Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 18

Russia’s security, law-enforcement and other state agencies have been placed on an increased level of readiness for possible terrorist attacks, Russian agencies reported yesterday. The Itar-Tass news agency quoted a “well-informed source in the law enforcement bodies” as saying that units of the Interior Ministry, the Ministry for Emergency Situations and the Federal Security Service have been put on alert for possible terrorist attacks, and that “round-the-clock reinforced patrols” have been instituted at economic, communications and transport facilities, “including enterprises and sites which have chemical substances on their territory.” The agency said the threat was connected to the “completion of the antiterrorist operation in Chechnya.” It also cited unconfirmed reports that the Interior Ministry knows of specific terrorist plans. Meanwhile, the Interfax news agency quoted anonymous law enforcement sources as saying that due to the increased threat, Interior Ministry personnel have had their work-day increased to twelve hours and their leave cancelled. Tatarstan was named specifically as a possible target, and yesterday police there began patrolling roads and monitoring cars entering and exiting the republic, with special attention being given to vehicles with license plates from the Caucasus regions. Security has been stepped up at schools hospitals, kindergartens, industrial enterprises and strategic economic facilities (Russian agencies, January 25).

On January 21, Acting President Vladimir Putin warned that the federal forces’ success–as he described it–in their military campaign against Chechen rebels would increase the likelihood of Chechen terrorism. “You recall what happened in Moscow, Buinaksk and Volgodonsk when we smashed the bandits’ faces in Dagestan, when they felt how weak they were in direct combat with us,” Putin said, referring to the apartment building bombings last September which followed the military’s attacks on Islamic guerrillas who had invaded Dagestan from Chechnya (Russian agencies, January 21). On January 22, the newspaper Segodnya criticized Putin’s comments, asking why the threat of terrorism would have increased as a result of a successful antiterrorist operation (Segodnya, January 22). Segodnya is part of the Media-Most group, which has become increasingly critical of the Chechen campaign. On January 23, NTV–Most-Media’s television channel–claimed that the real number of casualties among Russian servicemen fighting in Chechnya is ten times higher than the official statistics (see the Monitor, January 25).

Meanwhile, a top Federal Security Service official said yesterday that his agency had identified the individuals it believes were responsible for the bombings last autumn in Buinaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk. General Aleksandr Zdanovich said that the FSB was “fully informed about the mechanism of the crime and its executors.” He said that none of the fourteen alleged perpetrators were Chechen, but that all of them had passed through terrorist training camps in Chechnya. Zdanovich also said that nine of them had been put on Interpol’s wanted list, while there was so far insufficient information to put the remaining five on the international law enforcement agency’s list. Zdanovich said there was evidence that the suspects are currently in Chechnya, adding that he had no doubt they would “sooner or later” be captured and put on trial (Russian agencies, January 25).