The Hydra of Terrorism in the Failed State called Putin’s Russia

Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, writing in the Moscow Times:

Once again, Russia and the world were shocked by an atrocious terrorist attack, one in which at least 39 people were killed in the Moscow metro.

The country’s terrorists have made it clear that they are still as strong and capable as ever to strike at any time or place. The group’s main leader, Chechen rebel Doku Umarov, has been warning for years that jihad will spread to all of Russia. The suicide bombers and their supporters carried out Monday’s mission with their typical professionalism and precision. The media have reported the existence of two special schools in the Caucasus for training suicide bombers, and now those graduates have brought their “skills” to practice.

The terrorist attack had the standard theatrical flair. The first explosion took place at the Lubyanka metro station, almost directly beneath the Federal Security Service. That was a direct provocation, and the secret service will unquestionably retaliate with an iron fist.

It appears that a new generation of extremists has come of age, and they have chosen terrorism as their method of doing battle.

Monday’s attacks were probably motivated by revenge for recent operations conducted by Russian special forces that killed several key figures in the militant Islamic movement. These included chief ideologue and theologian Said Buryatsky, as well as Anzor Astemirov (also known as Emir Saifulla), leader of radical militants in the Kabardino-Balkaria region.

The metro bombings show that the violent and highly unstable situation in the North Caucasus has spread to Moscow and other parts of the country. This instability will not be solved by the Kremlin’s harsh “anti-terrorist special operations” that it claims have “exterminated” so many terrorists. On the contrary, further “exterminations” will probably make a bad situation only worse. The stakes are high. If Moscow experiences even the slightest success in subduing the extremist movement, rebel leaders could lose their authority among rank-and-file radical militants.

The Kremlin hopes that the ambitious plans of Alexander Khloponin, presidential envoy to the newly formed North Caucasus Federal District, to improve social and economic conditions in the region will undermine and weaken the radical movement in the region. The rebel leaders, sensing a threat to their authority, are driven even further toward terrorism. The result is a vicious circle: The more the Kremlin tries to exert influence on the North Caucasus — either through economic assistance or anti-terrorist operations — the more radical the separatists will become.

Monday’s attack differs from those that took place in the 2000s. Then, the terrorists pursued specific goals — to gain recognition from the federal authorities and to force Moscow to negotiate with them. But it became clear after the Beslan School No. 1 massacre that no negotiations are possible with terrorists. Abdul-Halim Saidullayev, who briefly took the place of Shamil Basayev, the Chechen militant leader who was killed in 2006, once admitted that it was impossible to achieve their goals using that form of terrorism.

Before Monday’s attack and the November bombing of the Nevsky Express train, many Russians thought that terrorism had been largely subdued in the country. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Today’s extremists are not pursuing specific goals with their attacks. Now they are simply demonstrating their power and are pursuing terror for terror’s sake.

The Moscow bombings are bound to create frustration not only with the work of the secret service, but also with political leaders in the Caucasus who have repeatedly claimed that the extremists had been almost entirely eradicated. And if it is discovered that Chechen separatists were behind the double bombing, as preliminary reports suggest, it will be a blow to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who has received so much support from the Kremlin precisely because of his supposed ability to defeat the radical movement in his republic.

Another important aspect of Russia’s recurring problem with terrorism is whether Russia is capable of protecting the Sochi Games from a terrorist attack. Many extremist groups in the North Caucasus, and in particular the ethnic Circassians, are opposed to holding the Olympics there. They claim that some of the Olympic complexes are being built over the bones of their compatriots who died during their deportation from Russia in the 19th century.

It remains unclear whether Monday’s terrorist attack is an isolated incident or represents the opening salvo in a new round of terrorism. Only future events will provide the answer to that question.

25 responses to “The Hydra of Terrorism in the Failed State called Putin’s Russia

  1. sascha_hero Germany

    Today 12 pro-russian dagestani policemen were killed and 23 heavily wounded in Kizliyar,a town in Northern Dagestan along the Terek-river! Two suicide bombers from the dagestani rebel-group “Jamaat Shariat” blew themselves up between police-patrols!

    In early February the “Jamaat Shariat” stated in an essay,that “2010 will be hot for the russian occupants and dagestani traitors,the ground will burn under their feet,when spring arrives”!

