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Terrorism in Russia

Aired April 6, 2010 - 08:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, are Moscow's strong-arm tactics against terrorism working or not, as another suicide bomber attacks Russia's Caucasus region?

Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour, and welcome to our program.

Terror strikes Russia again. A suicide bomber has killed two policemen in the Russian republic of Ingushetia. It was the latest in a burst of attacks since last week's double-bombing of the Moscow metro, which killed 40 people. We'll discuss where all of this is headed in a moment with our distinguished panel, but first, CNN's Matthew Chance has the latest from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Moscow's terror caught on a cell phone by a passenger. Look carefully, and you can see evidence of the horror that occurred just a few minute before. A policeman ushers out shocked commuters past the gutted train and pools of blood on the platform.

The twin suicide bombings in the rush hour killed 40 people. Chechen rebels say they ordered the attacks. One of the female bombers was just 17, the widow of a suspected militant killed by Russian security forces last year.

The effect has been shocking. Such attacks are commonplace in the North Caucasus, but not here.

But now it seems the rebels have brought the fight once again to Moscow. Not for six years has this Russian capital had to endure attacks like this. If Muscovites felt they were insulated from the troubles in the south, that illusion has now been truly shattered.

The North Caucasus is Russia's troubled underbelly, for years plagued by separatist conflicts in Chechnya.


Now those conflicts have spread through the Caucasus to neighboring Russian provinces like Ingushetia and Dagestan, also in the grip of a violent Islamist insurgency. In fact, the female suicide bomber in Moscow was from Dagestan. Car bombs, gun battles, and suicide attacks in the region are becoming almost routine.

In Chechnya itself, the Kremlin has concentrated power in the hands of a former rebel who defected to Moscow's side. The brutal crackdown by Ramzan Kazirov (ph) has delivered a semblance of stability, and Chechnya has been rebuilt.

But human rights groups say disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture have soared, heavy-handed tactics fueling the broader regional unrest. This was the scene in Dagestan just a day after the Moscow attacks. A car bomb exploded near the headquarters of the local security forces. Then, as investigators inspected damage, another blast. A suicide bomber blew up the crowd, killing at least 12 people, including nine police officers called to the scene.

The North Caucasus has been wracked by this kind of violence for years, but with Moscow now feeling similar pain, it's harder for the Kremlin to argue a growing insurgency is under control.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


AMANPOUR: And joining me now to discuss all of this, we have from Moscow Yevgenia Albats, chief editor of the New Times magazine; from Washington, Dimitri Simes, who's president of the Nixon Center; and here in our studio, Stephen Cohen, who's professor of Russian studies at New York University.

Thank you all for joining us. Let me ask you first, Mr. Cohen, why now? Why six years since the last attack in Moscow?

STEPHEN COHEN, PROF. OF RUSSIAN STUDIES AND HISTORY AT NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Well, on one level, it's a response to Moscow's stepped-up campaign in this area. On another level, it's political. The Putin regime has been boasting that he's ended the violence in Moscow. These people have showed he has not.

AMANPOUR: Dimitri Simes, do you -- do you agree with that, that it's political, it's trying to tell Mr. Putin, tell him that he hasn't succeeded?

DIMITRI SIMES, PRESIDENT OF THE NIXON CENTER: Well, I don't think that the terrorists want to send a message to Putin. I think that they want to send a broader message to the Russian political spectrum that Putin was not able to deliver, that Russia is vulnerable, and that Russia needs to change their way it is treating the Chechens and others in the region.

AMANPOUR: But why now? Why has it taken six years for them to deliver this message?

SIMES: It took them six years because, as Steve just said a minute ago, there were very successful Russian attacks on the militants in Chechnya and Ingushetia. Several top militant commanders were killed. Military formations which the separatists used to have two or three years ago, these military formations were defeated. And now the radicals -- the only thing they have left at their disposal is terrorism.

AMANPOUR: Yevgenia, we've seen in the past how these issues have not really had a full airing in the -- in the Russian press, whether it be in print, radio or on television. How is this being played right now?



ALBATS: You mean in Russian media? You know, unfortunately, the major state-run or state-related (ph) channels, they give very little attention. In fact, the day this tragic attack happened in the Moscow subway, both major channels, networks in Moscow, they really didn't report on the events. And there were just in a small information news (ph).

I had to watch BBC. I had to watch CNN, and I watched your news in order to see what was covered by the network.



ALBATS: And, basically (inaudible) it's off the air entirely, except for the radio station Ekomas 3 (ph) and some of the independent news magazines, like the New Times, you know...


AMANPOUR: Yevgenia...

ALBATS: ... very little news about that.

