30 Jul 2014

The Baltics amid Crisis in Ukraine

Briefing of recent events

In the face of Russian actions in the east of Ukraine, EU and NATO countries situated next to Russia are concerned about their safety. When Szczecin (western Poland) was proposed as a possible location for the deployment of NATO troops to respond to threats by Russia, Latvian defence minister Raimonds Vējonis said there are also plans about locating the planned large NATO base in Latvia. He added that the official decision on the location is to be decided on the upcomming NATO summit in Wales. While Russia says, with the deployment of US troops in the Baltics, NATO violated the agreement about the prohibition of permanently locating allied troops close to the Russian border, Russia also moves closer to the Baltic states.

According to Estonian newspaper Postimees, Russia has located at least one 24-strong regiment of aircrafts 35 kilometres away from the Lithuanian border, on Baranovichi and Lida airfields. Estonian defence minister Sven Mikser commented that it is "not a surprise" for NATO. He also criticized the French Mistral deals with Russia, but declined the idea of recalling their troops from the France-led mission in the Central African Republic. 

Last week a Russian warship was observed next the city of Liepāja, close to Latvian waters.  According to the information of the Latvian Armed Forces, the ship Syzran was identified 6.5 nautical miles from Latvian territorial waters. A month ago, Latvian Navy Fleet also located  Russian warship Soobrazitelny 3 nautical miles from neutral waters and corvette Boykiy in the exclusive economic zone of Latvia. From the latter, a fight helicopter Ka-27 took off. Russian military airplanes were also frequently observed over the territorial waters of Latvia, including a military jet fighter two weeks ago.

corvette Soobrazitelny (wikipedia.ru)

Meanwhile, the construction of a new factory of the biggest tank manufacturer in the world, the Russian Uralvangonzavod in Jelgava, Latvia, has raised some controversy. US and EU sanctions imposed on Russian military industry companies also affect UVZ. Although it should manufacture only civilian equipment - wagons, railway platforms and containers for transport of liquified gas - the spokesperson of the Constitution Protection Bureau evaluated it as "a risk, but not threat". The construction of the most modern wagon manufacturing plant in Europe was started more than a year ago. With projected production capacity of about 2000 wagons a year, this more than 75 million euro project is expected to create 300 jobs. The factory should start to operate on full capacity in March 2015. UVZ Baltija is planned to supply Baltic and CIS countries in the beginnig, but to appear later also on Western markets. 100% of UVZ shares belongs to Russian Federal Property Agency Rossimushchestvo.

photo by The Baltic Course

As an answer to Russian propaganda, Lithuania and Latvia have banned certain Russian citizens to enter their countries: while the list of Lithuania has not been made public in accordance with the Lithuanian law, Latvia prohibited some famous Russian singers (Iosif Kobzon, Oleg Gazmanov, Valeriya) from participating in the Jūrmala international song contest Novaya Volna (New Wawe), organised by Latvia and Russia.

photo by ria.ru

Yesterday the leader of the party For Native Language, non-citizen of Latvia Vladimir Linderman announced that a group of Russian volunteers from Latvia has set out for Donetsk to join the uprising. Regnum.ru reports that travelling to their destination, the volunteers made use of the old connections of Linderman. "They understand that if the republics in Donbass are defeated, a genocide against Russians will be conducted in Latvia in the coming years" - he commented. Minister of Interior Rihards Kozlovskis said those who take part in military actions in Ukraine on the side of the separatists are comparable to terrorists and proposed changes in national legislation so that law enforcement could take special measures against people involved in terrorist activity. He noted that the only some members of the Congress of Non-Citizens approve the creation of the People's Republic of Donetsk and Lugansk.


19 Jun 2014

Phone hacking scandal in Lithuania

The Chief Prosecutor's Office of Lithuania has announced that phone conversations of 17 current and former employees of the information agency Baltic News Service have been bugged by Special Investigations Service (STT) during pre-trial investigation in the case of reveal and abuse of state secrecy. The investigation was started last year after BNS reported that Lithuania's State Security Department (VSD) had warned state leaders and two parliamentry committes about possible information provocations from Russian intelligence services. STT also raided the home of the editor of BNS, interrogated six co-workers of BNS and seized some computers. In November, Vilnius Regional Court announced that the raid and interrogation were illegal. It is so far not clear, why the phones of people who were already not working for BNS at the beginnig of the investigation were bugged. It is also not known, who long did the wiretapping last.

building of STT (by lrytas.lt)

BNS has appelaed against the wiretapping: "It is a serious violation of press freedom and absolutely unaccaptbale in a democratic state" - says their press release. They also added that it could reveal confident informations sources.

