Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned that the unrest sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa could trigger the disintegration of Arab countries into "little pieces" and lead to decades of strife.
"It is quite probable that there will be difficult events [across the Arab world] that may bring fanatics to power," Medvedev said at a security meeting in Vladikavkaz, the capital of the republic of North Ossetia in the North Caucasus.
He said the region could then face "fires and the further spread of extremism for decades to come. We should look the truth in the eye. They prepared the same scenario for us before and they will most certainly try to do it again now. In any case, this scenario will fail."
Russia is fighting a growing Islamist insurgency in the mainly Muslim regions along the North Caucasus, where endemic corruption and poverty has given Islamist rebels an opportunity to attract a young following.
Medvedev's comments come as a wave of antigovernment unrest has hit North Africa and the Middle East in recent weeks, forcing the long-serving rulers of Tunisia and Egypt from power.
Rallies fuelled by discontent with autocratic leaderships, unemployment, rising living costs, and political corruption have recently been held in Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Libya, and Yemen.
compiled from agency reports