Thursday, July 25, 2024

Russia Bans 81 Media Outlets Based In EU Countries

Must read

The number of deaths following apparently coordinated attacks on June 23 that targeted Christian and Jewish religious sites and a police station in Russia’s Daghestan region on June 25 rose to 21 as the North Caucasus region holds a second day of mourning.

At least 45 people were also wounded in the attacks that occurred late on June 23, when gunmen opened fire at two Orthodox churches, two synagogues, and a police station in the cities of Derbent and regional capital Makhachkala.

Derbent regional chief Mavsum Ragimov said on June 25 that a police sergeant died of his wounds in the hospital, bringing the total number of victims to 16 police officers and five civilians, including an Orthodox priest.

Russia’s Investigative Committee announced criminal cases over what it said were “acts of terror.”

Daghestan is a predominantly Muslim region that has a history of armed militancy and is located near Chechnya, where Russian forces fought two wars against separatists in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.

Derbent is one of Russia’s oldest Christian centers and has one the oldest Jewish communities in the country. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Makhachkala and other cities in the region have been the scene of anti-Jewish protests since the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

The Makhachkala airport was shut down for several days in October after a mob shouting anti-Jewish slogans stormed it after the arrival of a flight from Israel.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the June 23 attack, which occurred on Trinity Sunday, one of the most important religious holidays in the Russian Orthodox calendar.

But the Russian branch of Islamic State-Khorasan’s Al-Azaim Media posted a statement praising what it called “brothers from the Caucasus” for the attack.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in a research note that Wilayat Kavkaz, the Northern Caucasus branch of Islamic State, had “likely conducted” the shootings.

In recent years, Russian security forces appeared to have had the upper hand in their fight against armed militants in the region, despite rare attacks such as an Islamic State-claimed shooting outside a church in Daghestan in 2018.

Regional Governor Sergei Melikov, who declared three days of mourning for the victims, said in a statement on Telegram, said that among the civilians killed was 66-year-old Father Nikolai, who served for more than 40 years in the Orthodox church in Derbent.

Melikov said that six “bandits” were “liquidated” by security forces and called the attacks an attempt to “destabilize” his region.

“This is a day of tragedy for Daghestan and the whole country,” Melikov said.

Among those detained was Magomed Omarov, the head of the central Sergokala district and secretary of the local branch of the ruling United Russia party, whose home was searched. Omarov was expelled from the party for actions discrediting the organization, United Russia’s press service in Daghestan said.

Three of the five suspected attackers who the Investigative Committee said were killed have been identified, according to Interfax, which quoted an unidentified source as saying two of Omarov’s sons and one of his nephews were among the slain attackers.

Caucasus expert Denis Sokolov told RFE/RL that the attackers appear to be members of a rich and influential group of Daghestanis with ties to the leadership of republic, known as the Mekegin Clan, after their native village of Mekegi, in eastern Daghestan. Omarov used to be the right-hand man of the group’s founder, Gamid Gamedov, a Daghestani finance minister who was assassinated in 1996, Sokolov said.

“This is this huge and very rich group, a family-like financial-political group, called the Mekegin Clan,” Sokolov said.

There has been no official statement by Russia on the attacks, But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the analogy with the late 1990s, when militant attacks were frequent.

“Russia is different now, society is absolutely consolidated. And such criminal terrorist manifestations as we saw in Daghestan yesterday are not supported by society, either in Russia itself or in Daghestan,” Peskov told the media on June 24.

Meanwhile, Russian lawmaker Abdulkhakim Gadzhiyev told Russian state TV that the attacks were the work of Ukrainian and Western intelligence services, without providing any evidence.

The chairman of the public council of Russia’s Federation of Jewish Communities, Boruch Gorin, said on Telegram that synagogues in both cities caught fire during the attacks.

The attacks came just three months after 145 people died and hundreds were injured when Islamic State (IS) extremists opened fire in a crowded concert hall on the outskirts of Moscow, in Russia’s worst terrorist attack in years.

Months later, after the deadly March 22 massacre at the Crocus City Hall concert venue near Moscow, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) detained four people in Daghestan suspected of providing financing and weapons to participants.

Responsibility for that attack was claimed by an offshoot of IS known as Islamic State-Khorasan. Russian investigators said the assault was carried out by four men, all Tajik nationals.

Russian authorities arrested 11 Tajik citizens and a Kyrgyzstan-born Russian citizen in connection with the Moscow attack.

Latest article