AMANPOUR: Do the Russian authorities -- I mean, what can they be thinking when they try to stop the broadcasting of these kind of events? Because Russia is not -- you know, it's very, very sophisticated right now. There's all sorts of access to all sorts of news, as you've just said.

ALBATS: As far as I know -- and, you know, we covered this in the magazine -- that when the reporters, you know, saw their editors from channel one and channel two, they called Kremlin (inaudible) asking whether they were to cover the blast in Moscow subway. They said, no. Channel two, Russian state television, has a cable that covers news 24/7. However, the coverage -- it has access to only 0.8 percent of the Russian citizens, whereas channel two covers more than 80 percent of households across Russia.

So basically the idea, as I understand, was just to keep their mouth shut and to pretend this -- you know, nothing really happened.

AMANPOUR: OK, Dimitri Simes...

ALBATS: And, of course, we know that 40 people got dead.

AMANPOUR: Dimitri Simes, in this -- in this climate of sort of a news suppression, what are the Russian authorities hoping to achieve, if their main goal is to try to attack this terrorism? What do you think that they can do? And are their security forces up to it?

SIMES: Well, let me say, first, I'm not quite sure I understand what Yevgenia Albats is talking about. I watch Russian news every day, and I see channel one, I watch channel two. They cover these attacks all the time and at very considerable lengths.

The problem is not that they don't cover. The problem is how they cover. And they provide basic information about what happened. And then they praise the performance of the security services. There is no critical analysis whatsoever. There is no really analytical scrutiny on the part of major Russian TV channels, and that is, of course, very unfortunate.

But the basic information is very much there. Let me say that I think Mr. Putin is somewhat at a loss. He knows how to use tough tactics, but he doesn't know how to do much else. Mr. Medvedev is talking quite correctly about anti-corruption struggle, about economic development in the Caucasus, but it will take a lot and a lot of time, and they have an immediate problem, and they have a very tough predicament.

But to put things into perspective, there are bombings today in Baghdad, there are bombings today in Pakistan, there are attacks on embassies on American forces, so we should not pretend that there is an immediate solution to this terrible challenge, not only for Russia, but anywhere else, including for the United States.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me take that up with you, Stephen Cohen. Bombings all over the place, particularly in that region. How does, let's say, Russia deal with this, which has been going on for at least the '90s?

COHEN: Let's be fair and let's be historical. Terrorism has been part of our life for years and years. France has experienced it, Japan, England, the United States, Russia a lot more. Nobody knows exactly what to do about it.

There's two truisms. Find them and kill them, that's the Putin truism. The Medvedev -- the president of Russia -- truism is we have to get to the root causes. We know what it is. It's poverty, corruption, abuse of power.


But every country that's been hit by terrorism has tried to do this. Nobody knows how to do it, and it's going to take generations.

Meanwhile, you've got to stop the killing. You stop the killing by finding the killers, so you do both.

The problem here in Russia is, as Dimitri said, is that they need a broader discussion in the media of what's going on. Now, the Western press has been bashing Putin, but it's not clear to me that the Western press knows a solution in Russia, either.

There's one other thing we ought to remember, what makes Russia different. Since 1996, I count approximately 15 acts of terrorism in central Russia. Remember at the end of the last year, they blew up that train.

AMANPOUR: Since 1996, 15 acts?

COHEN: About 15.

AMANPOUR: That's not very much.

COHEN: Well, it's not very much, except I'm talking about in the center of Russia, not in the Caucasus itself, where there are almost daily occurrences. But remember what happened in late 2009, when they blew up that elite train, that high-speed train. That hit at the elite of Russia, because that was a device they use. Subways hit at ordinary people.

But here's the thing to remember. Has any fully nuclear state in history ever experienced so much terrorism? No. And that means we're on the edge of a bigger disaster.

There are so many nuclear reactors, there's so much dirty material, there are so many unsecured nuclear facilities that this is an unprecedented situation what's unfolding in Russia, and therefore, it affects all of us, not just Putin and the Kremlin.

AMANPOUR: Mr. Simes, that is...

ALBATS: May I interfere?

AMANPOUR: Go ahead, Yevgenia.

ALBATS: May I interfere? You know, it's lovely to hear your guests - - you know, I know both of them, they've very nice personalities. However, they reflect -- it's -- you know, they reflect the situation (ph) that exists -- that there is one media for people like Steve and Dimitri that they can watch outside Russian situation.

Russia today covers news very well. Channel -- second channel, the state channel, so-called Planet, Russia Planet, it covers news. They do it for outside. They don't do it for Russian citizens inside.

So, Dimitri Simes, next time you say that you don't know what I say, you just call me, and I will tell you that there are two different newscasts for those who watch news in Moscow and for those who watch news in Washington, D.C. This is point one.

