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No Russian Criminal Case To Be Filed Against Would-Be IS Recruit Karaulova

  • Joanna Paraszczuk

Varvara Karaulova, a Russian student who made headlines last month for reportedly trying to join Islamic State.

Varvara Karaulova, a Russian student who made headlines last month for reportedly trying to join Islamic State.

Russian prosecutors will not be filing any criminal case against Varvara Karaulova, the Moscow student who may have been recruited to the Islamic State (IS) militant group, an official has said.

"An examination of the possible involvement of Varvara Karaulova in the activities of an extremist group and her recruitment has been completed, and the decision was taken not to institute criminal proceedings," Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the government's official Investigative Committee, told the pro-Kremlin news website RIA Novosti on July 23.

A student at the prestigious Moscow State University, Karaulova, 19, was detained on June 4 together with 13 other Russians and four Azerbaijanis near Turkey's border with Syria. She was allegedly attempting to cross into IS-occupied territory.

Karaulova's father told RIA Novosti on July 4 that his daughter had decided to join IS after falling in love with a young man -- thought to be an IS recruiter -- over the Internet.

Karaulova's case was widely reported in Russia, receiving more air time on Russian television in early June than even President Vladimir Putin, according to the BBC Russian Service.

Growing Recruitment Fears

The announcement that no charges will be brought against Karaulova comes against a background of growing concerns in Russia about IS recruitment, fueled by reports that other young women have been targeted by the extremist group.

On June 12, just two weeks after Karaulova returned to Russia, reports emerged that another 19-year-old student, Mariam Ismailova of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, had gone missing. Police believe Ismailova may have gone to Turkey to try to join IS.

And on June 23, the pro-Kremlin Life News reported that police had caught a third teenager, a 16-year-old Moscow schoolgirl, who had run away to a village in Daghestan and married a man who allegedly planned to take his new wife to Syria.

Amid these reports, the Federal Security Service (FSB) said it has received numerous calls from Russians who claimed IS had tried to recruit their relatives.

In response to the tide of IS-recruitment reports, members of Russia's Civic Chamber have even asked Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council and one of the most senior officials in the country, to compile a rating of those Russian regions where IS "agitators" have been most successful.

"IS recruiters are operating in 24 languages, with Russian the third-most-popular after Arabic and English," said the Civic Chamber member Elena Sutormina.

"This indicates that the terror group considers Russia a promising country for recruitment."

The number of Russian nationals who have traveled to IS-controlled territory is not known. The Russian Interior Ministry said in January that more than 800 Russian citizens were fighting alongside IS, according to "unofficial, expert estimates."

But FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov told reporters in February that as many as 1,700 Russian nationals could be fighting alongside IS.