Prime minister Algirdas Butkevičius condemned the measures applied. President Dalia Grybauskaitė also expressed her view that law enforcement should apply proportional measures and old fashioned, soviet-style methods should be avoided.

In November last year , Grybauskaitė  has proposed changes in legislation raising the security of journalists and tightening the requirements of conducting investigations against journalists. Although the president has suggested to the Parliament to discuss it in an urgent manner, the law and legislation committe has approved it only this week.

Darius Raulušaitis, temporarily acting as Chief Prosecutor has informed the press that there is one (female) suspect in the investigation.

Later on, Artūras Paulauskas, chairman of the State Security and Defence Committe has said in an interview, that the information leaked by BNS was not qualified as state secret. It could have been only considered as confidential, which means that the whole investigation was unsubstantiated. He also expressed incomprehension about the fact that the case was handed over to STT.






27 May 2014

Hungarian MEP spying for Russia?

On 15 of May, the Chief Prosecutor of Hungary has sent a request to the chairman of the European Parliament to lift the immunity of Béla Kovács, MEP, member of the far-right Jobbik party. The spokesman of the Chief Prosecutor's Office has confirmed that "the Central Investigating Chief Prosecutor's Office is investigating a serious crime, but this inquiry is classified, so it is not public at all. That's why I cannot even tell what the crime is, I can only say it is a crime that the law punishes with a two to eight-year prison sentence." According to pro-government newspaper Magyar Nemzet, which has first reported on the case, the Chief Prosecutor's Office has been informed about the suspicion by the Constitution Protection Office (counterintelligence and state security service of Hungary) in early April. They received information about the activity of Kovács from foreign intelligence services. According to Magyar Nemzet, Belgian, French and Polish counterintelligence services were also working on Kovács. One fourth of the he Hungarian secret services staff has been working on the case for a year, even placing cameras and voice recorders on some streets. According to the informations of Magyar Nemzet, the accusation is "espionage against European Union institutions". 

EurActiv asked the EP services to comment how likely is it that Kovács may have had access to confidential information of interest to Russia in his activity as MEP. A spokesperson answered that she could make "an intelligent guess that yes". But she explained that the procedure of stripping an MEP of his immunity was lengthy. A spokesman for Schulz, Armin Machmer, told to Hungarian news agency MTI that the case would be only considered if Kovács was reelected. 

The unvelinig of Kovács was timed right before the European Parliament elections most probably in order to decrease the popularity of Jobbik (which is now on the second place after the ruling Fidesz party, according to opinion polls) among the voters. Béla Kovács was on the 3rd place on the list of Jobbik. Even the Penal Code was modified recently to include espionage against the institutions of the EU. Allusions to a MEP of Jobbik were made by ruling Fidesz already that time. 

Béla Kovács and Jobbik deny the allegations. Kovács has stated: "I have never been a member of any secret service, neither Hungarian, nor foreign, I have never collaborated with them and have not received any requests from them".

Kovács was reported to have traveled to Moscow each month and have met Russian citizens in a conspiratory manner. His wife, double Russian-Austrian citizen Svetlana Istoshina is said to be a former member of KGB. According to some sources, Kovács has kept the citizenship of his wife in secret in his autobiography. 
According to the European Parliament website, he is a member of the European Parliament Delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee and, a member of the delegation to the EU-Kazakhstan, EU-Kyrgyzstan and EU-Uzbekistan Parliamentary Committees, and responsible for relations with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia. Kovács is is also the president and treasurer of the far-right Alliance of European National Movements (AENM), according to its website. AENM was founded as a European political party in October 2009, in Budapest. The Alliance is said to be suspected of having clandestine links with Russia. According to certain informations, all the secret services of the participating countries (Hungary, France, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Bulgaria, UK, Spain, Portugal) have followed the movement and its ties to Russia. 

Kovács's Russian connections have already been brought to the attention of the public in an article by a Hungarian online news portal in 2010. The largest news portal Origo has published an article with the title: 'Jobbik is sending a mysterious businessman to Brussels'. The author there has emphasized that Kovács has studied and lived in Russia and has very good connections not only in Moscow, but also in Brussels. The leaders of Jobbik then said that they have made no security clearance but asked him some question about his life. They respect him as a very experienced diplomat. With his knowledge of 6 languages and good connections abroad, Kovács was quite out of line in Jobbik. He has told that he was enchanted by the enthusiasm of young people in the party. That is why he has joined in 2005, two years after he has returned to Hungary from Moscow.

