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Chechen Leader Kadyrov Doesn't Consider IS A Threat To Russia

Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, appears for a speech at Sultan Bilimkhanov Stadium in Grozny in late December.

Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, appears for a speech at Sultan Bilimkhanov Stadium in Grozny in late December.

The head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, has said that he does not see the Islamic State (IS) militant group as a threat to the Russian Federation.

In a January 4 interview with Russian news agency Interfax, Kadyrov said that there was no point in "scaring ourselves with various ISILs," a reference to an alternative abbreviation for IS.

Kadyrov said that there was no threat that IS militants would join militants in Chechnya.

"We have a good intelligence network in the ranks of these terrorist hordes. This allows is to track the movement of those who are of interest to us. Moreover, it allows us to quickly send those who point the barrel at Russia on an eternal one-way trip," Kadyrov said.

The Chechen leader, who is a staunch supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that the danger to Russia was that "the United States and Western countries had turned the Middle East into a giant springboard for terrorist training."

Kadyrov went on to explain to Interfax his thoughts as to why he believed the United States and its allies did this.

"They thought this up in order to destroy individual countries, to denigrate Islam to the whole world, to establish for many decades control over the resource-rich Middle East, to divert attention from other conflicts in this part of the world," he said.

Echoing comments by Russia and also by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's other major ally, Iran, both of which have accused the United States of effectively creating the Islamic State group, Kadyrov said that the West had not learned anything from "the experience of [Osama] bin Laden" and had "given birth to a new project, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi."

Kadyrov has taken a great, even personal, interest in the matter of Chechen militants fighting in Syria and Iraq, including for the Islamic State group.

The Chechen leader has previously lashed out at the West over what he said was an attempt to portray Chechens as terrorists in Syria. In November, Kadyrov insisted that most ethnic Chechen fighters in Syria were not from Chechnya but rather were from the Chechen diaspora in Europe and the Middle East.

Kadyrov has also repeatedly insisted that the Chechen Republic has extensive intelligence about Chechen fighters in Syria, and has even claimed (wrongly, as it turned out) that the Islamic State's military commander in Syria, the ethnic Chechen Umar Shishani, had been killed in November, the implication being that Umar had been assassinated by Kadyrov's men.

While the December high-profile terrorist attack in the Chechen capital, Grozny, was not linked to the Islamic State group -- the domestic extremist group the Caucasus Emirate claimed responsibility -- Kadyrov must be acutely aware that several in the Caucasus Emirate's network of local factions in Daghestan have switched allegiance from Caucasus Emirate leader Ali Abu Mukhammad to Islamic State leader Baghdadi. The defections to Islamic State, which are being strongly supported by North Caucasian IS militants in Syria, have sparked tensions among militants in Daghestan.

If a similar wave of defections to Islamic State should take place among Caucasus Emirate militants in Chechnya, Kadyrov will have to face a more direct threat from the group, even if that threat is only psychological and does not translate into actual terrorist attacks against Chechen targets.

In his January 4 Interfax interview, Kadyrov did not refer to this possibility but spoke about the potential of blowback from Islamic State militants returning to Chechnya from Syria when he said that it was "most important to strictly control the movement of persons who were in the zone of this conflict," referring to the Syrian conflict.

The Chechen leader's comments regarding the Islamic State group come a week after Russia's Supreme Court declared it and Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations. The move serves to ban the two groups in Russia and allows the authorities to prosecute Russian nationals suspected of belonging to them.

-- 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