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Russian Court Bans Flames Of War, IS Propaganda Video

A screen grab from Flames Of War

A screen grab from Flames Of War

A Moscow court has banned the distribution in Russia of Flames of War, an Islamic State (IS) propaganda video.

The court ruling is the latest move by the Russian authorities to crack down on the extremist group, following the Russian Supreme Court decision in December to designate the Islamic State group as a terrorist organization.

Evgenia Potapkina, the press secretary of the Tver District Court of Moscow, said that the court had "accepted the Moscow prosecutor's petition and ruled to recognize this footage as banned for distribution in the Russian Federation," according to a report by the Russian government daily Rossiskaya Gazeta on February 25.

Islamic State militants released the 55-minute video, entitled Flames of War, in September. The professionally edited video is narrated in English by a militant with an American accent and includes footage of captured Syrian Arab Army soldiers being forced to dig their own graves. The captives are later filmed being shot at close range and their bodies falling into the ditches they dug.

A version of the film with Russian subtitles has since been released and shared via Russian-language pro-Islamic State sites, as well as on social media. According to RG, the court said the film has also been distributed via the Russian social networking site VKontakte.

According to Rossiskaya Gazeta, it was State Duma deputy Roman Khudyakov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) who first approached the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office with the request to designate Flames of War and a second video, Clanging of the Swords IV, as extremist and to block them from distribution in Russia.

Khudyakov said that access to these videos on major Internet sites would post a serious threat to Russian state and society and promote fundamentalist Islamic ideas as well as the involvement of Russian citizens in militant groups, Rossiskaya Gazeta reported.

"It would be imprudent to remain indifferent and allow these flicks to zombify the minds of Russians," Khudyakov said of the Islamic State propaganda videos.

The Russian lawmaker said that the Islamic State group had previously fought on behalf of the United States against Russia's ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Of course, we understand that [the IS group] initially supported the U.S.A. in the fight against Assad, but things ended badly and a new monster was raised. Now Islamic State militants are threatening Russia. They are filming and distributing videos. Clanging of the Swords and Flames of War are being freely spread around the Russian Internet," Khudyakov explained.

In claiming that the Islamic State group supported the United States, Khudyakov was referring -- albeit in a rather skewed way -- to the Russian view that Washington and its allies had helped to create the extremist group by providing support for moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against Assad. Moscow's position has been to conflate the Islamic State group and Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra with all of the armed groups in Syria, including the Free Syrian Army.

Khudayov has previously called for the establishment of a "Russian foreign legion" in Central Asia that would fight the Islamic State group.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena


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