Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s threat in the Russian Federation

The flag of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (Credits: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

In May 2022, in the city of Khabarovsk, security officers of the regional FSB arrested five citizens from Central Asia accused of financially supporting the activities of the terrorist organisation Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Regional FSB reported that a 26-year-old citizen of Uzbekistan voluntarily provided financial assistance to members of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Four more of his compatriots knew about it, but they did not report it to law enforcement agencies for ideological reasons.

Previously, in April 2022, Russia’s FSB arrested ten people linked to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in nine Russian regions: Bashkortostan, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Krasnodar, Astrakhan, Volgograd, Novosibirsk, Tula and Tyumen. The FSB reported that on the instructions of the organisation’s emissaries, the detainees created an extensive inter-regional network for collecting, accumulating and transferring funds to accounts and bank cards registered to third parties.

The Russian Federation banned Hayat Tahrir al-Sham as a terrorist organisation which operates in Syria and aims to free Syria from Bashar al-Assad’s government. Since Moscow has military, economically and diplomatically supported Damascus in the fight against terrorist groups, the Russian Federation has become Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s target.

Since February 2022, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s jihadist propaganda has commented on the Ukraine conflict, labelling it as an opportunity and an ‘oxygen tank’ for the Syrian revolution. Ideologues and members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham have also invited Muslim believers to fight in Ukraine in support of the Kyiv government, engage militarily with the Russian Federation, and divert Kremlin’s military operations in Syria (Conflitto in Ucraina: rischio geopolitico, propaganda jihadista e minaccia per l’Europa).

Risk assessment

The Russian Federation is not immune to jihadist propaganda and terrorist activities. Arrests in the last months of people connected to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham have demonstrated that this terrorist organisation has created or attempted to create a network in different Russian regions.

Although terrorist propaganda has influenced mainly migrants from Central Asia and Muslim believers in the North Caucasus and the Volga-Urals region, the arrest of a terrorist cell linked to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in the city of Khabarovsk in the Far East of Russia demonstrated that jihadist propaganda might reach different parts of the Russian Federation.

Author: Giuliano Bifolchi. SpecialEurasia has consistently monitored the security situation and geopolitical risks in Eurasia as part of the project “Monitoring Jihadist Propaganda & Terrorism“. For further information or analyses about the terrorist threat in the Russian Federation, do not hesitate to Contact Us.