NewsRussia's conflict with Ukraine leaves security gaps for terror attacks

Russia's conflict with Ukraine leaves security gaps for terror attacks

Russia does not see the threats. "Obsessive focus on war"
Russia does not see the threats. "Obsessive focus on war"
Images source: © Getty Images, PAP

25 June 2024 09:02

The recent attacks in Dagestan on Sunday, along with the massacre at Crocus City Hall in Moscow, are direct consequences of Russia's aggression against Ukraine. These incidents demonstrate that the Russian security services are currently disorganized and focused on the conflict with Ukraine, leading to the underestimation of threats from Islamists, AFP notes in its report.

For several months, Russia has been tormented by bloody terrorist attacks. Experts interviewed by AFP believe that the inability of the security services to prevent these attacks is directly linked to Moscow’s obsessive focus on the war with Ukraine.

Although no organization has yet claimed responsibility for the Sunday attack in Dagestan, which killed 20 people and injured 46, how it was carried out resembles tactics used by Islamist groups that were particularly active in Russia’s Caucasus region in the early 21st century.

A week earlier, jihadists from the Islamic State (IS) killed prison guards they had taken hostage in Rostov-on-Don, in south-western Russia, the agency recalls.

At the end of March, the Islamic State Province of Khorasan (IS-K), the Afghan wing of this terrorist group, claimed responsibility for the attack at Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow. As a result, at least 145 people were killed, and more than 550 were injured.

In mid-April, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) thwarted an attack on a synagogue in Moscow. According to the FSB, the attack was planned by a person from one of the Central Asian countries, who died during the attempt to detain them.

Is history repeating itself?

AFP notes that these attacks resemble the situation of the late 1990s and early 21st century when there was radicalization among fighters fighting for Chechnya’s independence. At that time, attacks were organised both in the Caucasus and in Moscow.

Russia was able to a certain extent to eliminate Caucasian jihadist groups. However, since President Vladimir Putin's obsession with Ukraine, culminating in the 2022 invasion, Moscow has stopped paying attention to the threat from Islamists.

"The dysfunction of the Russian authorities is evident. They are currently preoccupied with other missions, related to the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine and the West, which are now being presented as vital threats to Russia," says AFP Grigory Shvedov, editor-in-chief of the independent portal Kawkaskij Uzieł (Caucasian Knot), which in Russia is designated as a "foreign agent".

Shvedov believes that the attacks in Dagestan are a signal that the situation in the entire Russian Caucasus is "explosive". However, Moscow prefers to focus on the problem with Ukraine rather than on the terrorists who have emerged in Dagestan. Therefore, there is a risk that Russia will underestimate the scale of the threat from Islamists, he adds.

"The war in Ukraine has brought chaos to Russia"

Alexander Baunov from the Carnegie Moscow Center for Russia and Eurasia Research notes that Russia's aggression against Ukraine has severely damaged Russia’s cooperation with the West in terms of intelligence sharing on Islamic terrorist groups.

"The war in Ukraine has complicated and minimized" intelligence cooperation, although previously "for almost three decades there had been an exchange of information about radical Islamists," Baunov believes. "What is happening in the Caucasus is new evidence that the regime has lost control over certain areas," he emphasises.

The aggression in Ukraine has brought chaos to Russia’s security and law enforcement forces, and it has also led to the destruction of various management centres. Baunov believes this is the "main reason" why terrorist attacks are once again occurring in Russia.

The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) stated earlier on Monday that the Wilayat Caucasus branch, the North Caucasus wing of the Islamic State, is probably responsible for the attacks in Dagestan. After the attack, a channel belonging to the Islamic State published a statement praising the "brothers from the Caucasus" for acting.

The Governor of Dagestan, Sergey Melikov, stated that members of Islamist "sleeper cells" directed by foreign forces were behind the attacks. In a video statement, he declared that the attackers' goal was "sowing panic and fear". Melikov linked the attacks in Dagestan to the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine.

Related content