Vienna, February 28 – Anti-terrorist commissions in Russia’s regions and republics have reduced the level of their activity even though “the level of the terrorist threat in the country remains high,” Russia’s chief prosecutor said, a remark that reflects Moscow’s concerns about protests in the regions and likely presages a further tightening of central control over the regions.
In the course of an extensive report this week on Russian law enforcement over the last year, Procurator General Yury Chaika said that the total number of all crimes in Russia had fallen by 10.4 percent between 2007 and 2008 but the number of crimes involving terrorism or extremism had risen dramatically (www.genproc.gov.ru/smi/events/actions/news-9099/).
In 2008, he said, officials had registered some 460,000 reports of crimes involving extremism or terrorism, a third more than during the year before, and prosecutors had opened 89,000 cases, three times more than in 2006 – a pair of figures that suggests government statements about terrorism and extremism are prompting many to file unsubstantiated reports.
“Of course,” Chaika continued, “this is a serious increase,” but he sought to put the best face on it: “In the overwhelming majority of cases,” Russian law enforcement personnel lodge cases about “calls for extremist actions” and consequently their vigilance means that they are able to block such actions from being carried out.
Russian prosecutors, he continued, “have been specifically directed” to engage in such “preventive work.” And their efforts have succeeded in preventing the carrying out of “a large number of serious and especially serious crimes that otherwise might have been carried out on the basis of extremist motives.”
But at the same time, Chaika suggested, outside of Moscow, there is still “an absence of a single mechanism for carrying out the work of law enforcement agencies to block the activity of unregistered groups of an extremist direction.” And because that mechanism does not exist, the danger that such groups will be able to act is therefore greater.
The prosecutor noted that last year, his office together with the interior ministry and the FSB agreed on a joint program for preventing social and religious organizations from promoting inter-ethnic hostility and religious extremism. But far more needs to be done, especially in the country’s regions and republics.
Such cooperation among law-enforcement agencies of the state has succeeded in cutting the number of terrorist acts that in fact are carried out, but “the level of the terrorist threat in the country remains high” and consequently all officials must do more to develop “effective measures” to reduce the threat.
Among the most important of these, Chaika suggested, will be “the liquidation of channels of the financing of terrorism both from abroad and also within the country.” Although the he did not acknowledge it, that approach is one that other countries, including the United States, have adopted and pursued with greater success.
In his concluding remarks, the procurator general said that the main “task of prosecutors is strengthening the authority of the state by defending the rights and interests of citizens,” an observation that is certain to please many in the Russian government but to disturb many concerned about human rights there, especially in the course of the struggle against terrorism.