MOSCOW - Russia's Supreme Court on Friday ruled that 15 Islamic organizations, including two tied with Chechen rebel leaders, are terrorist groups, and a Kremlin spokesman expressed hope that the United States would soon similarly brand several groups operating in and around Chechnya.
Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Kremlin's chief spokesman on Chechnya, said Friday's court decision was vital because many European countries wanted to see the country where the groups are operating recognize them as terrorist before taking similar action.
"After that, we can demand that our (foreign) partners add the movements operating in Chechnya to their lists," Yastrzhembsky was quoted as saying by the Interfax new agency. The two Chechnya-related groups are the Unified Forces of Caucasian Mujaheddin of Shamil Basayev, a rebel leader, and the Congress of the Peoples of Ichkeria and Dagestan of Movladi Udugov, a publicist for the separatist cause. The list also includes al-Qaida and the Taliban and radical parties based in Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Interfax and the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
The Supreme Court decision makes the groups' activities on Russian territory illegal, and gives the authorities a legal basis to block their finances and their members' movements. Yastrzhembsky said Washington was "clearly interested in completing the process" of declaring the Chechen-related groups as terrorist organizations, "not simply showing understanding." Russia claims that international terrorists are deeply involved in supporting Chechen separatists who have been at war with Russia since 1999, the second conflict in the mostly Muslim region in a decade.
The Kremlin has in part justified its harsh crackdown in Chechnya as part of the international anti-terror campaign and would very much like to have its view vindicated by putting Chechens on the U.S. list of international terrorist organizations.