Tag Archives: Vladimir Putin

Dilemma of Olympian proportions: run it as planned or scrap it altogether?

Russian police know the names of the two suicide bombers who exploded themselves and a number of innocent bystanders in Volgograd last December. They have also arrested two people who, they say, were accomplices.

Nothing is going to happen to Asker Samedov and Suleiman Magomedov any longer. These two have been having their fun with heaven-based virgins since last December.

The killers have allegedly come to Russia proper from the Caucasian republic of Dagestan.

But, here’s a twist. Dagestan just happens to be a member of the Russian Federation. Russian president Vladimir Putin can claim the law of retribution meted out to any and all perpetrators’ families is valid in Dagestan, too. Who cares that Dagestan is a republic, with its own government and its own parliament?

If the Russians send a group of highly-trained cutthroats in and we find out somewhat later that both families have been wiped out, and so has been everything they had ever owned, one can anticipate some kind of an international outcry.

Raise your hand if you think the Russians will care. After all, when Western governments were looking askance at atrocities committed by the Russians in Chechnya, they received a brief message from the Kremlin: we’re defending not only ourselves, but you, too, from the green danger. That danger, thus described, stands for Islam.

And that was the end of the rhetoric. From both sides. Embarrassed silence from the West, “I-told-you-so” silence from Moscow.

Brothers Magomednabi and Tagir Batirov, arrested (and described) by Russian security forces as accomplices, helped the now-late attackers of Volgograd with their travel plans. Thus reports from Russia. How they have done it, the reports do not say. But you can bet your last coin that Russian security interrogators will make these two sing. They will name people who have never heard of Volgograd or the militant Islamist group known as Shariat Jamaat. They will tell all within the first few days of captivity. Methods used against the Al-Quaeda or the Taliban in, say, Guantanamo, are kindergarten sports when compared to what Russian interrogators are capable of using (and perfectly willing to use).

Should anybody think people killing innocent civilian bystanders deserve humane treatment and mention an iota of concern, derision all the way from the Red Square will be the answer they’ll get.

But this is not the real topic.

Debate off the rails

The real topic is that, instead of debating potential winners and losers in individual sporting events, everybody and their dog has been debating terrorist dangers that hang over the Sochi games like the sword of Damocles.

The Russians have introduced security measures that, to some, border on the insane. Whether they succeed and the Olympic Games end without a hitch, well, let’s hope they do. Except: to arrive at the Adler International Airport and find you’ve landed in a region under siege, well, that does not enhance anybody’s celebratory mood.

Even that well-known optimist, Jaromír Jágr, has succumbed to fatalism. The Czech hockey star told Russian newspaper Sovetskii Sport in an interview that nobody has much control over their destiny. “We die when the time comes for us to die,” the paper quoted Jágr as saying.

“If they want to do something,” Jágr went on, speaking about the Islamist insurgents, “they will. There’s going to be many people in Sochi, journalists in particular, and they would write about the attack. Except, things like that can happen anywhere, at any Olympic Games, at any championships. Doesn’t matter if it’s Russia, the United States, or any other country,” he concluded.

Jágr didn’t mention the early September of 1972 and the Munich Olympic Games tragedy. Arab militants managed to get into Israeli athletes’ quarters in the Olympic village. What followed was mayhem and a number of deaths on both sides.

The Olympic village was supposed to be the best-guarded spot in the entire Olympic complex in Munich.

Still, Jágr is optimistic: “I think the entire Russia and Putin himself are so proud of their country, they’ll do whatever it takes to make the games secure. They’ve been waiting for these games since 1980, that’s long enough. I believe they’ll do their best.”

Nice of Jágr to remember the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Following Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, then-U.S. president Jimmy Carter first said then-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev must have misled him. Carter, you see, asked Brezhnev during a meeting in Vienna whether the Soviets would invade Afghanistan. Brezhnev put his most honest face on and said: What? We? Invade an independent country? Never!

