Terror in Russia: Nothing Comes from Nothing

The worst terrorist attack to hit Russia in five years, the bombing of the Nevsky Express train last week, was almost certainly by Islamist extremists, and security forces are just not prepared for these less spectacular acts of terrorism, Russian security experts say.

The cause of the crash was identified as a homemade bomb that exploded on the tracks between Moscow and St Petersburg, killing 26, wounding scores and raising fears of a new era of terrorism in Russia. At the attack site, 320km northwest of Moscow, investigators found remnants of the bomb, equivalent to 15 pounds of TNT, that left a crater 1.5m deep. The bomb was apparently planted on the tracks and detonated while the second half of the train was passing. A second, less powerful explosive went off later at the site of the crash.

Russia suffered a wave of attacks in the early part of the decade as Muslim separatists from Chechnya struck trains and public places in Moscow and elsewhere, but there have been no such deadly assaults in recent years.

However, another Nevsky Express train was derailed in 2007 by an explosion, wounding more than two dozen people. Two men from Ingushetia were arrested, and just last month confessed to involvement in that blast. But the main suspect, a former Russian soldier-turned-Islamic-extremist, Pavel Kosolapov, remains at large. This previous blast and the sophistication of the present bombing, which involved two explosions, point to Islamists as the perpetrators. Aleksandr Bobreshov, a senior official of the state railway company, noted, “the second explosion, which occurred some time later, is the so-called double-blast method, carried out by North Caucasus sabotage groups.”

Police issued a sketch of a middle-aged “stocky, red-haired man” seen in the vicinity of Friday’s blast, who may be Kosolapov. Kosolapov is believed to have been a close associate of Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev, killed by Russian security forces in 2006, who was the mastermind of several large-scale terrorist attacks, including the tragic 2004 Beslan school siege, which left 330 people dead, mostly children.

The 1990s were a violent and unstable period in Russia, though the only large-scale terrorist attack was during the 1994-96 First Chechen War — the 1995 Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis, which resulted in 200 deaths. It was Basayev’s first major “success” in as much as it led to peace talks with the Yeltsin’s government and resulted in the establishment of a quasi-independent Chechnya.

The next major terrorist acts were the five bombings of mostly Moscow apartment buildings that killed nearly 300 people in September 1999. None of the Chechen field commanders, including Basayev, accepted responsibility for the bombings and Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov denied involvement of his government. However, they coincided with border skirmishes between Chechnya and Dagestan, and evidence that Al-Qaeda and Wahabism were increasingly active in Chechnya. A ground offensive was launched from Dagestan by Russian troops in October which now marks the beginning of what is called the Second Chechen War, on which Vladimir Putin staked his presidency after he was appointed president by Boris Yeltsin in December 1999.

There followed a decade of gruesome war in Chechnya, with tens of thousands dying. There were also several spectacular terrorist attacks which this time Chechen rebels led by Basayev did take responsibility for. Russia’s security forces had to deal with the 2002 siege of a Moscow theatre which resulted in up to 200 deaths and the 2004 Beslan school assault. But Russia suffered no major attack after that, as the Chechen war ground to its supposed end.

Andrei Soldatov, editor of Agentura.ru, criticises Russian counter-terrorist efforts since Beslan, comparing officials to generals preparing for the last war, focussed on averting big attacks like Beslan, instead of preparing for smaller-scale strikes such as the bombings of the Nevsky Express, despite the 2007 warning blast. “We see new modus operandi taking shape, in which tiny cells of terrorists of three to five people plan and execute acts of sabotage,” he says. “But our security forces have militarised this problem, and are not set up to deal with small threats like that.”

Confirming his point, yet another bomb went off Monday in the southern republic of Dagestan, hitting a train travelling from the Siberian city of Tyumen to Baku in Azerbaijan. No one was injured in that blast, but analysts argue it was also by terrorists, who have never stopped operating in Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya, and warn that more ambitious attacks on Russia will no doubt follow. The northern Caucasus is witnessing a growth of forces that are no longer interested in local nationalism, or separatism, but “see themselves as being at war with Russia. Until lately, the most adventurous Russian Islamists tended to head for Afghanistan, or somewhere else, to wage jihad. Now there are signs that they are going to the Caucasus area, and this bodes very ill,” says Soldatov.

The Kremlin declared “mission accomplished” in Chechnya on 16 April 2009 after a decade and a half of military campaigning, pulling most of its forces out of the tiny republic, and leaving it under the control of local strongman Ramzan Kadyrov. Kremlin leaders argue that the harsh pacification of Chechnya, political crackdown and smarter security operations explain the fact that there has been no major terrorist attack on the Russian heartland since Beslan.

