Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 42

The Jerusalem Post reported on November 8 that the Russian government “is mulling the construction of a security barrier along the border with Chechnya similar to Israel’s West Bank security fence as part of its efforts to combat Muslim terror.” According to the newspaper, President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Southern Federal District, Dmitry Kozak, met in Israel with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra “for talks on the effectiveness of the security fence and Israel’s overall success in fighting Palestinian terror.” Citing unnamed Israeli officials, the newspaper reported that the talks “focused primarily on the construction of a security fence” and that Kozak “told the participants he would bring the issue up back in Russia and recommend it as a viable means to fight terror.” Former Israel police chief Shlomo Aharonishky, who, according to the newspaper, is “serving as a consultant for the Russians,” told it that Kozak had “been assigned to prepare a plan on how to fight terror and it will include the construction of a security fence,” and that the goal of Kozak’s visit to Israel was “to learn from us how to build the fence.” Aharonishky added: “He will recommend back in Russia the construction of a fence in certain places. There will also be other ideas including how to deal with the [Chechen] leadership and the people who are sent to carry out the attacks.”

The Jerusalem Post reported that during the talks, Israeli Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra told Kozak that to effectively combat and defeat terror, Russia needed to enhance the level of cooperation between its different intelligence agencies—as Israel did with the Israeli Defense Forces and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). Kozak also met with Sharon “in a meeting which one official in the Prime Minister’s Office said was part of ongoing cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism,” the newspaper reported. It quoted the official as saying that “Kozak was interested in learning about the technology and the offensive and defensive measures Israel used to combat terrorism.” According to the newspaper, Kozak was also scheduled to meet with senior officials in the Mossad and the Shin Bet, including Mossad head Meir Dagan. The visit to Israel was Kozak’s first, and he was part of a 20-person delegation, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Kozak’s press secretary, Fedor Shcherbakov, told Interfax on November 9 that during Kozak’s trip to Israel, the two sides had shared their experience in the fight against terrorism but that there had been no talk about the construction of a security wall in Russia. Kozak’s deputy, Oleg Zhidkov, denied the Jerusalem Post report even more emphatically. As reported by Moskovsky komsomolets on November 10, asked whether Russia planned to build a security wall around Chechnya, Zhidkov replied: “Absurd; a lie and a provocation! I would tear off the ears of journalists who write such filth.” Zhidkov told Moskovsky komsomolets that Kozak had indeed traveled to Israel and that the two sides had shared experience in fighting “international terrorism” but that there was no discussion of a wall. “Someone is throwing out trial balloons, and that someone should be found and neutralized,” Zhidkov told the newspaper. “In Chechnya, as in the entire North Caucasus, the situation is tense. Small sparks are enough for a fire to break out. If they found [even] a rusty cartridge in Chechnya, then the mass media’s so-called news would highlight it. They are cultivating hysteria! And no one is writing anything about the [Chechen parliamentary] election campaign. That’s what [they] should be busy with, not erecting mythical walls.”

The separatist Kavkazcenter website, for its part, ran a commentary on the reports that Kozak had discussed the construction of a security wall with Israeli officials. “To travel abroad for wisdom when your own is insufficient is an old Russian tradition,” read the commentary, signed by Yusuf Ibragim. “True, this time the journey could be in vain, if Moscow is seriously counting on the kind of results in the fight against Muslims that the Zionists have gotten as a result of the 50-year war with the Palestinians…To declare victory and try to hide from the defeated nation behind a high wall is, of course, clever. But if the goal of building a security wall is…to fence oneself off from those who sow war, destruction and suffering, then the wall should be erected not along the Chechen border, but along the Ring Road (MKAD) [Moscow’s Beltway].”