Amid fears that Islamic State (IS) group militants could pose a threat to Russia, a Russian lawmaker called on October 17 for IS videos to be banned in the Russian Federation.
Roman Khudyakov, a deputy in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, has asked the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office to block two IS propaganda videos -- "Flames of War" and "Clanging of the Swords" -- according to "Izvestiya.
The professionally edited "Flames of War" video, released in September and shared extensively on YouTube and other social networks, features an English-speaking IS militant presenting the extremist group’s perspective on its capture of the Syrian Army’s 17th Division base near Raqqa.
A Russian-subtitled version of the film has been distributed via IS’s official Russian-language website, H-Center.
Khudayov said that free access to these videos poses a threat to Russian society and promotes extremism, as well as the involvement of Russian citizens in illegal armed groups.
“Judging by the number of views, these videos are very popular on social networks and have an openly propagandistic nature with the aim of recruiting our compatriots to this organization,” he added.
The deputy said that IS militants are “threatening Russia.”
Moscow’s concerns about radicalization of its young Muslim citizens, particularly those from the North Caucasus, are not new. Russia is still battling an Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus. In December 2013, two suicide bombings in the southern city of Volgograd killed 34 people and wounded dozens more. At least one of the attacks was reportedly carried out by an ethnic Russian convert to Islam. Earlier this month, a suicide bombing in the Chechen capital, Grozny, left five people dead.
The civil war in Syria has attracted as many as 1,000 Russian-speaking foreign fighters, many of them displaced from the conflict in the North Caucasus. In addition to the Islamic State group, which has a number of Russian-speaking jamaats (factions), the North Caucasian separatist group Caucasus Emirate also has a branch in Syria -- the Chechen-led faction Jaish Al-Muhajireen Wal-Ansar.
In 2013, in an attempt to deal with possible blowback from Russian citizens returning from Syria, and to deter Russians from fighting there, Moscow amended its antiterrorism law to make those who fight abroad criminally accountable at home.
Several Russian citizens have been arrested on suspicion of having fought in Syria and have been prosecuted under the new legislation. However, the new law does not appear to have acted as a deterrent.
There is evidence that young Russians, particularly in the North Caucasus, are traveling to Syria after having being radicalized.
Among those traveling to Syria are recent converts to Islam.
On October 16, North Caucasus-based news outlet Kavkaz-uzel reported that a 31-year-old Christian-born convert to Islam from Russia’s Kabardino-Balkar Republic was suspected of traveling to Syria via Turkey to fight. The son of an Ossetian father and a Russian mother, the man was originally named Roman. It was while he was a student in Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia that Roman converted to Islam, changing his name to Ramazan. His whereabouts in Syria are not known.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk