Russian Leadership Still Thinks It Can Defeat North Caucasus Insurgency by Building Ski Resorts

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 11 Issue: 151

Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) (Source:

Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Alexander Bortnikov, who is also chairman of the Russian National Antiterrorist Committee (NAK) and has chaired the Council of Heads of Security Agencies of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries since 2008, has made another triumphant statement. He declared that as a result of the steps taken by the Russian security services, the number of terrorist activities in Russia in 2014 was cut nearly by half compared to the previous year (, accessed August 15;, August 12).

According to Bortnikov, over the past six months, “as a result of the implementation of counter-terrorist operations and operative-military operations in the North Caucasian region, 158 active militants, including 25 ringleaders, were killed while they were resisting government forces with arms. Apart from that, 382 bandits and their accomplices were arrested. Thirty-five terrorist attacks were prevented” (, August 12).

The figure of arrested militants is especially interesting. Bortnikov claimed that in six months, 328 potential militants were arrested, but in reality, it is unlikely that more than 5–10 actual militants were arrested (Kavkaz Uzel, August 13). Most of the others were detained for “helping” the militants—usually relatives of militants. These arrests are a form of putting pressure on relatives of the militants. The figure includes people who provided services to the militants, such as shelter or food, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Those who were arrested for arms possession are also included in the figure (Kavkaz Uzel, August 13). Thus, this figure for the number of people is merely a propaganda tool that Bortnikov used because he did not have a better one.

Speaking of preventive steps, the FSB director confirmed that the government would continue the policy of collective punishment by applying pressure on the relatives of the rebels. This was exactly what Bortnikov meant when he said that terrorist acts should be prevented through “the active use of […] the ties of the relatives and other people close to individuals from the ‘risk group’; disrupting the illegal turnover of weapons, ammunition and explosives; locating the places where the ringleaders and the active members of the bandit underground are stationed and neutralizing them; disrupting the channels of financing of the terrorists, as well as preventing the infiltration of members of international terrorist groups into the region” (, August 12). At the same time, Bortnikov was forced to admit that it was impossible to prevent the replenishment of the ranks of the jamaats by using only crude force.

Bortnikov noted that there is still a threat of terrorist attacks by isolated groups of militants that requires an adequate counter-action by the state. He added that “68 former members of bandit groups and their accomplices refused to participate in terrorist activities in 2013–2014.” He said that this preventive work has been especially successful in Ingushetia (, August 12).

Apparently, the FSB director did not realize that the Ingushetian governor’s calculations did not add up. Back in 2012, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov stated that “in 2010–2011 we forced over 100 members of the illegal armed groups and their accomplices to turn themselves in” (, February 18, 2012). Realizing later that he had overestimated the number, just six months later Yevkurov lowered the figure dramatically, stating that 42 people who had “ties to the bandit groups” had turned themselves in (, October 21, 2012). A year after that, in the fall of 2013, he admitted that “in the past three years about 60 militants surrendered to Ingushetia’s authorities” (, October 23, 2013). Finally, in 2014, Yevkurov declared that for the entire period of the existence of the government commission on rehabilitation of rebels (, September 10, 2011), “67 individuals, suspected in participation in illegal armed groups listened to the voice of reason, helped out the authorities and returned to their families” (, May 28).

One can only imagine what is going on in the other republics of the North Caucasus if Ingushetia is an exemplary region. Praising Ingushetia for its performance must have been a gesture of courtesy by the FSB director, given that the recent meeting of the NAK took place in Ingushetia (, August 12).

Bortnikov reiterated that the insurgency was caused by the high level of joblessness in the region (, August 12). This simplistic approach to the complex problem of the insurgency in the North Caucasus is endemic among the entire Russian leadership. Reducing all the complexity of the issue to a person taking up arms and shooting people because he does not have a job reflects a poor understanding on why radicalization is taking place. The fact that educated people most often join the ranks of the militants or the Salafists indicates that a solution to the problem of radicalization lies elsewhere. Not surprisingly, at a meeting with North Caucasian youth, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reassured his audience that things would return to normal as soon as the North Caucasian resorts start functioning (, August 12). For some reason, the country’s leadership sees skiing as a way to solve all the problems affiliated with the rise of militant Islam in the North Caucasus.

If we compare the previous meetings of the NAK to the latest one, we can surmise that the Russian leadership still has no clear plan of action in its struggle against the armed resistance in the North Caucasus. Instead, the situation continues to unfold on its own and the government relies on luck in trying to kill the leaders of the militants. These circumstances guarantee that the radicalization of the region will increase and joblessness, corruption and North Caucasian resorts will have no influence on this process.