A Kremlin official has indicated that Russia is concerned about links between militants in the North Caucasus and the Islamic State (IS) group, according to an interview published in a Russian daily on March 5.
"We are confirming information about the establishment of contacts between [the IS group] and the terrorist underground in the North Caucasus. This information will be taken into account when making future decisions to strengthen Russian security and protect its national interests," Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Kremlin's Security Council, told Komsomolskaya Pravda.
Patrushev's remarks came after a number of factions from the North Caucasus-based militant group the Caucasus Emirate pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Despite the pledges, however, there has as yet been no sign that the groups in question have carried out any attacks in the North Caucasus or elsewhere.
Rather than focusing on the possible or actual threat posed by IS militants to Russia, or the problems of North Caucasus militancy, Patrushev used the interview to slam the United States. He repeated the Russian mantra that the United States and its Western allies helped give rise to the IS group because of their military intervention in Iraq.
"I would also like to recall history. The [IS group] is rooted in the days of Western military intervention in Iraq. It was at that time that this 'Al-Qaeda' cell began to form. Subsequently, it was joined by separate Sunni groups and former Iraqi officials and officers who had gone into hiding after the American occupation," Patrushev said.
The Russian Security Council chief also reiterated Moscow's position that the United States is guilty of applying "double standards" in the Middle East with regard to fighting "terrorism," a term used by Moscow to refer not only to the IS group but to all of the armed rebel groups fighting Russia's ally, the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria.
"Today, the international community once again has to deal with problems arising from the short-sighted policies of the White House. Unfortunately, despite its loud proclamations, Washington still applies double standards in its fight against terrorism," Patrushev said.
Echoing remarks made by Assad's other staunch ally, Iran -- whose Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein-Amir Abdollahian accused the United States this week of seeking to "control, not destroy" the IS group -- Patrushev suggested that Washington was deliberately using the extremists to help destroy the Assad government.
"One gets the impression that the United States is not in any rush to eliminate [IS] militants, fearing that this will alleviate the plight of Syria and her president, Assad," Patrushev commented.
Patrushev said that Russia's position on the IS group was "unchanged."
"The division of terrorists into 'good' and 'bad' is not permissible. The fight against this evil must be conducted only in strict accordance with international law and UN Security Council resolutions," Patrushev said.
The Russian Security Council chief also warned that the West was also engaging in "anti-Russian propaganda" that was "not conducive to the unity of the international community in the fight against terrorism."
-- Joanna Paraszczuk