Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 28 Issue 8
Author: Giuliano Bifolchi
In Russia, the detention of five people connected with the terrorist organisation Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and a person linked to Katiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad confirmed FSB’s effort to guarantee regional security and avoid the link between local Russian citizens and terrorist organisations operating in the Middle East.
The Center for Public Relations of the Federal’naja sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossijskoj Federacii (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation – FSB) reported that FSB officers detained accomplices of the terrorist organisation Hayat Tahrir al-sham who were operating in Moscow, Kirov, and Penza regions.
According to Russian sources, FSB officers arrested five people linked to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Russian security forces accused the detainees of sharing HTS’s ideology and have regularly transferred money to the accounts of militants in an area in the Idlib zone in Syria whose control belongs to the terrorist organisation. The funds received were used to purchase weapons, vehicles and ammunition.
During searches at the residential addresses of the alleged terrorist supporters, FSB officers found communication tools, payment instruments and other documentary materials confirming their illegal activities. Criminal cases have been initiated under the article “Assistance to terrorist activities”.
Why does it matter?
Since the ’90s, the Russian Federation has faced threats from local militancy and terrorism, especially in the North Caucasus. In the past, the Kremlin faced terrorist attacks and propaganda coming from the North Caucasus, particularly after the establishment of Imarat Kavkaz (Caucasus Emirate) in 2007.
After the Russian Federation military intervened in Syria in 2015 in support of Bashar al-Assad, several terrorist organisations operating in the Middle East, especially in the Syrian territory, threatened the Kremlin and promoted jihadist propaganda targeting Russian security forces acting in the Middle Eastern area.
In recent years, FSB security forces have arrested various people accused of financially or ideologically supporting terrorist organisations. Among these jihadist groups, recently, different HTS supporters were detained in several Russian regions, confirming that this terrorist organisation has been able to spread its doctrine across the entire Russian territory.
Hayat Tahrir al-Shams is not the only terrorist menace in the Russian Federation. Indeed, the FSB Center for Public Relations also reported that FSB officers, together with the centre for combating extremism of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, detained a supporter of the international terrorist organization Katiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad in Kazan (Tatarstan). The Russian prosecutor accused the man of public calls for terrorist activities and collecting money to support members of the terrorist organisation.
In addition, among the terrorist groups linked with Russian citizens arrested last year, it is possible to mention the Islamic State. Therefore, looking at the ongoing counter-terrorist operations that local Russian forces and FSB officers organised to reduce the terrorist threat inside the Russian territory and linked with the Middle East, it is possible to stress that the Russian Federation is not immune to jihadist propaganda and terrorist activities.