In the wake of the deadly Boston Marathon bombing blamed on two ethnic Chechens, Russia and the U.S. have agreed to step up counter-terrorism cooperation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday morning to convey his condolences and urge the two countries to work closer together.
“Both sides underscored their interest in stepping up close coordination between the Russian and American special services in the struggle against international terrorism,” the Kremlin press service said in a statement.
The Kremlin has not officially commented on the Chechen origin of the suspected Boston terrorists, but promised to check out their Chechnya connection after getting more information from Washington.
“Unfortunately, we still have no official case-specific statements; we are waiting for clarifications,” said Mr. Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov.
He recalled that immediately after the Boston bombing Mr. Putin had offered Russia’s help in investigating the attack.
Russia has long blamed the U.S. for adopting double standards toward terrorists America was fighting and “Chechen freedom fighters”. “It is not right to discriminate between terrorists, to woo some of them and fight others,” Mr. Putin’s press secretary pointedly remarked in commenting on the Boston bombing.
The Russia Today (RT) channel noted signs of a “volte face” in the U.S. establishment on the issue of Chechen terrorism, citing tale-telling headlines in American media: “Chechnya is a breeding ground for terrorism,” “Festering Chechen militancy,” and “Chechnya region is cauldron of Islamic militancy.”
“The United States shut its eyes to Chechen terrorism,” RT quoted former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani as saying.
FBI tipped off
It has now emerged that two years ago Moscow tipped off U.S. secret services about one of the two Boston bombers.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said that it scrutinised the senior Tsarnaev brother, Tamerlan, in early 2011 on a request of “a foreign government”.
“The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups,” the FBI said in a statement.
The FBI replied that it “did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign” and requested “more specific or additional information from the foreign government,” but did not receive any.
Apparently disappointed with this blank response Russian authorities did not think it worthwhile continuing the communication.
According to U.S. reports, Tamerlan did travel to Chechnya in 2012, but the FBI did not say if Moscow briefed it on his visit.
Meanwhile, there is evidence that Tamerlan sympathised with militant Islam. Russian media published screenshots of playlists Tamerlan set up on YouTube that are replete with Islamist videos and songs lauding Chechnya’s fight for independence. One playlist is called “terrorist”.