  2. Please.

    Seriously, don’t you know who did? Come on.

    @The group’s main leader, Chechen rebel Doku Umarov,

    The group’s main leader, Chechen rebel Doku Umarov, apparently just said it was Putin and the FSB who blew up the Moscow metro and repeated they don’t target innocent civilians.

    See also:

    First Caucasian broadcasted his message.

    But come on, let’s help spread the Kremlin propaganda whenever they need a Reichstag fire. (And why don’t you also repeat the super-racist term “black widow” while you’re at this.)

    And Patrushev (former long-time chief of the FSB under Putin, now the secretary of Russia’s so-called “security” council) just accused… Georgia.

    The FBI offered Russia help in investigation. (Again.) Russian “security” services always refuse such offers, of course. The FBI might find who is really behind terrorist attacks, after all.

    • Actually I don’t see any reason not to believe Umarov and not because of my likes or dislikes but that’s just common sense. What’s the point to commit such an attack and deny their responsibilty for it? Usually such things are done to show the power of terrorists and intimidate the population. But if the supposed attackers distance from the act themselves it raises a lot of questions whoever they are they are people with a political agenda to pursue, not Ted Bundy style serial killers murdering just for fun.
      So the Reichstag fire version has much credibility.

  3. @Abdul-Halim Saidullayev, who briefly took the place of Shamil Basayev, the Chechen militant leader who was killed in 2006,

    Ah, what a real “expert” this Alexei Malashenko fellow is. No matter Saidulayev was killed before Basayev died, and never “took his place” at all. (He took Maskhadov’s place as the president of Chechnya in 2005-2006.)

    @it will be a blow to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov

    At the current state of affairs in Chechnya, a blow to “president” Ramzan might be only if he was blown-up like his father, whoever did this (even Ramzan is not sure, at least publicily, now he’s saying it was not Basayev but the Yamadayev brothers from the GRU special forces).

  4. sascha_hero Germany

    Well Robert,but Sulim Yamadayev is dead since march 2009,so now Kadyrov is easily jumping on his corpse,accusing him of everything! But Sulim is buried and cannot defend himself any longer!!! I personally don´t think,that Yamadayev killed Kadyrov Senior! In 2004 they were still friends!

    • That’s really cool, “sascha_hero”, but I don’t want you to talk with me.

      So the usual suspects took responsibility after all, in an incoherent cell phone message by Umarov made in the middle of a forest with not even a flag in the background. I’m kind of disappointed but not surprised, and not really impressed neither.

      In the meantime Patrushev accused Georgia, and Zhyrinovsky accused Britain, Medvedev said something about Afghanistan, Kadyrov will probably blame the United States and “all of western special services”, and “the FSB investigation” is talking about the supposed involvement of Pavel Kosolapov, who is an ethnic Russian and former soldier.

      And my opinion, LR, you know my opinion.

  5. sascha_hero Germany

    By the way,the assassination of Sulim Yamadayev in Dubai would be a good story for a “James Bond movie”! A golden gun-assassination,an Interpol-Search,a horse-race with Kadyrov in Dubai,where the murder was planned etc….

    Hollywood should act!

  6. sascha_hero Germany

    Sometimes i wonder about our media-world.Now everyone talks about Moscow! But no one spoke about this spectacular murder last year in Dubai! I saw nothing on CNN etc…
    There are too few journalists on our planet,who are brave enough to follow such stories.Too many are too afraid of getting into trouble themselves,for example to get into conflict with killers like Kadyrov!

  7. sascha_hero Germany
  8. sascha_hero Germany

    Oh Robert,i don´t need you at all! I don´t need western conspiracy-theorists on my side! Go back to your cellar and invent new stories,for example “Elvis is still alive in Canada”!!!!

  9. Robert, I wanted to thank you for you wise comments.

    I found this “Umarov” video extremely dodgy. You confirmed my suspicion of very strange voice that it was cut from some other context.

    Patrushev is VERY strange dude. He reminds me a devil’s clown. I can almost see his face in hell…

    These terrorist acts mirror what happened 10 years ago with apartment blocks. It was also Moscow and Dagestan back then. Exactly the same pattern used here.

