In an annual Q+A session today, Russian President Vladimir Putin made his first public comments on the Boston Marathon bombings, believed to have been perpetrated by two Chechen Russians immigrants.
Putin gave his condolences but also offered a jab at the West for ignoring or sympathizing with Chechen rebels.
“I was always appalled when our western partners and the western media called the terrorist, who did bloody crimes in our country, ‘insurgents,’ and almost never ‘terrorists,'” Putin said, according to Russia Today.
“They [the terrorists] were receiving help, informational, financial and political support,” he explained. “Sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. And we were saying that we must do the job and not be content with declarations proclaiming terrorism a common threat. Those two have proved our position all too well.”
Putin’s remarks reflect an indignation in Moscow that the U.S. did not support and often criticised Russia’s fight against Chechen rebels in the 1990s and early 2000s. The post-Soviet separatist movement grew into an Islamist movement as the conflict collapsed into chaos, with violence directed at civilians spreading from Chechnya, to Dagestan, to Moscow.
(The U.S. State Department has identified several Chechen groups as terrorists.)
That the Russian intelligence community expressed concern to the FBI over the older suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev last year also adds to the idea that the U.S. wasn’t taking the idea of a Chechen threat seriously.
As Dave Weigel wrote earlier this week, Putin’s history of warnings against open Chechen immigrants has created a sudden shift in how Washington sees him — morphing from a “menacing autocrat” to a “far-sighted ally.”
That shift couldn’t have come at a better time for Putin: U.S.-Russia relations are at a low point after the recent release of the “Magnitsky List” and Russia’s own blacklist of Americans in realisation.
Putin also used the Q+A to appeal for more joint co-operation with the U.S.
“I’m saying all this not to put the blame, but to call on bringing ourselves closer together in resisting our common threats, of which terrorism is one and more dangerous. If we truly join our efforts, we will not allow these strikes and suffer such losses,” he said.
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