A Muslim Russian national from Kyrgyzstan detonated an explosive device in St. Petersburg’s subway system in April, killing 14 people and injuring many others. The attack signaled a growing Islamist threat facing Russia, following several high profile terrorist attacks in recent years. More people have been killed in Russia from terrorism than any other European state since 1970. Yet Russia maintains a glaring double standard when it comes to terrorist violence and now sponsors some of the deadliest terrorist groups in history.
For the Russian government, terrorists aren’t “terrorists” if they avoid targeting Russian citizens or interests. In this light, Russian officials consistently avoid classifying groups like Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist organizations. The latest example came directly from Russia’s ambassador to Israel, Alexander Shein, in an interview last Friday with Israel’s Russian-language Channel 9 and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Shein admitted that while both groups were “radical organizations, which sometimes adhere to extremist political views,” Russian law only designates organizations as terrorists when they “intentionally conduct acts of terror in Russian territory, or against Russian interests abroad – installations, embassies, offices, or citizens.”
Despite the lack of a universal definition, “terrorism” generally refers to a non-state actor’s deliberate threat or use of violence for primarily political, religious, or ideological purposes. According to many conceptions, terrorism tends to intentionally target civilians, but also to create a broader psychological reaction beyond those killed or injured. By these well-established criteria, Hizballah and Hamas, organized militant groups that purposefully kill civilians to establish Islamist states in their image, are the quintessential terrorist organizations.
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