Friday, April 18, 2014


Russia

Russia: Putin Orders New Counterterrorism Committee

<div class="caption"><div class="watermark"> <a href="http://gdb.rferl.org/cd2deed4-9d9a-4d1e-9aaa-4b8cd2f946e2_mw800_mh600.jpg" rel="ibox" title="The scene of a terrorist explosion in Ingushetia in August 2005 (AFP)"> <img alt="The scene of a terrorist explosion in Ingushetia in August 2005 (AFP)" src="http://gdb.rferl.org/cd2deed4-9d9a-4d1e-9aaa-4b8cd2f946e2_w203.jpg" class="photo" border="0"></a></div><p>The scene of a terrorist explosion in Ingushetia in August 2005 (AFP)</p></div>Russian President Vladimir Putin on 16 February created by decree a National Counterterrorism Committee (NAK), a new government body tasked with coordinating all federal-level antiterrorism policies and operations. The committee will be headed by Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev (FSB) and includes members such as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Lebedev, the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

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By Victor Yasmann

Other high-ranking security officials, cabinet ministers, presidential administration authorities, and members of both chambers of parliament will also participate.


The decree also creates a network of counterterrorism commissions throughout the Russian Federation to be led by territorial administrative heads. Finally, the decree sets up a federal operative staff as the commission's executive arm, as well as territorial operative staffs, to be run by the heads of the territorial branches of the FSB.


Threat Of Terrorism 'Remains Very Serious'


Commenting on the presidential decree, Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov said on 16 February that it was timed to coincide with the second reading in the Duma of a bill on combating terrorism introduced by the presidential administration after the hostage crisis in Beslan in 2004.


"The threat of terrorism remains very serious and streamlining the national legislation is very timely," Gryzlov said, according to strana.ru.


"The National Counterterrorism Committee will have the opportunity to intervene in the work of any power -- whether federal, regional, or municipal. And one should not rule out that it will be done not only in the interests of fighting terrorism."


But not all Duma deputies agree. Anatoly Yermolin, a veteran of the SVR's Vympel special force who was expelled from Unified Russia in 2004 after he joined the Open Russia philanthropic fund created by now-jailed former YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovsky, rejected Gryzlov's explanation.


Yermolin said Putin's decree is, in fact, a presidential command to the Duma to adopt the new version of the bill, which increases the powers of the FSB, gazeta.ru reported on 16 February.


Boosting The Antiterrorism Vertical


FSB Director Patrushev, not surprisingly, has high praise for the decree. He said it deals not only with "fighting terrorism, but on preventing it, confronting it, and liquidating its consequences," strana.ru reported. Patrushev added the decree would help unite the brightest talent in the antiterrorism field, as it authorizes the increase of the central FSB apparatus by 300 officers.


Until now, the Federal Antiterrorism Commission -- created in 2002 and led by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov -- was the top federal organ responsible for the coordination of counterterrorism activity. The new decree not only replaces this commission with the NAK, but also creates a new "antiterrorism vertical" that will act in parallel with existing federal and regional executive powers.


Back To The USSR?


Indeed, the proposed new network -- regional counterterrorism commissions led by regional administration chiefs, territorial operative staffs led by territorial FSB heads -- bears considerable resemblance to the Soviet system, which had power in any given province concentrated in the hands of the local Communist Party secretary and the head of the regional KGB.


FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev, addressing the Russian State Duma in May 2005 (TASS)

Not everyone, however, fears Putin's proposed antiterrorism vertical is dangerous. SVR Colonel Oleg Nicheporenko told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 February that such infrastructure can in fact help to combat terrorism. "Modern terrorism is carried out creatively and very ingeniously, and it does not comply with a bureaucratic way of doing [business]," Nicheporenko said.


But Victor Ilyukhin, a Duma deputy from the Communist Party and the former head of the State Duma Security Committee, has another opinion. He was quoted by "Nezavisimaya gazeta " in an article published 17 February as saying Putin's decree inflates the role of the FSB to the degree that it "makes it a state within a state and a substitute for state functions and prerogatives."


"The National Counterterrorism Committee will have the opportunity to intervene in the work of any power -- whether federal, regional, or municipal," Ilyukhin said. "And one should not rule out that it will be done not only in the interests of fighting terrorism."

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