Russia Country Report on Terrorism - 2009
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism - Europe and Eurasia Overview - Released August 5, 2010
“Because this is a fight for hearts and minds against violent extremism and those ideologies that would pervert the true Islamic faith, we have both stepped up our work with our allies to expose the damage that this extreme and violent ideologies do and to support those working across all faiths to uphold the common ground of dignity tolerance and respect for all.” - Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, United Kingdom, Speech to the House of Commons, November 30, 2009
European countries continued to enhance their abilities to combat the threat from terrorism by strengthening counterterrorism legislation, improving multilateral cooperation, and prosecuting and jailing terrorist suspects. Several significant terrorist plots were foiled in 2009, as governments continued to focus both on foiling specific attacks and on understanding and countering the process of radicalization. Toward that end, European governments continued their efforts at outreach to domestic Muslim communities and made attempts to gain support from those communities to counter the appeal of violent extremist ideology. France trained police to recognize signs of incipient radicalization, Germany continued engagement through its German Islam Conference, the Netherlands Justice Ministry continued to focus on radicalization, and the United Kingdom continued to implement numerous counter-radicalization programs.
European nations worked in close partnership with the United States against a terrorist threat characterized by both external and, increasingly, internal components. The abortive attempt on December 25 to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight resulted in even greater cooperation between U.S. security agencies and European ones, especially those of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. More broadly, the contributions of European countries in sharing intelligence, arresting members of terrorist cells, and interdicting terrorist financing and logistics remained vital elements in the global effort to combat terrorism. The United States and European Union continued to cooperate closely on counterterrorism, although differences over standards for protection of data complicated efforts to agree on the sharing of bank data collected by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). In October 2009, the United States and EU exchanged instruments of ratification on the US-EU mutual legal assistance and extradition agreements.
European nations were active participants in a variety of multilateral organizations that contributed to counterterrorist efforts, including the G8, NATO, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Council of Europe’s FATF-style regional body, the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). (See Chapter 5, Terrorist Safe Havens (7120 Report) for further information on the G8, NATO, FATF, OSCE, and ICAO.)
Terrorist activity and the presence of terrorist support networks in Europe remained a source of serious concern. Judicial proceedings in countries across Europe resulted in the successful convictions of several terrorist suspects. For example, Spanish courts convicted all 11 suspects linked to an alleged plot in Barcelona, and in April, the trial began in Germany of the Sauerland Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) cell connected to plotting against U.S. bases. French authorities detained and prosecuted suspects tied to terrorist organizations ranging from Islamist groups to Corsican Nationalists to Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE), and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). However, efforts to combat the threat in Europe were sometimes slowed by legal protections that made it difficult to take firm judicial action against suspected terrorists, asylum laws that afforded loopholes, the absence of adequate legislation, or standards of evidence that limited the use of classified information in holding terrorist suspects. Terrorists also sought to take advantage of the ease of travel among Schengen countries. At times, some European states have not been able to prosecute successfully or hold some of the suspected terrorists brought before their courts – a product, in part, of insufficient measures to use intelligence information in judicial proceedings. The EU as a whole remained reluctant to take steps to block the assets of charities associated with HAMAS and Hizballah.
Cooperation with and among European law enforcement agencies remained vital for counterterrorism successes. U.S.- Danish cooperation helped foil an October plot to attack a Danish newspaper; Franco-Spanish cooperative efforts against ETA led to a series of arrests of senior ETA political and military leaders. European countries continued to maintain pressure on the PKK, which raised funds, often through illicit activity, to fund violence in Turkey.
No major terrorist attacks took place in Western Europe in 2009, although ETA bombings, the attempted December 25 airline attack, an abortive suicide bombing in Milan, and arrests in countries across the continent brought home the scope of the challenge facing European governments and security forces – as did the public statement by the head of Britain’s MI5 that some 2000 terrorism suspects are under constant surveillance in the UK. Greece bore the brunt of a reinvigoration of domestic terrorism, with many attacks claimed by radical leftist-anarchist terrorist groups. Swedes were arrested for suspicion of terrorism in the border area between the Northwest Frontier Province and the Punjab in Pakistan. Italy arrested suspects linked to a terrorist network broken up in 2008 in France and Belgium, and persons connected to the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India who were also implicated in plots against Denmark and Italy. The level of threat in Western Europe remained high, particularly in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Belgium. The lead-up to the September elections in Germany saw a drumbeat of threats from persons linked to the IJU and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, with German-speakers repeatedly warning that the country would be attacked if its Afghanistan policy did not change; fortunately, nothing came of the threats. Nonetheless, German authorities expressed concern over their estimate that roughly 185 individuals have undergone paramilitary training over the past ten years at Islamist extremist training centers located primarily in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Country Report: Russia
On November 27, an explosion derailed the Moscow to St. Petersburg express train. As investigators combed the site of the attack for clues the following day, a second explosion occurred injuring the chief of the Investigative Committee. Chechen separatists were the primary suspects in these incidents, which killed 26 and wounded 90. It was the deadliest such incident in Russia outside the North Caucasus since 2004.
