Oleg Syromolotov at the OSCE Counter-Terrorism Conference

Statement by Oleg Syromolotov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

of the Russian Federation, at the OSCE

Counter-Terrorism Conference

Rome, 10 May 2018

Dear Mr. Chairman,

Participants in the Conference,

Let me greet you on behalf of the Russian Federation.

We can now state with certainty that the backbone of international terrorism in Syria has been successfully broken. That is the achievement of the Syrian army with the support of, first of all, Russian armed forces. And that is the major example in the recent international practice of a smashing military victory over terrorism. A perfect victory from the international law viewpoint, won within the truly partner-like international anti-terrorist cooperation.

However, leaders of international terrorism, having lost a significant part of material and human resources on the battlefield, will certainly not stop there. While being forced to change tactics, they will not renounce their strategic tasks. For instance, the return of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) to their countries of origin or third countries is fully in line with the scheme of international terrorism leaders to preserve and even expand their deadly influence. Unfortunately, we have to expect the rise of new hotbeds of terrorism in the newest future, including in the OSCE area.

Returning FTFs, trained in subversive activities, conducting military operations in urban environment, as well as maintaining secret communications, are already forming some sort of "autonomous combat cells" of international terrorist organizations, not only propagandizing and recruiting new supporters, but also ready to commit terror attacks and other acts to destabilize situation in the states of their location.

Having human resources in the form of FTFs and still receiving external support, militarily defeated ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra and other clones of al-Qaeda ideology are now being reoriented to set up new bases and recruitment networks. In doing so, as before, they will be making to use both of the remaining lack of coordination in countering terrorism, and the fact that not all states have taken relevant legislation and law enforcement measures at the national level to prevent such developments.

I assure you that the targets of "revanchist" intentions of international terrorism leaders will range well beyond Afghanistan, Central Asian area and Russia. Terrorists will inevitably aim Europe in an attempt to form there, among other things, the so-called "dormant cells". Partly, these processes and their dire consequences are already visible – a series of merciless, even demonstrative, terror attacks in Western countries proves that.

The scale of the problem is obvious from the statistics of each of our states. In Russia, more than 4 thousand Russian citizens who left the country for illegal military formations are currently being controlled by law enforcement bodies. 2.5 thousand criminal cases have been brought against nearly 3 thousand of them, over 3.7 thousand have been declared wanted, including internationally. 142 individuals who recruited Russian citizens into terrorist and extremist organizations, have been detected. Meanwhile, though many FTFs declare their "Russian origin", they are however far from being eager to return to our country where they are facing a virtually inevitable, strict and just criminal prosecution. More and more often, they choose "comfortable" and "incubation" European territories where they manage, more or less unobstructedly, to hide and settle, and even more, to expand their criminal activity.

We register, for example, a serious threat of international terrorists gaining ground in the Balkans: South-East Europe-based coming terrorists back from Syria and Iraq actively infiltrate into the region together with the flow of Middle East refugees, create an extensive base for recruiting new fighters into terrorist ranks, preparing and committing future terrorist attacks. The direst situation is unfolding in Kosovo. Any attempts to downplay these problems could cost dear to the entire OSCE area.

In all corners of the world, the most powerful impetus for the growth of terrorist threats comes from the uncontrolled spread of terrorist ideology. With the help of shrewd terrorist propaganda, terrorist ranks are continuously swelled by new "recruits". In addition, terrorist attacks are becoming easier to organize by "cheap" means – today strong terrorist brands, ISIL for instance, frequently engage the so-called "home-grown" lone terrorists without any considerable training or direct and real affiliation to terrorist groups.

Various information and communication technologies and the Internet turn into the main channel for the radicalization of population and recruitment into the ranks of terrorist groups. Today, a swift and effective "brainwashing" is all too easy for the recruiters – it is enough to detect a vulnerable person on the World Wide Web and then "hook" him or her with the help of fake values by using proven and efficient means, including manipulation.

Under these circumstances, the Western practice of giving absolute priority to the freedom of expression is downright dangerous. It actually plays into the hands of terrorists and their accomplices infiltrating under the above-mentioned pretext the traditional information space shaped by the media. It is important and necessary to correct the situation. We believe the OSCE and all its participating States need to contribute to the implementation of a "comprehensive international framework" to counter terrorist narratives endorsed in the UN Security Council resolution 2354. We also propose to launch a meaningful discussion of the Russia-sponsored idea of "voluntary counter-terrorism restrictions" for the media and public officials.

