The threats facing Russia may be diversifying. Can security services keep up?
Terrorism is back in Russian headlines. In the month since a bomber detonated a homemade explosive device on the St. Petersburg metro, killing 16 people and wounding dozens more, the country has been further shaken by a series of smaller attacks and arrests.
On April 21, a teenager in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk robbed a shooting range and then used the stolen weapons to kill two people at a Federal Security Service (FSB) office. Although the Islamic State (IS)* initially claimed responsibility, the attacker later turned out to be a neo-Nazi. Several days later, the FSB detained two supporters of IS in Russia’s remote Sakhalin region. The men were reportedly planning to bomb a place where large numbers of people congregate.
And late last week, security services announced they had arrested 12 Central Asian recruiters from the Islamic Jihad—Dzhamaat Mozhakhedov* movement posing as construction workers in Russia’s western Kaliningrad exclave. The 32-year-old leader of the group reportedly had connections to Syria.
Security analysts caution that it’s too early to establish any trends, but the attacks and arrests raise several concerns. Unlike in past cases, most of the suspects in these recent incidents hail from Central Asia. All operated in cities not previously targeted by terrorists. And several appear to have been so-called “lone wolves” with few direct ties to terror groups.
“Terrorism is becoming more ideas-based,” says Gennady Gudkov, a former parliamentarian who spent over a decade serving in the Soviet and Russian security services. So far, he adds, Russian law enforcement has failed to keep up.