This unmitigated skulduggery would upset Carter no end. In a voice dripping with solemnity, he would order a U.S. boycott of the Moscow games and impose an embargo on U.S. wheat exports to the Soviet Union. Most western countries would toe the line so far as the Olympic boycott was concerned. So far as the wheat exports went, not only would it not have an immediate impact on Soviet economy (the embargo held for future trades), but other countries, Canada chief among them, would pick up the slack. For the record, Pierre Elliott Trudeau was Canada’s prime minister at the time.

And the Soviets retaliated in kind: they (and their allies) would boycott the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

That’s as close as politics would publicly get to the Olympic Games. That the entire business case a.k.a. Olympic Games is as political as anything can get is another issue for another day.

But now, we have politics out in the open. And politics of violence, at that.

When muses speak, weapons fall silent?

Or is it the other way ’round? The original words by Cicero himself say so: Silent enim leges inter arma. Meaning laws are suspended in the clatter of weapons.

Those who love the idea of Olympism are wont to quote the perfectly and innocently naive idea that there should be peace in the valley while the games are on.

Fine. Just imagine: the Sochi zone has been cordoned off from the rest of Russia by now. The demarcation line extends 100 kilometres from the Black Sea coast and a further 40 kilometres into Russian mainland. No vehicles other than those with special permits (local residents require permits, too) are allowed in. Numerous checkpoints throughout the city and its environs will be making sure that only authorized passengers (that is: passengers with another set of proper permits) are sitting in cars they will be letting through. The border with the neighbouring Georgian region of Abkhasia has been closed. Of course, it depends on whom you’re listening to. The Russians claim they’ve sealed Abkhasia off completely. The Abkhasians only smirk and shrug, hinting nobody can seal them off behind an invisible line in the Caucasian mountains.

But who’s the foe, anyway?

One of the main issues: the Russians do not know whom to lash at first. Most of the people in the entire region hate them profoundly. The Russians are now harvesting what they’d been sowing for a few centuries. Locals are now pushing back. And it doesn’t matter at all whether the area around the main hockey arena in Sochi used to be a burial ground for the proudly dead Muslim soldiers or not. It doesn’t matter, even, whether those of today’s insurgents’ leaders who claim it for a fact, believe in it themselves. It just happens to be one more neuralgic point.

What should the Russians do? Yield to the Islamist insurgents? Or should the Islamist insurgents accept that they’d lost their war a couple of centuries ago, nothing doing?

Neither scenario is viable. You just can’t re-write history. If you tried to, it would logically take you to the question of who’d been in Canada BEFORE the arrival of the First Nations on the scene, a question not many have dared ask, and even fewer attempted to answer.

The easiest and fairest solution would have been for the international community to admit that Olympic Games as a celebration of sports is a sham, and has been a sham all along. Except, it has become a business that helps line way too many pockets of the mighty.

And, besides, in the situation of Sochi, scrapping the Olympic Games would have meant surrender, nay, capitulation.

We can only cross our fingers now for the security of the Olympic Games and ignore the challenge for Team Canada to repeat as gold medal winners.

In fact, this is the only thing we can do.

As it is, it’s 1 for the Islamist insurgents of all stripes and colours, and 0 for the rest of the world.

Dagestani insurgents claim responsibility for Volgograd attacks, vow to disrupt Olympics

One day before the Olympic torch was to arrive at Volgograd Monday, two Russian-speaking men, machine guns at hand, appeared in a video on the Internet, claiming responsibility for recent suicide attacks in Volgograd and promising that there were more assaults to come in Sochi during the Olympic games.

Last December’s terrorist atacks at Volgograd cost at least 34 innocent lives.

Now, it is the Vilayat Dagestan group that says its members carried out the attacks.

Vilayat Dagestan has been trying to establish a Muslim state in the northern part of the Caucasus mountains.

The two men in the video present so much detail from the two attacks, it leaves Russian investigators with two options. Either somebody leaked the details, an option they consider implausible, or the Dagestani movement has been indeed involved right from the start and its two spokesmen know exactly whereof they speak.