    I am sick of this quick visit of the “president” to the scene of tha blast. There is MASSIVE campaign now in Russia to put population into the state of apathy and depression.

    Look how media is focused on flowers, agony of relatives, reaction of Medvedev and Putin and Patrushev. This is so sick.

    This is so cheap “special operation”. They don’t want even to try new things. Exactly the same pattern as 10 years ago.

  10. First off, may I say that further on LR’s censorship of comments, sascha_hero’s comments would’ve already been deleted had they been pro-Russian. They are spam, and completely out of context of the actual subject at hand. Instead of writing “get with it” may I humbly suggest that the author proves that she is not a bigoted racist who deletes people’s points of view because they are inconvenient and follow a different agenda to her one. I’m not insulting you LR, I’m simply stating the obvious.
    Next, I completely disagree with the title of this article. By definition, a failed state contains
    -loss of physical control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein,
    -erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions,
    -an inability to provide reasonable public services, and
    -an inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

    Russia doesn’t match any of the criteria of this list. It is not a failed state. Zimbabwe, Iran and North Korea are good examples of failed states.


    Mark, unlike you, at least Sascha posts links to material that is related to the topic of this post, which is our goal for comments.

    It’s rather hilarious that someone who spends as much time as you do commenting on this blog would choose to denigrate it. Don’t your realize that in so doing, you denigrate yourself, you brainless ape?

    Your advice about how to run our blog is unwanted and our comments CLEARLY ban this. Do it again, you are history. Got it?

    Your statement that we delete “inconvenient” comments is LIBELOUS and LIE. Our blog is FULL of comments challenging and insulting us. Like your rude, boorish statements in this post for instance. Do that again, you are history. Got it?

    Your comment about this post, which is republished from the Moscow Times, is utterly vacuous and totally without basis. It makes you look like ridiculous, childish idiot.

    Get this straight: This is OUR blog, not yours, loser. If you don’t like the way we run it, GET OUT. You will not be missed. Your comments are VAPID, unsourced, and add NO VALUE at all to our blog.

  11. I think that one of the first steps Russia needs to take is to impose a blockade on the North Caucasus, particularly Chechnya and Daghestan. I would start but cutting off electric power and internet access to those areas and setting up checkpoints along roads going in and out of the Caucasus. Also, there is a dire need for closed circuit surveilence cameras throughout the Moscow metro to catch these homicide bombers and shoot em dead before they detonate their bombs.

  12. There is a funny poll on EJ in response to Patrushev accusing Georgia of involvement:

    Who do you think will be accused next:USAIsraelDissidentsKhodorkovsky

    Khodorkovsky “leads” with 42 per cent. Hilarious. Failed state!

  13. Russian Authorities Warn of Possible New Attacks

    March 31, 2010
    By Gregory Feifer
    The images are grim: photos of two dead young women who Russian police say detonated twin metro blasts that killed 39 people and injured more than 70 on March 29. It was the deadliest attack in Moscow in six years, staged in the heart of the Russian capital.

    The authorities say the women were “black widows,” suicide bombers from the volatile North Caucasus region whose husbands or other close relatives may have been killed by Russian forces. Police say they have closed-circuit video footage of the alleged bombers entering the metro along with three accomplices — one man and two women said to have Slavic appearances. The footage has yet to be released to the public.

    The government has promised to track down the blasts’ organizers, but critics blame the security services for failing to prevent the bombings and say they’re skeptical law enforcers can prevent future terrorism amid warnings of possible new attacks.

  14. In Wake Of Metro Bombings, Putin’s War On Terror Is Under Fire

    March 30, 2010
    By Brian Whitmore
    Sadness, fear, and anger are in the air at Moscow’s Park Kultury metro station a day after the Russian capital suffered its worst terrorist attack in years.

    Police with dogs patrol the platform and the area outside the station. Upon exiting, passengers call loved ones on cell phones to let them know that they have arrived at their destination safely. A flower vendor does brisk business as Muscovites line up to purchase roses to pay respects to those who died here on March 29.

    A young man who gave only his first name, Yevgeny, says passengers are eyeing each other with unusual suspicion.

