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Why bombings continue to shake Russia
Written by Олег Антоненко   
Вторник, 25 Январь 2011
Then explosion at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, which claimed the lives of more than 30 people, is the latest in a series of similar attacks being committed in Russia.
After every such event, especially if it takes place in Moscow, politicians, experts, and ordinary people try to figure out why it happened and if they can trust the authorities who want to catch and punish the guilty, but do not promise to prevent the recurrence of such crimes.
After September 11th, 2001, there were no attacks carried out by radical organizations or fanatical loners in the U. S. The American authorities were able to prevent similar crimes, most often during their preparation and organization stages.
Control
As to why similar crimes keep occurring in Russia, Sergey Mitrokhin, the head of the Yabloko party, says that it is largely due to a lack of public control over the security services.
According to parliament member Sergey Markov from the United Russia party, one cannot blame only the security services for what happened. “I disagree categorically that our security agencies do not care whether or not something blows up,” said Sergey Markov said in an interview with BBC’s Russian service. “For them it is the most important facet of their work, and so it was a failure for them. The prevention of terrorism, however, is a political problem.”
According to Markov, “in order to stop terrorism in the North Caucasus, what is needed is for young people to get jobs, education, and that there be less corruption and none of the egregious fighting between clans that there is today.”
What have the authorities done?
Not everyone in Russia understands what exactly the “party in power” and its leader, Vladimir Putin, who has run the country as its president and prime minister for 10 years, have done to solve the social problems in the North Caucasus.
In a sense, in the fight against the underground, in addition to the armed component, there has been a declaration of intent to solve social problems with a huge infusion of funds into the depression-wracked Caucasus republics.
For many reasons, however, these funds do not automatically translate into jobs, the chief reason being corruption of epic proportions — and this in a country that holds first place as one of the most, if not the most, corrupt place in the world.
According to Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Center: “It was no accident that at the end of last year neither Vladimir Putin nor Dmitry Medvedev spoke about what happened during the year. They didn’t mention the North Caucasus, where all the efforts of the federal government in general have not led to major positive changes, and the number of terrorist attacks in the past year have doubled compared with the previous year.”
Scapegoat
In such circumstances, say some experts, all too often the only way the authorities can absolve themselves of responsibility is to find scapegoats.
After the bombings of the Moscow subway in March 2010, Kremlin loyalist politicians laid the blame on the media.
Back then many in the Russian media had criticized the security forces for being unable to prevent the tragedy.
Дмитрий Медведев и Сергей МироновFederation Council Speaker Sergey Mironov, at President Dmitry Medvedev’s meeting with leaders of parties represented in the Parliament, said that the media “are actually playing into the hands of terrorists by trying to convince the citizens of our country of the ineffectiveness of the existing law enforcement agencies, primarily the FSB and the Interior Ministry.”
“They have tried to show that the State is unable to avert the threat and allows terrorists to slaughter innocent citizens,” Mironov added.
Protecting the authorities
But can one say that the interests of citizens motivate the authorities to combat organized attacks?
Andrey Soldatov, chief editor of the news website Agentura.ru, said in an interview with the BBC Russian service that he is not so sure.
“The very understanding of the threat of terrorism has changed in Russia over the past five or six years,” Soldatov said. “In 1998, when we got the first law on combating terrorism, the emphasis was placed on what terrorism is: the intimidation and destruction of people. In the 2006 amendment to the law, which is in effect now, terrorism is understood to primarily be a tactic to put pressure on the government through terrorist attacks. In this case, the security forces respond in order to avoid this pressure on the authorities, and to prevent the blackmail of the government.”
In his opinion, the government copes perfectly well with this task.
“As we can see it is effective. Today it is difficult to blackmail the Kremlin with any sort of terrorist attack, but the problem is that the security services have made this their priority, while the prevention of terrorist attacks, especially those that do not endanger political stability, are tasks of lesser importance,” the expert said.
Rhetoric of the leaders
According to Soldatov, for top officials rhetoric plays an important role, but the implementation of these words leads to serious miscalculations in operational work.
After the March bombings, President Dmitry Medvedev called for the destruction of the organizers of the terrorist attacks.
“Find those involved in committing this grave crime (the explosions in Moscow), and destroy those who resist. Have no pity!” Medvedev said at a meeting with FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov and Investigation Committee chairman Alexander Bastrykin, using somewhat milder rhetoric than Vladimir Putin, who called for «p---ing on them in the outhouse,» using gangster slang to signify the killing of Chechen militants.
This strategy of complete destruction, however, often leaves investigators unable to find out the “who, how, and why” of a terrorist attack.
“Every time that President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin talk about the need to respond ever harsher, the need to destroy them (the militants) using all sorts of brutal epithets, the security services in turn carry out the Kremlin’s orders, in this case by destroying them, but they do get any answers to many questions,” Soldatov said.
Getting no answer
In his opinion, one example of this approach is what is has emerged since the March bombings in Moscow.
“That is what happened in the case of those who prepared the bombings of the Moscow Metro last year. They were destroyed in Dagestan. The saddest part about this story is that due their destruction, no one could not be questioned or taken to court in order to find out motives and means. What happened is we got some dead bodies, but got no explanation as to why it happened at this particular time, and who else could have been involved,” concluded Soldatov.
Moscow city parliament member and Alpha commando group veteran Sergei Goncharov also criticized the work of the security services, but for other reasons.
“There hasn’t been any serious operational field work, especially in the North Caucasus, and there are no agents like we had during the Soviet Union. Without these, no actions, threats, appeals, or statements can lead to positive results,” said Goncharov during an interview with the BBC Russian service.
According to Nikolai Petrov, however, “the sheer scale of the problem, which for a long time is no longer localized to any one place… means that it’s hardly possible to simply use force to ensure security, especially in places like Moscow.”
The political analyst believes that one cannot say that Moscow does not try to solve the problem, but its actions have been ineffective for many reasons.
“Last year they created by the North Caucasus Federal District, and they have proposed business and financial approaches to solving problems in the region. The trouble is that the scale and complexity of the problems are such that it is impossible to count on any quick and positive results. Unfortunately, Russia’s political elite have made no effort, taken the time, or even had the desire to implement any serious long-term strategy,” said Petrov.
In the BBC Russian Service, January 24th, 2011

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