Russia, US to step up cooperation in terrorism battle


Sun, Apr 21, 2013 - Page 7

Russia and the US yesterday agreed to step up cooperation in their fight against terrorism in the wake of news that two ethnic Chechens were suspected of organizing the deadly Boston Marathon bombings.

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin called US President Barack Obama to once again express his condolences and discuss ways the two sides can work more closely on security in the run-up to this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

“Both sides underscored their interest in bolstering the close cooperation of Russian and US special services in the fight against international terrorism,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

The White House also issued a statement saying that Obama thanked Putin for the condolences “and praised the close cooperation that the United States has received from Russia on counter-terrorism, including in the wake of the Boston attack.”

US authorities said that the two young men who set off twin bombs on Monday that killed three people at the Boston Marathon and then shot dead a policeman on Friday were ethnic Chechens from Russia’s North Caucasus region.

The 26-year-old elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was shot and killed by police while his 19-year-old sibling, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was apprehended on Friday evening.

Cooperation between the US and Russian intelligence services remains weak due to temperamental diplomatic ties and concern in Washington that Putin was using the fight against terror to crack down on his political foes.

Russian analysts said this would likely change in the aftermath of the Boston bombings.

“The main lesson the United States should draw from all this is that they should strengthen their cooperation with Russia in their fight against terror,” Moscow’s National Defence magazine editor Igor Korotchenko said.

Kremlin-linked Russian lawmaker Alexei Pushkov of the Russian parliament’s International Affairs Committee said the shocking attack should also mute Washington’s criticism of Putin’s actions in the North Caucasus.

Russia waged two post-Soviet wars in Chechnya — the second started by Putin while he was Russian prime minister in 1999.

The popular campaign helped his rise to the presidency in 2000, but immediately created tensions in his relations with the West.

“We told the Americans — what are you doing [by criticizing Putin]? You are supporting the seeds of terror,” Pushkov told Russian News Service radio.

“And the Americans did not want to listen,” he added. “So this can now be a plus.”

Other observers said that Russia is currently ahead of the US in Internet monitoring because of is laxer privacy laws.

Security analysts Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan wrote in the Yezhednevny Zhurnal online daily that Russia’s powerful Federal Security Service has been closely watching social media since 2010 — two years longer than the US.

They added “that there was never any close cooperation” between the two intelligence services except for one joint operation conducted since sides agreed to work together on security in 2004.

“It looks like that US intelligence services will have to urgently review the level of their cooperation with the Russian security agencies,” Soldatov and Borogan wrote.