Studies in Japan, salad bar in Budapest and alone in a committee


image by hvg.hu

Kovács, whose father worked in the diplomatic service, was born in Budapest, but after secondary school, he has lived in Japan for many years. He started his studies in politology and international relations at a private American university in Japan, but graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, which was known to have close ties with security services. Kovács states that he was not a member of the party and was not asked to collaborate with secret services. After returning to Hungary, he was working at a foreign trade company called Terimpex. According to Kovács, "it was not the best place" and he was offered work there because not being a party member, those in power "did not like him". In his opinion, it was also the reason for that on his 27-th birthday, one day after his wedding, he received call up to the army. After serving his time there, he left Hungary, because he was "fed up". After that, between 1988 and 2003, according to his CV, he was working in leading positions in various foreign trade companies in Russia and Japan. He returned to Budapest again in 2003, where he opened a salad bar which later failed. He was introduced to the Jobbik party in 2005 by a friend with whom they served together in the army. Kovács was willing to undertake much more work and sacrifice in the party as the majority of members. For example, he has created the Foreign Affairs Comitte, which had only one member for some time - himself.


Kovács with Aleksandr Zhukov, first deputy chairman of Duma
 image by Origo

He has devoted not only his time, but also his money to the party. (For example, building connections abroad, he covered his travelling costs and those of other Jobbik members travelling together with him.) Interesting, where did he get it from, as his bankrupted salad bar was still under liquidation in 2010 and according to the official state register, he did not have other companies. (Another question is, how could he recently buy a luxury villa in the vicinity of Budapest, although initially only owned an apartment in a block of flats.) He has even donated a golden Chrysler with leather seats to the secondary school teacher who has introduced him to the party. According to the information of news portal index.hu, he has also supported Jobbik with several million forints. It is not a significant amount of money for a party, but that time Jobbik did not receive much state financing. Therefore no one wanted to be inquisitive about the person of Kovács. However, he was not perceived as someone with genuine patriotic emotions, and his Russian connections were well known in the party, where he had the nickname "KGBéla".

Jobbik officials have earlier stated that the party does not use secret service methods to examine candidates for membership, so Kovács was not subjected to clearance, but they did have a long conversation with thim about his life. The Russian-friendly foreign policy of Jobbik became prominent after he joined the party. Although Kovács states that chairman Gábor Vona was the first who gave utterance to the idea that Hungary should open towards Russia to find there market for Hungarian products. But, of course, Kovács could make good use of his Russian connections. It was him who organized Vona's visits to Russia. Once he invited one of his fellow members to the inauguraton ceremony of Ramzan Kadirov, where, he said, he was officially invited. In 2013, for example, he accompanied Vona to a meeting with Leonid Kalashnikov, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committe of the Duma.

In the beginnig, it was not easy at all for Jobbik to build connections with organizations from other countries, as they did not even want to talk to them. However, Kovács managed to establish the Alliance of European National Movements, which currently has 9 member parties. Although Kovács is said to have helped their colleagues in Jobbik a lot, accompanying them everywhere and giving them advices, he remained in the background, being a relatively unknown politician in Hungary.

During their visit in Moscow in 2008, Vona and Kovács were hosted by Vasily Podvoysky, whose institution called Graduate School of Consulting is banned from several universities because of its occultist and esoteric views, which make it similar to scientology. One of the lecturers of this educational institution, Sergey Rykov, is the member of  the Academy of Military Sciences of Russia.

According to a former member of Jobbik, Vona and his party are being controlled from Moscow and Tehran. Some months ago, Hungarian secret services have prevented an Iranian investment (with Turkish mediation) in a Jobbik-lead town in East Hungary because of national security reasons.

What could he have done?

Assuming that Kovács did indeed cooperate with Russian intelligence, as a MEP he presumably did not have access to significant secret information. (Although pro-government media have reported that he handed over informations about the energy sector.) Instead of gathering information he could have better been engaged in influencing activity using his connections in EU institutions and promoting other Russian affiliated persons' career. And, first of all, creating an alliance of pro-Russian far-right parties in the EP.

The speeches of the EP representatives of Jobbik on EU foreign policy - which are supposed to have been written by Kovács - were supporting the Russian and other authoritarian Post-Soviet leaders, e. g. echoed Vladimir Putin's opinion on the Nabucco pipeline project.