In any case, what the two men had to say contradicts what the Russian police probe has considered the most probable course of events.

Shortly after the train station attack, police were convinced a so-called “Black Widow” named Oksana Aslanov was the culprit. The 26-year-old had been married twice, in both cases to Caucasian separatists, and both of her husbands died in battles with Russian security forces. Russian police found Aslanov’s body parts close to the spot where the bomb had gone off. They hypothesized Aslanov was stopped by security at the train station entrance and seeing she wouldn’t be able to get through, she exploded the bomb she was trying to carry into the station. If she managed to get any further, they said, the toll would have been much higher.

Russian investigators also suspected another person, a 32-year-old former nurse Pavel Pechonkin. The Central Russia native has been suspected of being a part of a terrorist group in Dagestan. According to this theory, an officer stopped him by the security gate at the station, whereupon Pechonkin pulled the trigger.

The two Vilayat Dagestan spokesmen wouldn’t say specifically who the suicide murderers were. They would limit themselves to saying two basic things: it was their group that masterminded the attacks, and it was their group that has a few surprise gifts in store for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

In an almost hour-long video, they said (in verbatim translation from the Russian language): “If you stage this Olympiad, we shall give you a present for all that innocent Muslim blood shed all over the world, in Afghanistan, Somalia or Syria. … And we will have presents for tourists who come there, too.”

The two Dagestani spokesmen also said their attacks heeded earlier calls by Doku Umarov, the self-proclaimed Emir (Prince) of the Northern Caucasus region. Russians have considered Umarov a major threat the last 15 years but, according to Chechen president Razym Kadyrov, Umarov was killed recently by what he termed were “Russian agents.”

Kadyrov said he based his statement on intercepted communications between two North Caucasian insurgents who had been debating Umarov’s succession.

Quite understandably, Russian government officials would neither confirm nor deny Kadyrov’s revelation.

Precautions galore

Russian authorities would not, again, very understandably, comment on what security measures they are introducing (or have already introduced)n in Sochi and its environs. Of course, some of them have become obvious right from the start. Thorough searches of anyone entering the area, including whatever they happen to be carrying along, have become regular occurrence. And Russian government’s official newspaper, Rossiyskaia gazeta, has published a few edicts that seem to show the authorities’ ways of thinking.

For example: whoever happens to see anything that seems to look suspicious (no matter how) must inform the nearest security authorities immediately. No face covers are allowed, either.

If you wish to distribute any political or religious literature anywhere, including the venues, you’re out of luck. It’s forbidden.

If you wish to display banners or flags, there is no political or extremist propaganda, commercial advertising or foul language allowed. Who decides what is extremist or foul? Why, government officials, that’s who.

If you are a fan who comes from abroad to cheer her or his country’s athletes on, and intend to use a banner or a flag to do so, you will require a notarized translation into the Russian language to get permission to display your signs of allegiance anywhere. Not only that: a fire department’s certificate confirming your signs of fandom aren’t flammable will be a must, too.

Remember the vuvuzelas (a.k.a. lepatata Mambu in its original Tswana language)? Those were the 65-centimere-long horns used during the recent world cup of soccer in South Africa. Emitting a pretty loud sound (it would be difficult to say it was music), the vuvuzelas will not be allowed in the Sochi Olympic venues. Also off-limits: banners bigger than two metres by a meter-and-a-half. Speaking of which: rods to carry the flags or banners on are limited to 150 centimetres in length.

If you want an exception, you’ve got to ask for it at least two days ahead of the date you want to use it, and there’s no guarantee you’re going to get it. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t.

Beverage containers that hold more than half a litre of beverage are banned. And security will check whether the fluid contained in the bottle is potable or not. How? We’re supposed to wait and see.