But it remains a fact that the terrorist tragedies in Russia during the past decade coincide with the brutal Second Chechen War, and that President Kadyrov himself is a loose cannon who has assassinated more than one opponent in the past year. Chechnya is also suspected of being a prime transit route for drug smugglers, and the lawlessness and threat to Russia emanating from Chechnya are not lost on other parties, in particular, the US and Israel. This latest incident is a serious blow not only to Putin’s strategy of holding on to Chechnya at all costs, but to overall Russian security.

Eric Walberg is a journalist who worked in Uzbekistan and is now writing for Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo. He is the author of From Postmodernism to Postsecularism and Postmodern Imperialism. His most recent book is Islamic Resistance to Imperialism. Read other articles by Eric, or visit Eric's website.

14 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on December 2nd, 2009 at 9:45am #

    I do feel sorry for death of innocent russians; however, had russsia left chechens, et al alone such acts of violence wld have not happened.
    In, add’n one cannot be a “terrorist” for wanting self-rule for own people.
    Ethnocentrism, at this time of human developement, is OK.
    Every ethnic group shld be alllowed to rule self even if such an ethnos wld be governed by despots.
    And isn’t just ab every ethnos ruled by plutocrats with help from cultists?

  2. Michael Kenny said on December 2nd, 2009 at 10:32am #

    The Russian Federation is in fact the last of the European empires and sooner or later, it will go the way of other multi-national entities in Europe. I think the Russian leadership knows that, but, in a Russian version of the domino theory, they have hung on to Chechnya essentially for the oil and mineral wealth located in so many of the non-Russian parts of the federation. Once Chechnya goes, they reason, Ingushetia and Dagestan will quickly follow, then the other Muslim peoples (watch, in particular, the Tatars!) , then the Far East, where the economy has, in practice, already been largely taken over by the Chinese anyway. And then, of course, Russia can join the EU …

  3. Aaron Aarons said on December 2nd, 2009 at 3:43pm #

    The word “terror” or its derivatives occur 14 times in the article. All occurrences are used to describe Chechens or their presumed actions. Not once is the word used to describe Russians or their behavior in Chechnya.

    It’s noteworthy that, although this article doesn’t mention the fact, that the train that was bombed was a “luxury” express train, as was reported without comment in all the news articles I looked at on the subject. While it’s probably not the case, I could easily imagine Russian workers who have suffered while the scum of society have profited greatly since the 1991 counter-revolution might have planted such a bomb or otherwise derailed such a train. At least I’m pretty sure that class-conscious Russian workers aren’t particularly upset about it.

  4. Annie Ladysmith said on December 2nd, 2009 at 11:22pm #

    The Russian people have too much freedom comrade, they are writing whatever they want in the newspapers, it must be stopped!

    But Dear Comrade-Czar Putin, we will bomb a train and blame the Muslims, then we can pass a Patriot Act of our own, better than the Americans. We will open all the gulags again, and start up the cattle cars.

    See that this is done Trotsky and bring in some drunken sailors to piss on the mosques, we will have a ‘crystal night’ of our own also.

  5. Eric Walberg said on December 3rd, 2009 at 3:39am #

    Re the use of terror/ terrorist, I think it’s fair to call the Budyonnovsk, Moscow theatre and Beslan school hostage taking, which Basayev took credit for, “terrorist”. I don’t know who blew up the apts in 1999 (and don’t attribute the blame to anyone), but that was also a terrorist act, as was this latest train bombing.
    My point is that all the acts are blowback for the two wars against Chechnya. I doubt very much that Russian workers would do such things, though if they did, that would be blowback too, as you point out.

  6. Rehmat said on December 3rd, 2009 at 5:43am #

    I bet, Erig Walberg, being an Israeli Jew – sees every Muslim resistance group as “Islamic extremists”, but every Jewish or Christian group or government killing and disposesing millions of Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Philippines, etc. – as “war on terrorism”. Maybe he doesn’t want to know that it were 150,000 of his German Jewish brothers who murdered , as part of Nazi Army, millions of Gypsies, Christians and Jews during the 1940s – or the it were Jew-Communist elites who were responsible for the death of over 60 million Christians and Muslims in Russia and Ukraine.

    The old colonial empires are challenged in all parts of the world and Russia is no exception to that.

