Tensions Rise as Russian Officials Debate Response to Religious Extremism

Russia | June 30, 2024, Sunday // 10:50|  views

Two senior Russian officials are vying to lead efforts to combat religious extremism in Russia as ethnic and religious tensions continue to escalate. Alexander Bastrykin, head of Russia's Investigative Committee, commented on the June 23 terrorist attacks in Dagestan, stating on June 29 that Islamic terrorists had infiltrated Russia and that the State Duma should address the threat posed by these extremists. His remarks drew a sharp response from Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, who urged caution in labeling all Muslims as terrorists, warning that such rhetoric could destabilize the socio-political climate in Russia.

Kadyrov, who often represents Russia's Muslim minority, emphasized the need for unity and stability. President Vladimir Putin had previously addressed concerns about the threat from migrant and Muslim communities following the March 22 Crocus City Hall attack, calling for changes to migration policy and condemning Islamophobia and xenophobia. ISW suggested that Putin might intervene in the Bastrykin-Kadyrov debate to prevent further tension and conflict.

Russian ultranationalists have questioned the authorities' ability to prevent future terrorist attacks and manage ethnic and religious tensions after the June 23 Dagestan attacks. They circulated a story about extremists allegedly harassing a Russian doctor in Dagestan who refused to examine a patient in a niqab, claiming it was a staged event to exacerbate tensions. Ultranationalists also alleged that Dagestan authorities knew the identities of extremist leaders but allowed Salafi-jihadis to dominate public life, leading to discussions about banning the niqab, which Bastrykin implicitly supported.

In other news, ten Ukrainian civilians held by Russian and Belarusian authorities have returned to Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on June 29 that these civilians, detained before and during the full-scale invasion, were part of the 53rd prisoner exchange. The group included Nariman Dzhelyal, the first deputy speaker of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, two Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church priests, five Ukrainians detained by Belarus, and two civilians held by Russian authorities in Donetsk since 2017. The Vatican brokered the exchange, though it remains unclear if Russia received any prisoners in return.

On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces have reclaimed territory near Kreminna, while Russian forces have made advances near Kupyansk, Chasiv Yar, Toretsk, and the city of Donetsk, according to ISW analysis.

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Tags: Russian, kadyrov, Bastrykin, Muslim

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