Recently, Kovács has not only made statements supporting Russian actions in Crimea, but also participated in the Crimean referendum as an observer and evaluated the elections as absolutely legal. In Brussels, he was known as a lobbyst of Russia and the Gazprom.


Kovács is said to have kept contact with such Russian diplomats, who were widely known in diplomatic circles as intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover. Despite of secrecy, pro-government televison programme Célpont has leaked some information about the conspiratory measures Kovács had to take when meeting with a former KGB officer who is still a working Russian agent. The signal they used was folders of red and green colour: red meant that the Russian contact person is under observation and Kovács should not approach him, while green folder was the signal for no danger. Going to their meetings, Kovács left his house with car, but later changed to public transport or taxi, presumably, to discover and get rid off possible followers. The meetings took place in Budapest or in other larger Hungarian cities. They were keeping contact via satelite phone and internet-based communication devices which they probably assumed Hungarian security services are unable to detect. (If not the Hungarians, then at least some other countries' counterintelligence services managed to do it.)

With Jobbik reaching 14,68% in the EP elections last weekend (second highest result after the ruling Fidesz party), Kovács has again received the right to represent Jobbik in Brussels. Meanwhile having been hospitalized, Kovács does not want to give up his mandate and plans to work in the energy committee.

9 May 2014

Ribbon of Saint George or Colorado beetle?

A new symbol of Russia's geopolitical aspirations

The ribbon of Saint George (Георгиевская лента) - in Soviet times renamed as Guards ribbon - has been a symbol of military merit already in tsarist Russia. After World War II,  in 1943, the medal "For the victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945" with the Guards ribbon was avarded all the soldiers who have participated in the Eastern Front campaigns. This way, it became a symbol of the victory in WWII and since the 60th anniversary of the Victory Day in 2005, it can be worn not only by veterans and soldiers, but also by civilians. It has since been distributed all over Russia. As pro-Russian activists and the "small green men" in Ukraine wear it, it is now also seen as a symbol of Russian imperialism by Ukrainians sympathetic to Maidan and also in the Baltic countries. It is nicknamed "Colorado beetle" because the stripes are similar to those on the back of a Colorado potato beetle. Lithuanian newspaper Lietuvos rytas writes that Russia is exporting the ribbons to Post-Soviet countries. According to the statistics, in 2007, for example, more than 10 million Saint George ribbons were distributed in the whole world.  The main purpose of this symbol is action is to raise nostalgia for the Soviet empire.

photo by scanpix

It is thought that people who wear the ribbon want to express their support for the current foreign policy of the Russian Federation. These are mainly Russians, living in former Soviet states. In recent days, there were several incidents connected with the St. George ribbon in Lithuania. For example, well-known businessman and consultant Petras Kovas refused to sit in a taxi decorated with the ribbon of Saint George. When he called the centre of the taxi company asking for a taxi without the ribbon, the dispatcher told him that if he won't take that taxi, no other will be sent for him.

A Lithuanian blogger, Šarūnas Matulevičius (http://sarunasmatulevicius.lt/) has explored the source of Saint George ribbons in Lithuania: they are being distributed from the Russian embassy. The embassy also encourages to bring ribbons also for family members, friends and relatives. Information about where to obtain Saint George ribbons was shared on the Facebook page За правое дело. Русские Литвы, соединайтесь (For the Right Cause. Russians of Lithuania, unite) which is opposed to the Lithuanian state. They have written to have received a lot of questions, where to get Saint George ribbons. Indeed, there is nothing new. Already in 2010, the organizers of the Saint George Ribbon action have officially announced that huge quantities of ribbons have been sent to each Russian embassy and shared out to anyone wishing to have it. It was an extraordinarily succesfull action for spreading Russian soft power - or more exactly, Russian ideology - in the near abroad. As it was initially an anti-Nazi symbol, those who try to oppose it, find themselves in a difficult situation being labeled "Fascists" or "Russophobes", very similary to what has now happened in Ukraine, with all the supporters of the new Ukrainian government.

According to Nerijus Maliukevičius, a lecturer at Vilnius University and specialist of Russian information wars and Gintautas Mažeikis, professor of Vytautas Magnus university, any actions against the use of the ribbons would escalate tension which would be useful for the supporters of Vladimir Putin. Maliukevičius also drew attention to the reaction of Ukrainians whose family has suffered during WWII: instead of the ribbon of Saint George, which has become a symbol of Russian agression against Ukraine, they use the poppy flower as a sign of remembrance.