Point two, first of all, it wasn't six years since last attacks in Moscow. It's been four years, because we had an explosion on the Turkish market (ph) in August of 2006, and 14 people got killed, and these were not Muslims. These were Russian nationalists, and they were caught, and they - - there were trials, and they're now in prison.

Now, there are three major problems that exist and that provocate those terrorist attacks all across Russia. Of course, you know, we're not talking just about Moscow. There were terrorist attacks in (inaudible) of the Russian Federation. Two planes went down in 2004. There was terrorist attack in (inaudible) in 2004 (inaudible) and during this year, in Northern Caucasus, we had...


ALBATS: ... 47 -- 47 terrorist attacks as opposed to during -- just from the beginning of 2007...

AMANPOUR: All right, Yevgenia...

ALBATS: ... as opposed to 37, 2009.


ALBATS: No, let me finish, Christiane. I just want to say that the cruelty of the federal forces in the North Caucasus, the dictatorships -- the sultanistic regimes that exist there that create a lot of misery and humiliation -- and these people who -- whose relatives got killed, then they now come to Moscow and kill us.

There is a fundamental problem that doesn't allow Russia to fight terrorism, and that's the awful corruption of the law enforcement forces in Russia.


Basically, no one terror attack in Moscow or any other cities of the Russian Federation happened without support these or another guy (ph) (inaudible) whether from police or FSB or et cetera. That's the second major problem.

AMANPOUR: All right, Yevgenia -- Yevgenia, I will let you finish, but we have to take a break, and we're going to discuss this when we come back from a break. We want to discuss the nature of the attacks. We want to discuss whether or not the media could be doing a better job. And we want to talk about who is this new face who's claiming to be the face of the scourge of Russia, so stay with us.

And on our Facebook page, weigh in on whether you think that Prime Minister Putin's pure power approach can stop the insurgency or whether President Medvedev's attempt to attack poverty and underdevelopment is more likely to succeed. That's at

And next, the new face of rebellion against Moscow. We'll discuss that with our guests. Stay with us.




AMANPOUR (voice-over): Anna Politkovskaya became a reporter for the newspaper Novayagazeta. In her book, she blasted President Vladimir Putin for snuffing out Russia's democracy.

As the most vociferous critic of Russia's brutal war in Chechnya, the breakaway republic, Politkovskaya investigated the corruption of local leaders installed by Russia and the terrible price paid by civilians in the pacification campaign.


AMANPOUR: Anna Politkovskaya, as we all know, also paid a terrible price. She was murdered in October of 2006, and her killers have never been brought to justice.

Joining me again, Yevgenia Albats, who's chief editor of the New Times Magazine in Moscow; Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center, joining us from Washington; and Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian studies at New York University here in the studio.

Yevgenia, before we -- before we broke off, you were trying to get to this whole notion of corruption, of what led to Anna Politkovskaya's death, and democracy. Are you trying to say that better aims at democracy would put a stop to this terrorism?

ALBATS: Oh, absolutely. You know, the current (inaudible) that Putin established with the country back in 2000 was democracy in exchange for security. And the result was neither democracy nor security.


There is no way to fight terrorism in the current environment of Russia unless we will stop the corruption in the law enforcement institutions of the Russian Federation.

AMANPOUR: All right.

ALBATS: And there's no way to do it without democracy.

AMANPOUR: OK. So I'm going to put this question to the gentlemen, but first, I want to play these bits of sound which may illustrate this, first, what Prime Minister Putin has just said about this latest round of terrorism.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRIME MINISTER OF RUSSIA (through translator): We know the masterminds and accomplices have lain in hiding, but it is a matter of honor for law enforcement agencies to bring them out from the sewer into God's light.


AMANPOUR: So that's what Prime Minister Putin said, again, saying that they will basically find them, and this is what President Medvedev has been saying about the root causes of this kind of terrorism. He has said that this task is even more difficult than tracking down and eliminating terrorists. It is much harder to create the modern environment for education, for doing business, for overcoming cronyism, for confronting corruption.

So, Dimitri Simes, which tactic is going to work? Is it what President Medvedev is trying to do or is it what Prime Minister Putin has been doing?

SIMES: You need both of the above. But let me say, first, very briefly, I, of course, watch Russian TV channels, and I knew what I was talking about when I said that they cover these events extensively, not adequately, but extensively.

Now, there was terrorism in the United States. The United States is a democracy. There was terrorism in Britain, actually, a tragedy (ph) in the subway. Britain is very much a democracy. Democracy is great, but democracy is not a panacea, otherwise there would be more terrorism in Jordan than Britain, but the opposite is true.