Another couple of hints: there’s no need to carry too much cash on you. In fact, it’s outright dangerous to carry much (never mind too much) cash around. Also, just as they like to say in the airports: keep a constant and vigilant eye on all your belongings. And avoid photographing military or otherwise strategic sites. Based on personal experience, don’t expect warning signs telling you this is a military or otherwise strategic site, either.

The Olympic Games must succeed without a hitch, president Putin has decreed.

Whether the Northern Caucasian Muslim insurgents will obey, now, that’s another matter altogether.

Will money buy safety in Sochi?

The budget for upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, exceeds $50 billion (all amounts in U.S. currency). Of that, about 60 to 70 per cent would fall victim to widespread corruption and theft, an influential Russian journalist Julia Latynina estimates.

The budgeted amount for security of the games exceeds $2 billion. Judging by recent developments, the $2 billion is bare minimum, and the final amount is going to be much higher.

The main issue is whether even that will suffice. Why? Simply because there exist powerful groups that have been of the view that Sochi is not a Russian city in the first place, and that the games are being staged in a territory that was stolen from them. And they plan to do something about it. What something? They are perfectly open: they plan to commit sundry terrorist acts to make these games unforgettable, if not the best in history, as the usual formula at closing ceremonies has it.

Some would say it’s not terrorism. These people are fighting for what’s rightfully theirs.

Let’s put that argument (the one that asks whose country is it, anyway) aside. Other than that, endangering innocent civilian bystanders matches the accepted definition of terrorism with chilling precision.

For comparison sake: the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $6 billion (or more, but – apparently – not more than $10 billion). Vancouver’s original budget called for cost of about $2 billion. Except that budget calculation, resulting from the sheer genius of creative accounting, had been wrong all along.

In any case, the Sochi budget is close to the perfectly abominable cost of the 2008 summer games in Beijing, China (and the 2012 summer games in London). Keep in mind, too, that summer games are several times bigger (and more expensive) than their winter counterparts. So, even accounting for theft and corruption, the Russians will end up paying through their noses for quite some time to come.

No wonder, then, that they are getting somewhat nervous about the terrorist threat. The threat is real.

While intelligence experts are not rushing to link the two suicide-bombers’ attacks that happened earlier this year in Volgograd (earlier Stalingrad, and Tsaritsyn even before that), they wouldn’t say there’s no link, either. With Russian president Vladimir Putin ordering that Russian security forces (from the police to special army units a.k.a. Spetznaz) make their presence known in Sochi, intelligence and security experts fear he had stripped some other Russian centres of proper defences. Only future will tell whether they are right or not.

Leaked figures indicate there will be 42,000 police at Sochi, plus 10,000 armed Interior Ministry officials, plus 23,000 heavily armed Emergency Ministry personnel, to be stationed in border area mountains. The number of Spetznaz people has remained secret thus far. These professionally trained thugs have made their presence known by closing off Sochi to most incoming traffic on January 7, with one month to go to opening ceremonies.

An interesting gallery

Doku Umarov is the name cited by most experts. According to most reports, Umarov calls himself the leader (Emir) of what he describes as the Caucasian Emirate. The entity includes regions in the northern parts of the Caucasus Mountains, Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, plus several other, smaller tribes.

While his overall goal is to gain independence for the territory, his immediate objective is to disrupt the Olympic Games and give Russia and its president a black eye to end all black eyes.

If he hopes the Russians would scrub the games before their opening, he would be too optimistic (and naïve), several intelligence experts agree: Putin has invested way too much, not only financially, but also of his personal prestige, in the games. There’s no stopping him other than a widespread calamity, if anything at all. Experts doubt Umarov has the wherewithal to cause anything close to a general calamity. Disruptions? May be. But forcing Russia on its knees? Highly doubtful. Of course, if there are civilian victims, they would quite obviously ignore this fine line between general outbreak of hostilities and individual terrorist acts. Still, who cares about individual victims? Nobody in Mother Russia does. Their motto claims there’s a lot of them (nas mnogo).