Meanwhile, another measure, also connected with WWII has provoked outrage in Lithuania. President Putin issued a decree about allocating supplementary benefits to "soldiers who took part in military operations liquidating nationalist underground movements on the territory of Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia from 1944 to 1951". Armed resistance against Soviet occipation was most prominent in Lithuania. Special NKVD batalions have uprooted the partisan movement in especially brutal ways.












13 Apr 2014

Altyn - the new Eurasian currency

On Thursday, the leaders of the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan have agreed on the introduction of a common currency for the Eurasian Union until 2025. However, it was noted that in case of strict economic sanctions against Russia, the countries could swith to the single currency significantly earlier, already in 3-5 years' time. It is possible that Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan will also join the common monetary zone. The new currency will be called altyn, after a historical currency originating from the monetary system of the Golden Horde, used in Russia until the 18th century.
The etymology of the word altyn is disputed: according to one theory, it comes from the Tatar word for 'gold' (however, as far as it is known, copper and silver coins were used as altyns, but not golden); according to another, it originates from the Tatar word for '6', as it was worth 6 of 1/2 dengas. It was a convenient currency unit for trade between Russians, who used a decimal currency system and Mongol-Tatars, whose monetary system was duodecimal.

An old Russian altyn. Photo by Wikipedia

In May 2014, presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus will sign a treaty on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union in 2015. It should become a united economic space with common currency, customs and tax regulations as well as energy and industry policy, a kind of answer to the European Union. According to the notion of its creators, the Eurasian Union later could become a militay-political bloc, able to compete withe the NATO or China. In this way, the existing organizations CIS, CSTO and the Customs Union would be practically incorporated in the Eurasian Union.

 The process of introduction of the single currency is planned to be the following: at first, a consultative council will be created with the governors of the central banks of the participating states. They will be responsible for the rates of national currencies, regulation of banking and insurance activity and the unification of the markets of securities. It was also intended to organize a Eurasian Central Bank. However, the proposal was blocked by Alexander Lukashenko, who - although in theory supports the project - is said to be cautious about its realization. Nevertheless, corresponding documents, meant to be signed next year, are being prepared. The final deadline for the introduction is 2025. Kazakhstan is hoping that it could happen earlier, in 3-5 years, in case of serious economic sanctions against Russia.

The idea of a single currency for the Eurasian Union was created by Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, and subsequenlty supported by Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev in 2012. (Already in 2009, Nazarbayev has spoken up for a supranational currency for the whole world which he considers an effective mean to fight the global financial crisis.) The Eurasian Central Bank is planned to be situated in Almaty, Kazakhstan. This regulatory board would almost completely take over the role of national banks, although national banks would remain. The current EU-model was clearly taken as role model. But in this case, the Eurasian Central Bank would probably have to strictly obey the presidents and prime ministers of the EAEU. At present, the economy of Kazakhstan represents 10% of the Russian economy, Belarus - 3%.

According to the director of the analytical department of Alpari, Alexander Razuvayev, in the beginning, the new currency will be cashless. Cash will appear in a year or two. At the same time, rouble and tenge will be circulating parallel. The advantages of a common currency are obvious. Businesses and citizens will not lose on exchange and bank charges. It should be also noted that a single economic system cannot be operated without a single currency. Although the Eurasian Central Bank will be located in Kazakhstan, the main capital market, of course, is the Moscow Stock Exchange. The weakness of the new currency will be the dependence on energy prices. The economies of both Russia and Kazakhstan are based on raw materials. 

The name of the new currency is obviously a symbolic gesture towards Kazakhstan, but it is interesting if Russia would be ready to give up roubles, a national symbol.






10 Apr 2014

Brief Summary of the Caucasus Emirate

This summary was originally written for the course Understanding Terrorism and the Terrorist Threat organized by the START Center of the University of Maryland, but I decided to post it here because it is an informative material about the Caucasus Emirate.