What you do need is to go to the Caucasus and understand that these people were terribly alienated, that they don't trust the authorities, they don't trust their local governments. You cannot restore it at once. It has to be a very slow and deliberate process.

But meanwhile, here -- agree with Yevgenia -- you need to deal with corruption in security services. And, frankly, I will say something very controversial. They have -- they have to restore good police work of the post-KGB successor agency, also called Federal Security Service. It lost most of its informers. It became very ineffective.

And they cannot do the most important thing: terrorism prevention. They cannot infiltrate the informers in terrorist organizations. So they have to do both, in terms of more democracy and better police and intelligence work.

AMANPOUR: OK. As Mr. Simes is talking about, an inadequate, he says, police and FSB structure, then how do they find so-called the face of the new terrorism, Doku Umarov? Who is he? How do they find him if they can't penetrate, if they don't have informers?

COHEN: Dimitri's absolutely right. It seems odd for Americans to be saying they lost something with the KGB, with the Soviet Union, but they lost their intelligence capacity. They lost their network of informers in the Caucasus. That's how you track down and kill people. They don't have it, and Dimitri's right.

But, you know, in the end, in the end, what history teaches is, is that you don't end terrorism through democracy. You end it by getting out. I mean, France ended the terrorism by getting out of Algeria. We ended the terrorism by getting out of Vietnam.

The problem is that the Caucasus is a constituent part of Russia. They can't get out.

AMANPOUR: All right. And Umarov has said, much like Osama bin Laden said about Saudi Arabia, that there has to be an evacuation by the forces of the peninsula, he said, out of the Caucasus, and to establish an Islamic caliphate. Does that have any resonance beyond a small group in Russia or in the Caucasus?

COHEN: Sure, it does. Russia has 20 million Islamic citizens in the federation. But the issue is, with whom can you negotiate in these areas, Dagestan and Ingushetia?

Because you need to ask them a question. The Kremlin has to ask this question. Maybe they have secretly. Do you want to be in the Russian Federation, and we will withdraw our repressive forces, and you will -- you will have a form of home rule? Or do you want to secede altogether?

Succession will not be permitted, because the Kremlin feels it'll be the breakup of the Russian state, but if it can be a negotiation about real federation -- and then that begins to raise the question of democracy -- there may be some semi-solution there.

AMANPOUR: Do you think, Mr. Simes -- last question to both of you, you have to be quite brief -- that there is a way to see whether they want any kind of coexistence or the opposite and to deal with it in that way?

SIMES: They need to kill Umarov like we need to kill Osama bin Laden. But they also need to negotiate with more moderate rebels. And most important, they had to minimize their abuse (inaudible) to the population. In this sense, Medvedev's approach is the right one, but it is not going to work instantly.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask, finally, to you, Yevgenia, it seems that in general Chechens are satisfied with the amount of autonomy that they have, so how do you think that this is going to be resolved?

ALBATS: I think that the only way to resolve the issue is to fight corruption in the Russian Federation. I do believe that terrorism is not the biggest issue here. The biggest issue is corruption.

Just think about this. In 2002, Chechen terrorists (inaudible) theater. For (inaudible) they were able to bring explosives to the very center of Moscow, and we know that this was done with the support of the local policemen. In 2004, 322 people got dead, and most of them, they were children in the slums...


ALBATS: (inaudible) terrorists were supported by policemen. People - - those two women terrorists who -- I'm sorry. I just want to say that you shouldn't compare Russia to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. It's a very different situation here. And the issue is that unless there will be an uncorrupted, trustful law enforcement, there is no way to deal with terrorism or with only -- or with any other criminal activities (inaudible) Russian Federation. That's it.

AMANPOUR: Yevgenia Albats, Dimitri Simes, and Stephen Cohen, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us on the program.

And next, we have our "Post-Script." There is a musician rocking the Kremlin with some rare outspoken criticism.



AMANPOUR: And now our "Post-Script." It's not often that Russians dare criticize their government in public, but last month, the rock star Yuri Shevchuk of the band DDT slammed the Kremlin at an awards ceremony in Moscow. He accused the government of what he said was brutality, inhumanity and cruelty. Shevchuk is also a vocal critic of the war in Chechnya.

His song, "Don't Shoot," was originally a protest against the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan, but he later rededicated it to the war in Chechnya.

And from today's female suicide bombers back to the first move for Chechen independence in the early 1990s, go to, where we have what you need to know about the spread of this conflict.

And that is it for now. We'll be back later with a look at the political turmoil in Iraq after the election. We'll have an interview with opposition leader Ayad Allawi. For all of us here, goodbye from New York.