    Muslim Resistance in the Caucasus

  7. b99 said on December 3rd, 2009 at 7:29am #

    A whole lot of non-Russian peons have been wantonly killed since Katherine the Great and Peter the Great began their version of “Manifest Destiny” nearly a half-century ago. That expansion took them as far as the Russian River north of San Francisco – and laid waste to multi-millions in an effort to squash the natives and secure a warm weather port. This brand of imperialism changed little under subsequent czars – whether feudal or communist – and continues through to today’s authoritarian capitalist regime. I have to side with its victims – and as unfortunate as the dynamiting of trains is, it’s a drop in the bucket, and it can’t be said that Czar Putin did not ask for it.

  8. Shabnam said on December 4th, 2009 at 7:49am #

    Rahmet I agree with you that Wallberg protects the interest of Zionism which is the interest of Racist and terrorist state of Russia. Russia and the United States are THE ONLY 2 STATES AMONG INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY WHO ARE SUPPORTING THE ZIONIST POLICY AGAINST THE PALESTINIAN. We know Washington is run by THE JEWISH LOBBY; therefore, it is safe to say that RACIST RUSSIANS ARE THE ONLY GROUP WHO SUPPORT genocide against Palestinians because the racist Russians are doing the same against Muslims in the region including Chechen.
    Russia with the help of the Jewish Lobby in Washington not only cooperates FULLY on phony “war on terror” against Muslims but also has gained many concessions due to its pro Zionist stance. Iranians are very angry with the Russian policy where is aligned with the Zionist policy because Russia feels it is in her interest, like Israel, to keep Iran bashing policy so Russia can squeeze Iran for more concession in dividing of the Caspian Sea bed. Although the USSR is dead and the Russian Federation is not a super power as it was once, the Russian leaders are always dreaming of restoring the Russian hegemony in the area that once used to be the Russian domain.
    Israel is directing American administration, OBAMA, to shape central Asia with full Russian cooperation to shape the region and to gain a foot in the Middle East.
    The terrorist Russian State is hated by majority of the people in the region and beyond due to their racist attitude, like Khazi Zionists in occupied land, who have massacred thousand of Muslims through terror and then framing Muslims, remember 9/11, to eliminate them from their own land, like Israel, using their Zionist agents posing as journalists or diplomats trying to sell THIER LIES like the latest train bombing.
    Their agents are active among phony ‘left’ since Chechen practically have NO VOICE to reach the international community. The report comes from the Russian terrorist state and spread by their agents throughout the world. Their agents are carefully selected to appear ‘progressive and pro Arabs’ but in fact it is the opposite. The same source have announced that Chechens have taken responsibility for the latest terrorist bombing, where more likely is the WORK OF THE RUSSIAN ZIONIST STATE, like previous one, TO FRAME CHECHENS WHO HAVE NO VOICE TO REACH ANYONE. THEY ARE A SAVE TARGET. THEIR AGENTS SPREAD THESE LIES THROUGHOUT THE ZIONIST CONTROL MEDA WITH NO SHAME.
    The Zionist Jews gave Russian racist what they wanted using their BLACK SLAVE IN WASHINGTON, Obama, to bring Russia on board to make more illegal demand on Iran, where is taken AS CAPITVE BY RACIST RUSSIAN AND ZIONIST RUN WASHINGTON. To keep Iran weak, is Russian policy like Israel, but Russia cooperating with the Zionists to gain more concession for a policy that she agrees with. Both Israel and Russia are against Muslim beyond imagination and have benefited greatly by conducting terror against Chechen and political War on Iran, like Israel, to gain an upper hand in the region. Most of the terror that Russia blames on Muslims in fact it is the act of Russian terrorist state. These lies are spread by their agents, pose as diplomat or journalist, to brainwash the international community.


  9. Shabnam said on December 4th, 2009 at 8:02am #

    Sorry, should read Rehmat and Walberg.

  10. Shabnam said on December 4th, 2009 at 9:38am #

    {The 1990s were a violent and unstable period in Russia, though the only large-scale terrorist attack was during the 1994-96 First Chechen War — the 1995 Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis, which resulted in 200 deaths.}

    Walberg spread lies to protect the interest of the Russian Zionist and terrorist state to hide Russian’s hand in terrors committed to frame Chechens. Russia in order to hide his terrorist activities in number of bombings and assassinations of Journalists, and former KGB is using its own agents. These honest Journalists came into possession of deadly information to expose the hand of Russian state ; therefore, they signed their own elimination by Russian’s hand.
    Larisa Alexandrovna who was born in Odessa, Ukraine is a journalist, essayist, and poet writes:
    The Russian bombings bear all the hallmarks of such operations, including the most well-known of these bombings, in which a car bomb was detonated in front of an apartment building in the city of Buynaksk that served as military housing for Russian soldiers, killing more than sixty residents. The attack was blamed on Chechen separatists and was used to justify attacks on suspected Chechen sympathizers and alleged co-conspirators, as well as on Chechnya itself. Other bombings soon followed, leading to then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declaring war on the separatist region, which had gained de facto independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