History, location and main goals

The Caucasus Emirate (Imarat Kavkaz), created in 2007 by its present leader Doku Umarov, is the successor of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya. It also served as an umbrella organization for various North Caucasian terrorist groups, including the Yarmuk (Kabardino-Balkaria) Jamaat, Shariat (Dagestan) Jamaat, and Ingush Jamaat, the Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (SPIR), and the Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade (IIPB), as well as the martyr brigade, Riyadus-Salikhin, known for suicide bombing. These all are now incorporated into the CE. [Stanford]
Its leader Doku Umarov is rather a field commander than an idealogue [Andrew C. Kuchins, Matthew Malarkey, Sergei Markedonov, The North Caucasus: Russia’s Volatile Frontier, Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 2011, cited by Stanford]

The CE is located in the North Caucasus. „Its nodes, the so-called vilayats (Arabic for governate or province), are based, for the most part, along the lines of the North Caucasus republics”. [G.H. Hahn, 14] The Emirate has also cells is European countries and the Near East. [UN]

It is a radical Islamist, jihadist organization, part of the global jihadi movement, it has strong ties with organizations such as the Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Islamic Jihad.  [http://www.miis.edu/academics/faculty/ghahn/report]

The predecessor of the CE, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya (a self-proclaimed state) was an ethno-nationalistic organization, the main goal of which was to gain independence from Russia. It has transformed into a jihadist organization. Although ethno-nationalism remains an important element of the CE ideology [G.H. Hahn, 15], it describes its main goal as to not only gain independence from Russia, but to liberate Muslims, establish a sovereign Islamist state [G.H. Hahn, 2], based on sharia law” [G.H. Hahn, 7, 16] and even a global Jihadi caliphate [G.H. Hahn, 19]. 

Statistics of attacks

According to the Global Terrorism Database of the START Center of the University of Maryland, the group is perpetrating terrorist attacks since 2007, when it was established. The highest number of attacks (11) was in 2008, since then we can see a sharp decline in the number of incidents. There is a total 31 attacks attributed to CE.

All of their attacks were perpetrated in the Russian Federation, most of them in the North Caucasus (Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkariya, North Ossetia) and 5 of them in Moscow or near Moscow.

The targets of the attacks vary, government (28%) and police (25%) are targeted most frequently, but there were also quite a few attacks against soft targets including private citizens and property (15%) and transportation, airports and utilities (18%). Only 2 attacks were committed against business targets and religious figures and institutions (6% respectively). 

The biggest part of the attacks (45%) were bombings/explosions, but armed assault is also a common attack type of the CE (37%). Sabotage (facilty/infrastructure attacks) represent 8.5% of the incidents, while there were only 2 assasinations (5.7%) and only one hostage taking incident (2.8%).

Most of the attacks (48%) were committed using explosives/bombs/dynamite. Firearms also make up a significant part (42%), while only 3 attacks (9%) were perpetrated using incendiary devices.

The total number of fatalities is 140, the total number of injuries is 441. It means that there were on average 4.51 fatalities and 14.22 injuries per attack. While there were a few attacks that involved a significant number of casualties (these were attacks outside the North Caucasus, mainly in Moscow and on transportation targets) and there were several attacks with no casualties. 

Individual radicalization

Fight and blood revenge has a long tradition in Caucasian culture. It is enough to think about the fight of Caucasians with the Russian Empire in 19th century, led by Imam Shamil. There is also a stereotype that Caucasians have a very strong feeling of justice especially compared with Russians who tend to escape to alcoholism. As Dagestani juornalist Zaur Gaziyev notes: „Our culture is different. If we are slighted or wronged we don’t go and get drunk on vodka. We pick up a gun and go out to murder the one who wronged us” (Tom Parfitt. „The Deadliest Village in Russia – A Journey Through Russia’s Killing Zone, Part 8, ForeignPolicy.com, April 1, 2011, The Deadliest Village in Russia)”.

The root causes of the insurgency in the Caucasus can be traced in the religious and ethnonational revival after the fall of the Soviet Union, separatist tendencies, unresolved territorial conflicts, ethnic clashes and the region’s weak integration into Russia. [ICC 1] The latter means, among others low living standards and unemployment. Another issue is corruption which also makes young people disillusioned and dissatisfied with the Russian state. The fighters reject the Russian world considered illegitimate, unfair and unreformable and aim to replace it with an Islamist state which – they think – would be more just. [G. H. Hahn 21, ICC 18]

The ideological vacuum after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissatisfaction because of the economic situation and corrupt, disfunctional government created a cognitive opening and subsequently, in the case of certain individuals it was filled by Islamist ideology.  As circumstances has not chaged significantly, this process continues.