Russia, in its turn, reaffirms its readiness for a closer global cooperation in cutting off returning FTFs' channels for infiltrating the OSCE area, as well as the spread of criminal terrorist ideology. The Russian Federation has already gained and has continuously been developing the relevant advanced national expertise. We are willing to share our counterterrorism best practices in a vigorous, systematic and thorough way.

Thus, the key counterterrorism measures include an effective implementation of both the existing universal international agreements in the field of counterterrorism and the relevant counterterrorism resolutions of the Security Council (1373, 1624, 2178, 2199, 2253, 2354, 2396) aimed at enhancing the mechanism for detecting and cutting off channels of illegal recruitment of, inter alia, FTFs into terrorist organizations.

An efficient mechanism for countering the FTF phenomenon could be the establishment of a single database which would contain information on the above-mentioned persons and provide for extra mechanisms for sharing information on their movement. In this context, we draw your attention to the opportunities offered by the International Counterterrorism Database, containing an array of information on FTFs, established under the auspices of the Meeting of Heads of Special Services, Security Agencies, and Law Enforcement Organizations (held by the Russian FSB).

There is yet another subject related to the clampdown on FTFs' activity. That is countering ideological expansion of modern terrorism and preventing the recruitment of potential terrorists via the Internet. We believe it necessary to enhance law enforcement efforts on this track through the cooperation with civil society organizations and business circles. A substantial contribution to these efforts in Russia is made by public organizations, Muslim spiritual administrations, influential clerics, including of the Russian Orthodox Church, leaders of ethnic groups, and the scientific community.

As for the issue of FTF family members, we note that, according to our competent services, residence in the area of influence of a terrorist organization among terrorist fanatics contributes a lot to mind radicalization even if the person keeps off acts of violence. In most cases, oath of loyalty to a terrorist organization is mandatory for joining it, including for wives of militants. As a result, these women often become the most radicalized and indoctrinated with extremist ideology part of the terrorist underground. In this regard, we believe that they should be subject not only to preventive measures, but also to the principle of the inevitability of punishment.

On April 3, 2018, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, convened in Moscow an International Research-To-Practice Conference on Priorities of International Cooperation in Countering Extremism and Terrorism. Such theme of the conference was not chosen at random: unfortunately, in the international arena it is precisely the problem of countering extremism that suffers from active promotion of distorted and dangerous principles of international cooperation in this area. In particular, these include the ambiguous concept of "countering violent extremism" (CVE), which, in effect, distinguishes terrorists as "bad" and "not all bad", justifies some of them (now "violent extremists") as allegedly worthy of understanding and support since they are the "fighters" against arbitrarily appointed "repressive regimes".

Russia has repeatedly warned that this will result not only in the very problems of the CVE being used as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states and destabilize legitimate governments, but also in the terrorist ("violent-extremist") groups themselves being used, in that end, in some situations to fight against "unwelcome" governments.

In this regard, we continue to believe that in the fight against terrorists, in general, and FTFs, in particular, it is unacceptable to put forward the tasks of their "rehabilitation and reintegration" (it is dangerous when terrorists turn from "executioners" to "victims" by virtue of cunning methods). An objective criminal prosecution for terrorist activities and any forms of support for terrorism should come first. This is the only way to ensure the principle of the inevitability of punishment for the crimes committed.

Today, at Russia's midday special event on countering terrorist ideology in the context of threats posed by FTFs we will present the unique results of the expert discussion at the above-mentioned Moscow conference – co-chairs' final purposeful recommendations setting the proper benchmarks for counter-extremism and counter-terrorism international cooperation.

We invite all participants of the conference to take part in Russia's event. The high-level experts from both Russian state and non-state bodies will hold speeches and elaborate on the Russian experience.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Chairpersons and Organizers of the conference and wish you to have a fruitful discussion. The practice of holding such annual antiterrorism conferences pays off, providing within the OSCE the ground to maintain the constructive and professional level of international cooperation to counter terrorism, even amid frank "malfunctions" in other areas and formats of international interaction.

Thank you.






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