    But it was not until the failed Rayzan bombing attempt that the suspected role of the Russian government in the bombings began to be alleged publicly. In mid-1999, a group of agents of the Russian Federal Security Service, (FSB), were found placing explosives at an apartment complex in the city of Rayzan. The FSB is the Russian equivalent of the FBI.
    The materials used in this incident were similar to those found at the other bombings committed throughout 1999, but the FSB denied any involvement in the previous terrorist attacks and described the Rayzan bombing plot as a domestic counter-terrorism exercise.
    The Russian Duma — the lower house of the Federal Assembly — attempted to investigate the bombings, but the Kremlin would not cooperate or provide requested documentation.

    Former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who passed away died a few years ago from what many intelligence officials have indicated they believe to be a state-sponsored assassination, was likely the victim of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, (SVR).
    Litvinenko died of radiation poisoning from a rare and highly concentrated isotope, polonium-210. It is alleged that prior to the poisoning he had been in receipt of documents that were also in the possession of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya when she was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in her Moscow apartment building in October of this year.

    What was Anna Politkovskaya working on?
    At the time of the alleged attempt to poison Anna Politkovskaya, the reporter was en route to the city of Beslan, the site of an infamous elementary school hostage crisis of September 2004, a three day stand-off between alleged Chechen terrorists and Russian domestic security forces that left 344 people dead, more than half of them children.
    A source in one of the Western European intelligence organizations suggests that “Annas heart never left Beslan,” and that up until the moment of her death the journalist was pursuing evidence that might prove “embarrassing to the Kremlin.”
    Whatever it was that Politkovskaya was working on eventually landed in the lap of Alex Litvinenko.
    I agree with Aaron Aarons that this bombing is the work of Russians themselves to frame Chechens. This information is controlled by the terrorist state of Russia. The claim which was made earlier this week is also coming from the state and spread throughout the world by their agents pose as journalists especially in the ‘progressive’ media.


  11. Shabnam said on December 4th, 2009 at 2:00pm #

    Russia not only kills Muslims by assassination and bombing but also cooperates with the racist Zionists illegally towards Iran. Unfortunately, due to stupidity of American elite establishment who have let Jewish Lobby to write the foreign policy agendas; thus, has given full control to Jewish Lobby, a 5th column to write policy regarding Iran.
    Russia with the help of Zionist agents has gained many concessions in Georgia, Iran and the region where all are against the interest of the United States but serves it serves the interest of Israel and Russia, a racist state. Due to Zionist foreign policy, Iran bashing, Russia has been given many opportunities to try to steal all of the Caspian Sea riches for herself and small puppet state like Azerbaijan where has turned into a Zionist spy network.

    As far as the Caspian Sea is concerned, they want to use the whole Caspian Sea for their military and civilian fleet. But Iran so far has resisted. They are looking for their puppet Obama to tighten the screw even further to deliver more concessions to the racist states and against American interest. We wish them nothing but destruction and will carry our hatred towards these bast*rds generation after generation because we are fed up with double standard policies.

    Russia like Israel does not want Iran to be independent to have its own fuel enrichment program and does not want Iran to develop nuclear weapon but both Israel and Russia are sitting on thousands of nuclear bombs. Isreal illegal weapon program is not under NPT supervision either but THEY DARE TO COME AFTER IRAN LEGAL PROGRAM AND SIGNATORY TO NPT. Iranian people never forget the Russian racist policy and aggressive behavior towards Iran throughout its history.