The harsh counterterrorism measures, which are perceived as systematic violence also contribute to the radicalization of certain groups. These include the ban of wahhabbism in some republics, checking believers, shaving Salafis’ beards. These human right violations and humilitations can clearly induce radicalisation, according to the model of Arie Kruglanski. Another factor is, that „Dagestani authorities made no distinction between moderate and radical, violence-oriented Salafis, which contributed to radicalisation of the entire community” [ICC 9].

"(...) what has driven many to join the insurgency was a "trigger exprience" - be it police harrasment, abuse and intimidation or a personal experience of violence at the hands of the security services. This event, or series of events, is thought to play the primary motivating cause behind one's decision to join the insurgency. All the same, it is also important to note that different factors play different roles in the different republics. For example, religious intolerance at the hands of the security services is more likely to driv a young man to flee to the forest of Dagestan, whereas lack of political expression or ethno-nationalist grievances, which would be less salient in Dagestan, might play a more prominent role in Ingushetia or Kabardino-Balkaria." (Andrew C. Kuchins, Matthew Malarkey, Sergei Markedonow, The North Caucasus: Russia's Volatile Frontier, CSIS, March 2011 http://csis.org/files/publication/110321_Kuchins_NorthCaucasus_WEB.pdf)

Main goals of the Caucasus Emirate:

  • to gain independence from Russia and liberate all Muslims [G. H. Hahn 2], which implies driving out of Russian troops based in the North Caucasus
  • to create a sovereign, sharia based Islamist state in the Caucasus in line with radical Salafist ideology [G. H. Hahn 7, 16]
  • to „extend this state to the Volga region and European countries through combat and terror [UN], as Umarov has put it: „once the infidels have been driven out, we must take back all lands that were historically Muslim, and those borders lie beyond the borders of the Caucasus” [UN]
  • to establish a global jihadi caliphate [G. H. Hahn 19] „Both Umarov and Buryatskii [a main idealogue] have stated they are leading a global jihad against the West, even if most of their attacks have been local.” [Stanford]

The tactic applied by CE

The CE has used intimidation tactic in some cases, e. g. at the Domodedovo attack, where there were 38 fatalities and 168 injuries and in a couple of other cases. But this tactic does not prevail. Some of their attacks were considered as spoiling. (e. g. the killing of Sheikh Said Affandi in 2012 which, according to ICC was “aimed to make intra-confessional dialogue impossible and cause Dagestan to explode into conflict” [ICC 12] ) As the International Crisis Groups paper on the North Caucasian insurgency states, „the insurgency itself is not interested in dialogue and seeks to undermine it with new terrorist attacks,[ICC 3]

Given the huge superior force of Russia, there is no way for the CE to attrite Russian political, economic and military might. Therefore the main tactic applied is provocation, which was usually applied by ethno-nationalist organizations in colonial territories. (CE was initially an ethno-nationalist organization and the Caucasus was conquered by Russia as a colony.) “Part of the logic of terrorist attacks is to provoke government reprisals and abusive reactions.[ICC 28] This tactic works, as Russian response is tipically heavy-handed which drives some of the population to radicalization. 

Communication, recrutiment, financing and networking

The organization has several websites where they seek founders and recruit for their goals:

The Kavkazcenter has been proclaimed the official information organ” of the CE. [UN] Each vilaiyat has its own website.

CE spreads “numerous videos (...) featuring terrorist attacks carried out by fighters, and eulogizing fighters “ [G.H. Hahn 5] „compilations and their own ideologists’ writings, video and audio lectures”. “CE sites also post Russian translations of articles from and summaries of, Al-Quaida’s English-language journal Inspire”. [G.H. Hahn 8] Instructions how to make explosive devices also figure on the sites. 

They also maintain a “list of e-mail addresses so Muslims interested in jihad can contact each other and exchange information; they distribute “literature and news of the jihad” [G.H. Hahn 10]. Some material is downloaded to mobile phones or to USB sticks to distribute to those who cannot access the internet sites. [ICC 14]

There are also persons responsible for recruiting [G.H. Hahn 11] “The vilaiyats, sectors, and local jamaats independently undertake alms collections, recruitment (...)” [G.H. Hahn 15] Recruiters work actively with youth in and around mosques, on university campuses, in gyms and at the workplace.” [ICC 14]

The target audience is the "young, well-educated urban youth in the Muslim areas of the former Soviet Union”. [Paul Quinn-Judge, “Russia’s Terror Goes Viral”, Foreign Policy (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/03/29/russias_terror_goes_viral), 29 March 2010.]