Attacks continued in the North Caucasus, where ongoing regional violence has been most significant in Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ingushetia. According to the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies, there were 16 suicide bombings in Chechnya alone in 2009, compared to four in 2008. According to President Medevdev’s Political Representative for the Southern Federal District, almost 800 terrorist acts occurred in the North Caucasus in 2009, an increase of 30 percent compared to 2008. However, many attacks were often difficult to differentiate from criminal acts motivated by greed or revenge. The Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed to have prevented 80 terrorist attacks and killed more than 500 militants in 2009.
Throughout the North Caucasus, groups have, for the most part, moved away from mass attacks on civilians in favor of targeted attacks on police, local interior ministry officials, and departments responsible for combating the insurgency. On June 5, a sniper killed the Dagestan Interior Ministry chief and on June 22, Ingush President Yevkurov was injured by a suicide bomber. In August, an attack on an Ingush police station killed 20 and wounded 90.
The 1998 federal law “On Fighting Terrorism” and the 2006 federal law “On Countering Terrorism” remained the main counterterrorism legal authorities. On January 11, President Medvedev signed amendments to the law “On Countering Terrorism” that abrogated jury trial for espionage and terrorism cases, although the law is now under review by the Constitutional Court. In April, Russia lifted an almost 10-year counterterrorism regime in Chechnya, in which counterterrorist operations were under the direct authority of the FSB, that had severely restricted civil liberties. When the regime was lifted, the local MVD under President Ramzan Kadyrov took over responsibility for counterterrorist operations. In July, the Ministry of Justice drafted a law on compensation for civilian victims of counterterrorism operations. The National Antiterrorism Committee, organized in 2006, is the main government body coordinating the Russian government’s response to the terrorist threat. Interagency efforts to combat terrorism through anti-narcotics enforcement remained a challenge, particularly the use of financial intelligence to interrupt narcotics sales that provided revenue to terrorists.
Russia is a member of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (FATF). It is also a leading member, chair, and primary funding source of a similar body known as the Eurasian Group on combating money laundering and financing of terrorism (EAG). Russia, through the EAG, provides technical assistance and funding towards improving legislative and regulatory frameworks and operational capabilities.
The United States and Russian Counterterrorism Coordinators met in November to advance cooperation within the context of the United States-Russia Counterterrorism Working Group. They agreed to work together in the multilateral arena to strengthen international counterterrorism norms and increase capacity building; focus on Afghanistan with particular regard to counterterrorism/terrorist finance issues; strengthen UNSCR 1267 sanctions; counter the ideological dimension of violent extremism; and work on improving the bilateral exchange of transportation security issues. Cooperation continued on a broad range of counterterrorism issues. U.S. and Russian law enforcement agencies shared substantive, concrete terrorism intelligence.
At the St. Petersburg G8 Summit in July 2006, the United States and Russia jointly announced the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and invited other nations to join. The Initiative demonstrated Russia’s effort to take a leadership role to combat nuclear terrorism. It now includes 75 partner nations that cooperate in a variety of ways, including safeguarding radioactive and nuclear materials, preventing nuclear smuggling, and sharing information. In July, President Medvedev joined President Obama in a Joint Statement, which pledged enhanced efforts to prevent WMD terrorism through international cooperation, citing the fifth plenary meeting of the Initiative in the Netherlands in June.
In June, Russia hosted the Eighth International Meeting of the Heads of Special Services, Security Agencies, and Law-Enforcement Organizations, which the FBI, CIA, DOE, and NCTC attended. The 2009 agenda included discussion of terrorist use of the Internet, efforts to counter radicalization, the development of an international counterterrorism database, and the prevention of WMD terrorism through UNSCR 1540 and other instruments.
Russia continued to work with regional groups to address terrorism, including the EU, NATO (through the NATO-Russia Council), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the OSCE.
Pursuant to an Agreement signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev at their July Summit in Moscow, Russia now permits flights in route to Afghanistan carrying lethal materiel to support the ISAF to transit its airspace.