Umarov claims the games are going to be staged in places that he describes as burial grounds of millions of innocent Muslims killed in the wars with Russia. Historical data confirms that at least eight million indigenous people died in these wars during the 19th century alone. Umarov told the world it’s his movement’s goal to prevent this sacrilege, using “all the means that Allah permits us to use.”

And here it gets murky.

Ramzan Kadyrov, an incredibly successful bandit-turned-politician and today’s leader of Chechnya, claims Umarov has been dead for years, if not decades. Kadyrov hasn’t offered more proof than his own word, and a new video featuring Umarov seems to contradict his statement.

Not so fast, warn intelligence analysts: the newly-emerged video never mentions Sochi or the Olympic Games. It could have been made years ago for all they know.

Russian intelligence claim they have unearthed a weapons cache that belongs to Umarov’s people. It was somewhere in the Caucasus. Not many know if this was the only weapons cache Umarov’s people had, and even fewer people know whether some of the insurgents’ weapons had been transferred to Sochi for safekeeping long time ago.

To sum up: Russian intelligence claim to have found one weapons cache. That’s all.

Russian intelligence people say they’re not sure Umarov, if he still exists, would be able to mount a large-scale operation to penetrate Sochi and wreak havoc upon the games, once there. They dismiss him as a guy capable of not much more than training new cutthroats. That, they do at their own peril.

And yes, there’s Kadyrov, a bosom friend with French artist Gérard Depardieu, who claims Umarov’s a non-entity.

But if not Umarov, is there anybody else?

Turns out the answer is yes.

Shamil Basayev and Salman Raduyev, the two Chechen strategists who would have been able to stage spectacular assaults anywhere their hearts desired, have met their maker some time ago. These two guys did groom successors. One such name: Aslanbek Vadalov. Certainly, according to some reports, Vadalov and Umarov hate each other’s guts. They are not on speaking terms, even. Except, again, how do we know whether Umarov is still alive? And how do we know the rumours about their distinct lack of chuminess toward one another are true?

Meanwhile, Rusian intelligence people, working off the premise that Umarov is alive and well, claim he asked for and received reinforcements of well-trained fighters with experience from Afghanistan and Syria.

Sporting tradition?

The North-Caucasian anti-Russian groups like sports events as grounds to stage their attacks.

Ramzan Kadyrov’s own dad Akhmad, perished when a bomb exploded right under his bottom during a soccer game. It was quite skillfully built into the presidential seat at a stadium at Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.

Whether former Russian security service (FSB) chief Nikolai Patrushev was only mischievous, trying to sow discord amongst the Chechens, not many know. He said for the record that judging by the placement of the bomb, Kadyrov’s people (at least, some of them) had to know about the assasination plan.

This wasn’t the only such attack against a government official. Khachim Shogenov, Interior Minister in the Cabardian-Balcar Republic escaped with injuries, when a bomb exploded under his seat during a soccer game.

What’s going to happen?

Some intelligence experts say the entire media coverage has been designed to scare the Russians enough so they call the Olympic Games off. Others suggest that to achieve that goal, the insurgents may throw in a suicide bombing attack here and there, within safe distance from Sochi, just to add some fear to the general atmosphere. These experts use the Volgograd attacks as an example.

Here’s the issue: Putin has staked his integrity, his legend that he happens to be a capable leader, exactly what the doctor ordered for his country, on these Olympic Games. He’s obsessed. To him, Sochi has become synonymous with showing the world the progress Mother Russia has made under his guidance and leadership.

The question is not whether it is worth spending all that money. The question is whether Putin is not only aware of the proper and correct answer but whether he would be willing to act upon it – if he is aware of the implications, that is.

Yes, most of the billions has gone down the drain by now, but still …

By now, security measures as ordered by Putin, himself a former high-ranking KGB officer with experience in espionage and personal security, have reached shocking proportions.

No car is allowed into town without a proper permit. Those permits are being made using some high-technology tools. They would be impossible to fake. In theory, at least.

