect of limiting the collection of necessary intelligence.

            In sum, the journalist says, “the Chechen siloviki headed by Kadyrov have reacted to what has occurred with old methods: they fight against a ‘specific’ threat with mass detentions,” introducing counter-terrorist regimes in whole regions and arresting “an enormous number of residents of Chechnya, including young people.”

            Instead of countering terrorism, these actions only further anger the population and the holding cells become incubators of radicalism rather than a source of actionable intelligence, Milashina suggests, especially given the brutal way in which the Chechen police and FSB treat those they have arrested. “At a minimum 27 people were killed” after the latest terrorist acts.

            But neither the police nor the FSB have gained any “’live’ information” about how ISIS recruits in Chechnya, how terrorist actions are planned, or any other data that could help.  And “judging from these criminal affairs, neither the FSB of Chechnya nor the republic interior ministry has any idea about the new threat and does not understand how to struggle with it.”

            “Work with detainees after the December attack in Grozny,” Milashina says, “reminds one of a lottery,” with some getting “a plus” and others “a minus.”  But it didn’t stop anything. Indeed, it made the situation worse. One of the young people arrested then has now carried out a terrorist action.

            Why and how could this happen? Milashina asks rhetorically. “Unfortunately, we will never know the answer because those who struggle with terrorism in Russia have no desire to understand or even a desire to prevent” such things from being repeated again and again.

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