Kremlin cracks down on recruiting in former USSR by Syrian rebels

Special to

MOSCOW — Russia has launched a crackdown on efforts to recruit
fighters for the Sunni revolt in Syria.

Officials said the Kremlin has ordered authorities to intensify
monitoring of Islamist groups in Russia to stop the recruitment of fighters
to Syria.

Russian Federal Security Service director Alexander Bortnikov.  /RIA Novosti/Alexey Nikolskiy
Russian Federal Security Service director
Alexander Bortnikov. /RIA Novosti/Alexey Nikolskiy

They said hundreds of Russians as well as other Muslims in the
former Soviet Union were participating in the revolt against Syrian
President Bashar Assad.

“They pose a severe danger,” Russian Federal Security Service director
Alexander Bortnikov said. “It is highly important to track their movements
following the end of hostilities.”

The Russian intelligence agency, known as FSB, has assessed that at
least 200 Muslims from Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States were fighting with the rebels in Syria. Moscow has been the leading military ally of Assad, and in 2013 intensified weapons exports, particularly of anti-aircraft and anti-ship systems.

In a statement on May 15, Bortnikov said the Kremlin was working with
other former Soviet republics to stop the flow of fighters to Syria. He said
CIS states were preparing to establish a data base to help track recruiters
for the rebels.

“This would help in taking measures in case of preparation of terrorist
attacks,” Bortnikov said.

In 2012, the Assad regime relayed a list of hundreds of foreigners
believed to be fighting with the rebels. The names included those from
Russia, particularly Chechnya.

Officials said many of the Russians were paid handsomely to fight for
the Syrian rebels. They said Chechens were in high demand because of their
skills in urban warfare and explosives.

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