Staunton, August 22 – The central media have had no choice but to cover ISIS-inspired terrorist incidents in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but these same outlets have not given much coverage to the spread of Islamist violence throughout much of the Middle Volga where migrants from Central Asia and the North Caucasus are importing it, Ruslan Gorevoy says.
According to the Novaya versiya commentator, “the uncontrolled penetration into Russia of Central Asian gastarbeiters and their apparently chaotic settlement has now risen to a new level: today arriving Tajiks can easy blowup several regions of [Russia] from Moscow to the Urals” quite easily (versia.ru/islamskie-terroristy-uzhe-v-podmoskove-peterburge-i-na-urale).
Neither the diaspora leaderships nor most regional governments are able to control these flows, happy to have the workers and the money they represent and confident that there are few or no terrorists among them. But some officials are aware that within these migrant communities, there are cells of terrorists inspired by ISIS.
A happy exception, Gorevoy says, to this pattern of official indifference is Novosbirsk governor Vladimir Gorodetsky who has banned foreigners from working in a range of occupations so as to reduce their overall number and give the authorities a chance to control things. His actions may be one of the reasons Novosibirsk oblast is an island of relative stability.
Experts with whom Gorevoy spoke agree. Konstantin Strigunov, a specialist on the Middle East, says that the refugee flows are so large that there are undoubtedly many ISIS cells within them, something that he says is “really a big threat” that must be addressed even though it is “difficult to catch a black cat in a dark room.”
Aleksey Filatov, vice president of the Alpha Veterans Association, says that the numbers speak for themselves. If there are ten million migrants, then there are probably “100,000 potential terrorists” among them – a small number relative to the total but sizeable enough to cause problems across Russia.
ISIS appeals to the diasporas are being made through the Internet and via NGOs. Magomedsalam Magomedov, the deputy head of the Presidential Administration, says that last year ether were 198 Urals NGOs that received from abroad “more than a billion rubles” (16 million US dollars).
Yevgeny Yushchuk of the Urals State Economics University says that Internet sites based abroad are now focused on the diasporas and they have become, in his words, “not only a collective propagandist and agitator [for ISIS] but also an organizer of people” for the Islamist terrorist movement.
And Aleksandr Bortnikov, the head of the FSB, says that his officers are tracking 220 potential suicide bombers; but other experts say the number of Islamist terrorists in Russia may be much higher with “more than 2,000” having sworn their loyalty to ISIS and ready to carry out terrorist actions.
Gorevoy says that the threat has grown to the point that the authorities shouldn’t just be tracking such people but arresting them if in fact the authorities really know where they are. If these people remain at large, there is a danger that there will be even more terrorist actions across Russia.