    “The atmosphere is very charged. People are looking over their shoulders,” he says. “To be honest, it’s pretty frightening.”

    It was exactly this kind of fear that Vladimir Putin, in his first stint as prime minister, pledged to eradicate more than a decade ago when he launched his military campaign in breakaway Chechnya after a series of mysterious apartment bombings in Moscow and other cities in the autumn of 1999.

    Putin rose to power and cemented his authority as a tough-talking former KGB colonel who would keep Russians safe from terrorism. He surrounded himself with veterans of the security services and justified rolling back democratic institutions and concentrating power in his own hands as necessary moves in a dangerous world.

    But following the terrorist attacks in two Moscow metro stations that killed 39 people, Putin’s critics say his policy of sacrificing liberty for security has failed, and his reputation as someone who can keep the country safe from terror is tarnished.

    Putin broke off a trip to Siberia on March 29 to declare that “terrorists will be destroyed.” And he used characteristically colorful language in remarks in Moscow today about how the authorities will deal with the threat of terrorism.

    “We know that they are lying low, but it is already a matter of pride for law-enforcement agencies to drag them out of the depths of the sewer,” Putin said.

    But for many Russians, his tough words are ringing increasingly hollow.

    Right Under Their Noses

    Ilya Yashin, a youth activist, tells RFE/RL’s Russian Service that since Putin has concentrated so much power in his own hands, “he is responsible for everything that happens in our country” and should therefore be held accountable for the latest attacks.

    “Not long ago Putin promised an end to terrorist acts in Russian cities and a military victory over terrorism. For this we gave up our political rights and civil liberties. We gave up the right to elect governors,” Yashin said.

    “All of this undoubtedly strengthened Vladimir Putin’s personal power, but did nothing to provide for our security,” he continued. “Today’s attacks can be seen as the collapse of Putin’s antiterrorist policies.”

    Yashin said that while Putin is unlikely to be censured for the bombings, at the very least, the top Russian security officials who failed to prevent the attacks — FSB Director Aleksandr Bortnikov, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, and Moscow police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev — should lose their jobs.

    Likewise, Boris Nemtsov, a leading member of the opposition Solidarity movement, notes that while there have been no terrorist acts in the United States since September 11, 2001, attacks in Russia have intensified. He adds that Putin and his “siloviki” security service allies “declared victory over terrorism too early” and proved incompetent in fighting the battle.

    “This happened right under the security services’ noses,” Nemtsov said, noting that the attack at the Lubyanka metro station took place in close proximity to the headquarters of the Federal Security Service.

    “They are protecting the kleptocratic authorities and battling against the opposition instead of fighting terrorism,” Nemtsov said. “Sadly, nobody will be punished for this. They’ll just find a scapegoat.”

    Nemtsov adds that many disturbing questions remain about the attacks.

    “Nobody can explain how two female suicide bombers got to the center of Moscow. Nobody can answer how they got the explosives. Nobody can answer what the police and security services were doing to prevent this,” Nemtsov said. “As long as nobody is held accountable among the authorities, it will not be possible to defeat terrorism.”

    House Cleaning Or Crackdown?

    There are already signs that the Russian authorities are attempting to deflect blame for the bombings by internationalizing the attacks. Speaking at the G8 meeting in Ottawa, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said militants operating on the Afghan-Pakistan border may have helped organize the Moscow attacks.

    Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former deputy speaker of the State Duma who is now an opposition politician, called on President Dmitry Medvedev to closely monitor any investigation into the attacks to prevent the security services from whitewashing their shortcomings.

    “This is without a doubt a failure for the security services,” Ryzhkov said. “But we can only talk about personnel changes after there has been a complete investigation, and I hope that the president will demand a report on every stage of the investigation. If there is political control over the investigation, then I hope we can get a full picture.”

    So can Russia expect a house-cleaning? Probably not, analysts say. The security service veterans now surrounding Putin, while not as powerful as they were a few years ago, remain the strongest political constituency in Russia.

    What is more likely, analysts say, is something similar to what happened after the 2004 Beslan hostage siege. Putin used that attack as a pretext to eliminate the direct election of regional governors and restrict the activities of nongovernmental organizations.

