Russian Police Admits North Caucasian Rebels Finance Themselves
By Valery Dzutsev
On July 31, the head of the Department for Combating Extremism of the Russian Ministry of the Interior in the North Caucasus, Colonel Said-Khussein Shamsatov, made a surprising statement during an online conference. Answering question about sources of support of the insurgency in the North Caucasus, the security official said: “I can say that some time ago, the bulk of the financing of the illegal armed groups came from abroad. The current information we have allows us to say with certainty that in the last years the bandit underground shifted to self-financing.” Even though the official still mentioned “foreign masters of the insurgency that did not stop paying for instability in the North Caucasus,” the police chief said that the primary financial sources of the insurgency came from racket, theft, robberies and voluntary donations by sympathizers (https://www.skfo.ru/conference/guest/said-huseyn-shamsatov/).
This statement is a significant departure from the longtime official view that all trouble in the North Caucasus is caused by hostile foreign forces. Many Russian analysts pointed out that the government’s refusal to admit the existence of internal sources of conflict prevented it from resolving the pressing security issues of the region.
As an illustration for the security official’s statement on August 1, the Kommersant newspaper reported that Russian security services arrested two people in Moscow on suspicion of racketeering and sending the money to insurgents in the North Caucasus. Reportedly, Salim Khajiev, with his origins from Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Alexander Osipov, a resident of Krasnodar, extorted over $4 million from a businessman in the city of Krasnodar in January 2013 (https://kommersant.ru/doc/2245427).
The police’s admission belatedly casts the North Caucasian insurgency as a homegrown phenomenon. Apart from undermining the Russian propaganda tool about mysterious “foreign adversaries,” the latest statement implies that the insurgents receive significant voluntary support from the regional population. Indeed, it would be hard to imagine that insurgents could survive for any significant amount of time by simply robbing and stealing. The high level of reliance on the civilian population also limits the rebels’ attacks against civilians in their respective territories, but does not preclude rebels from attacking civilians that are not among their support base.