There is „no lack of replacements, though ever younger and more radical ones”. According to Aleksandr Khloponin, the presidential envoy for the North Caucasus, the average age of militants is eighteen. [Хлопонин признал, что число участников подполья не меняется много лет: на Кавказе тысяча боевиков, Gazeta.ru, 09 March 2011, http://www.gazeta.ru/news/lenta/2011/09/30/n_2031946.shtml] Recruits are trained in clandestine training camps situated in North Caucasus locations. These camps has also hosted jihadi fighters from other countries (including Al-Qaida members [G.H. Hahn 3,6).  

According to G. H. Hahn [Getting the Caucasus Emirate Right 9, Islam, Islamism and the Politics in Eurasia Report  9], the group receives funding from Chechen government officials and some Al-Qaida-affiliated organizations. Being part of the global Jihadi network significantly increases the group's chances of survival. 

Said Buryatsky in a video from YouTube

Possible counterterrorism strategies

Two main approaches or models of counter-insurgency are competing today in the North Caucasus. One, based on heavy-handed law enforcement and exclusive religious policy, is most thoroughly applied in Chechnya; the other, with greater elements of soft law enforcement and integrative religious policy, is most evident in Dagestan; practices of other republics fall in between.” [ICC 31]

Judging by numbers of incidents and fatalities, the Chechen model looks more successful.” [ICC 32]

However, although soft-power methods usually do not bring quick results, only these methods can be succesful on the long term, as these eliminate the root causes of violence. It is also very important to bear in mind that radicalisation in the region is largely driven by the harsh, heavy-heanded counterterrorism measures, the indiscriminate use of force by law enforcement, when relatives and bystanders also frequently fall to victim. As the main tactic of CE is provocation, enemy-centric counterterrorism strategy, focused on ’neutralising’ = killing (нейтрализировать) fighters instead of bringing their cases to trials can be counterproductive.

There are two aspects of this terrorist group, which, in my opinion, would deserve more attention.
In 2010, when civilians very heavily targeted by the CE, internal divisions came to the surface and this has even led to Umarov’s resignation. However, later he reclaimed his leading position. [Roggio, Bill. “Internal Divisions Dissolved, Claims Caucasus Emirate” 
http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/07/caucasus_emirate_cla_1.php#ixzz1TKEnDQLI]. It would be useful to discover the fractures inside the organization with intelligence methods and try to cooperate with more moderate leaders in order to change the way CE is operating and possibly start negotiating with them.

The other aspect is the source of funding. The summary of Stanford University, citing Gordon H. Hahn (http://www.miis.edu/academics/faculty/ghahn/report) mentions that „the Caucasus Emirate mujahedin receive funding from ministers and bureaucrats in the Chechen government and members of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s inner circle”. Cutting off this source of funding could contribute to the shrinking of activity of the CE. 


Gordon H. Hahn, Getting the Caucasus Emirate Right, Centre for Stategic and International Studies, 1 September 2011, [G. H. Hahn]

Gordon H. Hahn, "Islam, Islamism, and Politics in Eurasia Report." Monterey Institute of International Studies. N.p., Report 9 24 Feb. 2009. Web. Jan. 2012. <http://www.miis.edu/academics/faculty/ghahn/report>

The North Caucasus: The Challenges of Integration (II), Islam, Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency, International Crisis Group, October, 2012 [ICC]

Andrew C. Kuchins, Matthew Malarkey, Sergei Markedonow, The North Caucasus: Russia's Volatile Frontier, CSIS, March 2011

UN Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1989 (2011) concerning Al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities [UN]

Mapping Military Organizations: Caucasus Emirate, Stanford University, [Stanford] http://www.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/255

The Caucasus Emirate, Stratfor, Security Weekly, April 15, 2010 [Stratfor]

The North Caucasus: The Challenges of Integration (II), Islam, Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency”, International Crisis Group, October, 2012 [ICC]

Roggio, Bill. “Internal Divisions Dissolved, Claims Caucasus Emirate” 

Хлопонин признал, что число участников подполья не меняется много лет: на Кавказе тысяча боевиков, Gazeta.ru, 09 March 2011, http://www.gazeta.ru/news/lenta/2011/09/30/n_2031946.shtml

Tom Parfitt. „The Deadliest Village in Russia – A Journey Through Russia’s Killing Zone, Part 8, ForeignPolicy.com, April 1, 2011

Paul Quinn-Judge, “Russia’s Terror Goes Viral”, Foreign Policy, 29 March 2010