    Russia took responsibility to complete Bushehr reactor but due to Zionist policy has deliberately turned it into a chip to bargain with and get more concessions from both Washington and Iran. Russia, due to Zionist demand, has deliberately made many stupid excuses to put Iranian down, thus, Iranians will never FORGET this RACIST ATTITUE AND ARE WAITING FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO RETURN RUSSIAN INSULTS appropriately that fit them best. The reactor should have been completed 10 years ago but we were promised to have it this year after 10 years of humiliation but they dare to postpone it again this year.
    The head of Russia’s state nuclear power corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, said in February that the Bushehr plant was scheduled to become operational in 2009.
    However, recently, when reporters asked him if the nuclear power plant in southern Iran would come on stream by the end of 2009 as previously scheduled, Shmatko said that it will not be possible to start up the plant before the year ends.
    Moscow agreed to build the nuclear power plant in 1995 and the project was supposed to be completed in July 1999, but the start-up of the reactor has been postponed several times. Russia, the most pro zionist state is silent, like the puppet in Washington, against Israel illegal nuclear weapon program and dares to come after Iran LEGAL NUCLEAR ENRIGHMENT PROGRAM.
    Bill Christiansen has recently written:
    {It takes only two paragraphs to demonstrate the foolishness and utter injustice of President Obama’s present policy toward Iran. In this world of nation-states, Iran has at least as much right to possess nuclear weapons as the far smaller Israel. The very existence, for over 40 years now, of Israeli nuclear weapons is almost certainly the dominant reason why Iran, while alleging the contrary, continues to move toward acquiring its own nuclear deterrent. If the U.S. president really wants to stop Iran from going nuclear, he has plenty of means and power to pressure Israel to dismantle its own nukes. He is simply unwilling to do so.}
    Russia on Israel’s demand has refuse to deliver S-300 either. As Alexander Shumilin the director of Center for the Analysis of Middle East Conflicts wrote:
    Russia is in no hurry to deliver the S-300, pointing out that the contract does not specify a specific deadline for delivery. All along, Moscow was betting that it could use the S-300 as a means of increasing its influence in the region. This was typical of the Kremlin’s active foreign policy in 2005, when the country was “getting up off its knees” amid sky-high oil prices.
    Iran is fed up with the manipulation of the terrorist state of Russia and has warned Russia that Iran can take legal action if Russia refuses to fulfill its commitments to deliver an advanced missile defense system to the Islamic Republic, a senior military official said on Tuesday. Iran believes that Russians are under the pressure of the Zionist lobby and America, refuse to fulfill their commitments.
    No wonder Iranian people are shouting “Down with Russia”, “Down with Russia” every time they get the chance. DOWN WITH RUSSIA, A TERRORIST AND ZIONIST STATE.


  12. Shabnam said on December 4th, 2009 at 7:22pm #

    The racist and terrorist president of Russia Putin said:
    {Russia has no information that Iran is working on the development of nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
    “We have no information on Iran’s work on nuclear weapons,” the prime minister said during an annual televised question-and-answer session with Russians.}

    Then why have you gone along with Zionist demand and voted for more sanctions against Iranians? Why have you put a knife on every single Iranian’s back to keep Iran weak and humiliated for the racist and terrorist state of Israel idiot?

    Iranian people never forget your cooperation with the Zionist policy carried out by their black servant who is not respected by anyone in the REGION? According to one of American soldiers who has recently escaped from captivity in Afghanistan and said: the majority of people in the region SPIT AT OBAMA’S PICTURE TO SHOW THEIR HATRED TOWARDS A SLAVE OF ZIONISM AND THE UNITED STATES who has killed millions of innocent people in the region yet their stupid population has done nothing but more shopping at the Mall.

    Why do you cooperate with Israel to strangulate Iran where has given you many economic concessions? Iranian people are extremely angry at the current state of affairs and Russia. They are waiting for an opportunity to tear any relation we might have with you apart and do exactly what you have done to us for such a long time. Israel and Bush administration staged the 9/11 to frame Muslims, similar to action of Russian state where has carried out train bombing, apartment complex bombing to frame Chechens to demonize them so they can eliminate them easily.
    Zionist puppet in the WH is not going to turn one person’s heart and mind for US rather it has turned the whole region against the United States and idiots who cooperate with them including Russia. We are demanding the enemy to get out immediately. The whole region will be united against war criminals and their stupid and greedy population.

  13. Shabnam said on December 4th, 2009 at 7:45pm #

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will visit Israel in 2010, he said on Friday, following a recent chill in ties between Moscow and Israel’s arch-enemy Iran.
    Putin’s pledge to visit the Jewish state came during a meeting in Moscow with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who told him: “We would be happy to see you in Israeli in 2010.”

    “Thank you very much for the invitation. I will definitely come,” replied Putin, who also said: “Israel is one of our highest-priority partners in the Middle East.”



  14. ilona@israel said on December 20th, 2009 at 10:05am #

    Russia playing strange game-it supports arabs and at the same time we see growth of trade between Russia and Israel and it seems that countries are ready to start dialogue. i think its good news fcr israel