Besides, on Putin’s personal orders, all construction workers had to leave their sites a month before the opening of the games. If they obey this order, many venues would be left unfinished. Still, orders are orders, and orders coming directly from Putin have this unshakeable character of finality, Russian journalists say. Asked what’s going to happen if the construction workers obey and some venues are not ready by the opening day, February 7, they only laughed: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Another special order has subdivided Sochi into several special zones.

The city that runs more than 100 kilometres along the Black Sea coast, now features areas where locals would have terrible difficulty getting to their homes. Especially if they are unlucky enough to live anywhere close to the Olympic village and any of the venues.

The Sochi National Park is off limits for everybody, and so is the border region close to the Abkhasia territory within the Republic of Georgia.

In addition, anyone wishing to gather in public for a demonstration or any other such objective, has to get a permission in advance from the security service (FSB). This neatly includes everything, including whatever gathering supporters of alternative sexual orientations had in mind. There go the gay pride parades whose specific ban had so many in the West so stirred. Putin’s decree did not include the famous Latin saying that tres faciunt collegium (meaning: three makes company), but one is beginning to wonder.

Besides, at least seven thousand specialized personnel took part in an extraordinary exercise how to handle saving hostages in a hospital. Whether this is based upon he experience of Chechen rebels taking over a hospital in Budyonnyi in 1995, who knows, but some intelligence experts said they could foresee a mass hostage situation with the hostage takers demanding that the Olympic Games be abandoned forthwith or they will kill all those innocent bystanders.

A couple of those analysts said they were not sure Putin would permit abandoning the games even if it cost a few hundred hostage lives.

Which brings us to a somewhat shocking finding: the person responsible to Putin personally for all matters concerning the security of the Sochi Olympic Games is Oleg Syromolotov. Intelligence analysts say he might be good in the field of counter-intelligence, but has got no practical experience in countering terrorism whatsoever.

But that’s logical, at least two intelligence sources said: Putin likes governing by decree, and having got the opportunity to do so, he would use any screwdriver available to tighten the screws on Russia and Russians everywhere, not only in Sochi.

“How many such chances is he going to get?” asked one of these experts rather cynically.

Who cares about Olympic medals, be they gold, silver or bronze? People will spend their time in Sochi in fear, hoping they’re going to survive.

And that has been the terrorists’ objective to begin with.

Prior to Sochi Olympics, Russia lashes out against terrorism

Nothing beats the principle of collective guilt.

Russian president Vladimir Putin says so, and – as a former high-ranking KGB officer – he should know whereof he speaketh, right?

Putin signed into law a bill that stipulates that whatever harm a terrorist causes, her or his family will have to pay for the damages.

Now, this is not a new legal principle, really, and many a regime uses it even today. Come to think of it, whenever an Israel-based Palestinian terrorist blows her- or himself up causing grief to others, this terrorist’s family loses their home. Of course, if they blow themselves up somewhere with no innocent victims or other people’s property around, just for the sheer fun of it, it’s their issue altogether. So long as someone cleans up the mess after them. And, of course, if the terrorist happens to have come from a territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, her or his family receives a reward (while the terrorist enjoys the company of virgins in heaven). The reward, usually money, comes more often than not from funds provided by the European Union, but that’s another issue altogether.

In modern history, two regimes stand out as regular users of this kind of principle: communist and nazi rules thrived upon it.

Which doesn’t mean that today’s legal systems don’t use it, either. All kinds of laws all over the world punish criminals’ relations, from the closest to the extended, for the perpetrators’ deeds. The only difference between the communist and nazi principle and today’s use is simple. Then, relatives paid even if those considered guilty were still alive. Today, relatives only pay when the perpetrators have either extinguished themselves from the genetic pool of humanity, or somebody has done it for them. Simply put: when they are dead.

So, what’s so special about the new Russian law?

Everything.

