Russia is no stranger to terrorism

Russia is no stranger to terrorism

Russia knows all too well what it means to be targeted by terrorists. Terrorist groups have targeted Moscow on several occasions, and those attacks have left a traumatized people.

Among the past targets of terrorists in Moscow were the metro, a theater, apartment blocks and ground public transport. Each attack sowed extreme anxiety, fears and panic among the people.

I still remember the shock of the blasts of two apartment buildings in 1999 that occurred in the early morning hours when all the tenants were sleeping. It put society on edge and on guard. Residents of homes and apartment buildings organized night watches and helped the police with patrols. Police had an extremely difficult time as thousands of calls were coming every day from people reporting suspicious objects.

Russian society remained in suspense for months, but then relief replaced vigilance. Practically the same scenario was played out after each terrorist attack. The security services remain on guard.

Terrorist attacks in Russia have claimed the lives of more than 2,700 people since 1994.

In 2016, Russian special security services prevented 16 terror attacks. Since the start of Russia’s operation in Syria there has been anxiety in the air, with an expectation that something may happen, and that anxiety was fueled by the media.

Security measures were noticeably strengthened. Places of mass gathering, including malls, theaters, cinemas and metro entrances, were equipped with metal detection units. The number of security personnel on the streets also increased.

Moscow has become truly a difficult target for terrorists. But St. Petersburg apparently turned out to be an easier target, possibly due to relative carelessness of the local authorities. Terrorists targeted the city several times. The metro in St. Petersburg was also equipped with the newest systems of supervision and control. But something made it possible for the intruders to realize their bloody plan.

I still remember the shock of the blasts of two apartment buildings in 1999 that occurred in the early morning hours when all the tenants were sleeping. It put society on edge and on guard.

Maria Dubovikova

State authorities have officially admitted that what happened Monday in the metro is a terrorist act, but the question remains open as to who was behind it. It is important to note the attack occurred while Vladimir Putin was in the city attending a media forum. He also held a meeting with the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.

The recent attack on the National Guard base in Chechnya suggests that the attack can be possibly connected to the notorious Chechen terrorists. Chechen terrorists can be linked to exclusively political issues, as a muscle-playing demarche of the insurgents to show Putin that Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, cannot stop them. This could also be a signal of Daesh infiltration.

But Daesh or any other extremist militant organization could also be behind the attack. Daesh did not however take responsibility for the attack, although its social media accounts were alive with discussion and praise of the attack in St. Petersburg.

Some Russian experts suggest the attack could be the first sign of radicalization of government opposition. But that is unlikely, and such speculation is just an attempt to justify possible a crackdown on opposition.

Until now all theories are nothing but speculation and an in-depth investigation is needed. Terrorism, no matter its motives, has no justification. The tragedy in St. Petersburg is just a powerful reminder that, when it comes to terrorism, there is no “my” tragedy or “their” tragedy. Because you have no guarantees that tomorrow the hand of terrorism will not knock at your own door.

• Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). She can be reached on Twitter: @politblogme.

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