    “Our system is not democratic. The security of the state and the authorities is considered more important than the safety of ordinary citizens,” Lilia Shevtsova, a senior political analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center, says. “We can therefore expect that there will be political fallout and this could result in limiting citizens’ political and civil rights.”

    Some lawmakers are already calling for the return of capital punishment for convicted terrorists, and Medvedev went on television to call on judges to consider amending terrorism laws.

    But Shevtsova and other analysts note that Russia today is already a different country than it was during and after the Beslan siege. For one thing, the ongoing recession has cut deeply into the ruling elite’s authority, and antigovernment protests are mounting. Moreover, the law-enforcement bodies, which would be instrumental in any crackdown, have been discredited by a series of nasty public scandals.

    “If there is going to be a crackdown, it will need to be carried out by the security structures. And we see how demoralized one of these structures — the police — are,” Shevtsova says. “How can you use the security structures to strengthen repressive methods, when they are so degraded and demoralized? This is a serious question.”

  15. Car bomb kills two in Russia as tensions remain high after metro attacks
    A car packed with explosives blew up in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region, with the country on high alert after an Islamist group claimed the Moscow metro bombings and warned of more strikes.

    In the latest unrest, two people were killed in the Khasavurtsky district of the North Caucasus region of Dagestan during the night when their car, suspected to have been packed with explosives, blew up.

    “According to preliminary information, the explosive materials that were in the car went off accidentally,” the Interfax news agency quoted a security source as saying.

    Many of the 39 killed in Monday’s suicide bombings on the city metro were to be buried on Thursday.

    The country has also been shaken by the double suicide strike in the North Caucasus on Wednesday that killed 12.

    The Islamist group the “Emirate of the Caucasus”, which is waging an insurgency to impose an Islamic state based on sharia law in the North Caucasus, claimed the metro attacks in a video message from its shadowy leader.

    Doku Umarov, who has been the target of several attempts to kill him by the Russian security forces, said he personally gave the order for the metro attacks.

    “It is a legitimate act of revenge for the continued assassinations of civilians in the Caucasus,” he said.

    Russia has for years battled Islamist insurgents in the North Caucasus Muslim regions of Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia but Monday’s attacks were the first time in six years that such violence has spread to the capital.

    Umarov, who uses the nom de guerre Abu Usman and had last month pledged a “holy war” of attacks throughout the country, chillingly warned Russians to expect more strikes.

    “The inhabitants of Russia cannot just calmly watch on the television what is happening in the Caucasus when they do not react to the crimes committed by the gangs under (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin.”

    “This is why the war is coming into your streets,” warned the bearded militant, speaking in an unidentified forest location.

    The Kommersant daily quoted investigation sources as saying that the two women who staged the Moscow metro attacks were among 30 people recruited by militant leaders to carry out suicide bombings.

    It added that the two women are believed to have taken a bus from the Dagestan town of Kizlyar, the same place where the double suicide bombing killed 12 on Wednesday.

  16. @I have a human right to post on this blog.

    The newest human right in existence, exclusive for the insane Russians: “The right to post on someone else’s blog”.

  17. @Beware! The thought police are about!

    If this was my blog, I’d have forced you to leave my private property long ago.

    Silly Russians, 10 years since the end of communist economic system, and still can’t understand the concept of private property. No wonder they’re infamous of looting in all of their wars.

  18. Robert, R Jojn, LR, please look carefully at these news.

    There was infromation that she is from Kizliar, Dagestan (where another terror act happened).

    Think about it. She was dropped from car with toned windows.

    This is FSB ! It proves it is FSB special operation. They removed one of the witnesses and put her body for the organisation. It must be secret FSB unit which works independetly from the main body of FSB. It could not be terrorists, it could not be police. Think about it! It is hard evidence.

  19. Wow. This menacing picture of a Muslim woman with explosives on her belt – that’s pure Islamophobia. After seeing such hateful pictures, many Americans will run away at the sight of a Muslim woman…

  20. What neither Russia or the West realize is that by bombing and raping these Muslim nations, they incease the likelyhood of terrorist attacks. Islamophobia is embraced in Russia, the USA, Britain; so there’s no reason for Muslims to believe that the West and Russia have their interests at heart.

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