Mother Russia has been fighting insurgents in the Northern Caucasus mountains for quite some time. All told, it’s been going on for centuries. The insurgents are mostly of Islamic persuasion, and they have had the gall to strike even within Russia proper from time to time. Several years ago, we witnessed a suicide attack at the Domodedovo airport near Moscow. A few weeks ago, a suicide attack in a bus in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad, originally Tsaritsyn) killed at least seven innocent passengers who had nothing to do with the terrorists’ claims that the Crimea had belonged to them first and the Russians forced them out.

There’s something to think about. History books tell us the battles for the area around Sochi have been the neuralgic point in the wars between Russia and the insurgents in Northern Caucasus at least since the 19th century. At least eight million original (Muslim) inhabitants of the region died during those wars, along with several hundred thousands of Tsarist Russia’s soldiers.

One name should have attracted your attention: Sochi. Yes, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. The area that leaders of the insurgents have announced in advance they planned to turn into living hell for everybody who dares be there during those couple of weeks this forthcoming February.

According to sources in Russia (and elsewhere), Putin’s government is sending crack units of the so-called Spetznaz forces into the region. These Russian army’s units seem to resemble American Navy Seals and Green Berets, the British SAS, and many other such outstanding groups, with one minor difference of major proportions. The Russians are much more ruthless than any of their counterparts. Their ruthlessness begins where the others’ ruthlessness culminated and stepped back in horror.

That would promise an all-out war. There goes the so-called Olympic Peace, so promoted by all kinds of Olympians.

The new law seems to have come to accompany the Spetznaz’s brute (and brutal) force.

The psychology is simple: most of the fighters have got used to the idea they might end up dying sooner rather than later. The suicide bombers’ psychology is based on this realization, after all.

But it’s the threat of the attack on terrorists’ relations that, Russian lawmakers seem to hope, will give the perpetrators serious pause.

Whether it will is another question.

Of course, the Russians (Soviets, at the time) know what they are doing.

Years ago, one of the then-warring militias in Lebanon abducted a Soviet engineer. Whether the guy was a real engineer or somebody else, under cover, doesn’t matter. The militia guys took him hostage.

At about that same time, a well-meaning, but otherwise perfectly stupid British priest, Jimmy Waite, came to Lebanon. He would bring peace to the war-torn country, he said. He was kidnapped shortly upon his arrival. The British tried to negotiate his release, having first to find out whom to talk to. The whole affair took years to get settled.

Not so in the case of the Soviet engineer. Within hours of his abduction, several heavily armed gentlemen called on the leader of the group that abducted the Soviet guy. Without preliminaries, they went to business: you shall release our guy within minutes, unharmed and clean. In return, we shall not destroy your family. To prove we mean business, here’s your mother’s ear. Whereupon they presented the militia leader with his mother’s ear, carefully cut off and wrapped in gift paper.

They took their engineer to safety with them right away.

There’s no reason to think the Russians have changed their ways.

The new law, as published on www.newsru.com, goes straight to the point: if authorities can’t lay their hands on the perpetrator, the family will pay. Besides, if the families aren’t able to prove (beyond any doubt, and who cares about reasonableness) that whatever they own comes from legitimate sources, it’s going to be confiscated forthwith, lock, stock, and barrel.

Whoever gets involved in any shape or form in terrorist training or helping terrorist groups or, Heavens forbid, being their member, will suffer, too. Whoever calls for extremist actions or joins armed groups, and that includes anywhere in the world, so long as Russia feels her interests are threatened, will face the wrath of the country’s new law.

Why that last threat? Russian secret services have admitted quite openly that there are about 300 to 400 Russian citizens actively involved in the civil war in Syria. Perfectly trained, they would pose a serious danger if they came back to Russia in time to show what they learned during the Olympics in Sochi.

Years ago, when Western governments recoiled in horror over atrocities committed by the Russians in Chechnya, Putin himself told them two things: first, the other side does exactly the same things. And secondly, and more importantly, we’re defending everybody, including you, from the “green-coloured danger of Islam.”

What do you think his excuse will be now?