“Peaceful activities key to preventing terrorist ones” – Ingush president

It is necessary to engage young people in active social and work life to prevent their involvement with militant groups, said Yunus–Bek Yevkurov, president of Russia’s southern republic of Ingushetia.

”Of course, we need to engage young people, give them something to do. If they are busy with something, they do not have time to do bad things so we need to give them opportunities for education and work,” said Yevkurov.

”If there are no jobs for them, they need to be engaged in volunteer work. They need to understand that society needs them,” he added.

The president added that there are three distinct categories of those engaged in terror activities in the area.

”I have always divided them into three categories. The first category is those who are just making money. They get paid for every terrorist attack they are taking part in and they just make money this way,” he said

“The second category is those who are lost sheep – maybe they are relatives of the people in the first category, so they have to be there, maybe they are blackmailed. For example, they participated in one attack and then they just cannot leave the group because their name always appears in the records.”

“And the third category is people who fight for ideological reasons, though there are very few of this kind. These people sincerely believe that modern Islam is not what it should be. They want to see something else in its place, but again the percentage of people like that is very small.”

Read the full interview of Yunus-Bek Yevkurov to RT

RT: Mr. President, let us begin by talking about your recent meeting with Arab ambassadors in Moscow. What can you say about the level of co-operation with the Arab world and the Ingush Diaspora living in these countries?

Yunus-Bek Yevkurov:
Historically, the Russian Empire, then the Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation have been consistently developing stable relations with Arab countries, which all Muslims in Russia are grateful for. And these relations are not just words, they are real actions. We, Russian Muslims, are very happy about it.

RT: Mr. President, the situation with terrorism in the Caucasus region has been discussed. Several terrorist attacks have happened in Ingushetia. There were also the tragic events in Moscow. What are the reasons for all that? Do you think it is starting all over again?

YY: I do not think it is starting all over again. Historically we have seen that violence is reducing in some places and erupting in others. The main goal of these acts is, of course, to take the conflict outside the republic and show the whole world that Russia does not control the situation. This is the reason why terrorist leaders organized the attack in Moscow.

There is also a second reason – right before the terrorist attack in Moscow, Special Forces successfully completed several operations, killing leaders of militant groups all over the Caucasus. Key leaders, whom the Special Forces had been trying to find for five to seven years, were discovered and killed. So they needed to show that even after these operations there are still leaders left in these militant groups; that they are still strong and can carry out terrorist attacks.

The sequence of events, of these terrorist attacks in Moscow, in Kizlyar and Ingushetia proves these people who carried them out are weak; they are easily influenced and apparently did not have a good family support system. It is easy to find people like that and use them. We also suspect that they were not suicide bombers – they were blown up by someone else. They were either drugged up or just blown up from a distant location. This is being investigated as one of the leads.

RT: How would you describe the situation in Ingushetia? What new measures are you taking?

YY: I do not like to refer to statistics, even if the numbers are positive. I can deal with regular crime – it exists in every state. There is pick-pocketing, people steal cattle, cars. And this type of crime will exist under any government. But terrorist attacks are a very sad thing. Nevertheless, I can say that this year we have been able to reduce the number of such attacks significantly, for a number of reasons. First of all, we are taking preventative measures; we talk with people, trying to convince them that such actions are unacceptable. We also convince them to turn in suspects, telling them not to be afraid – they are not going to be tortured. Such preventative work has been successful, and I think this year we will see even more results.

The second important factor is that special services conduct successful operations, discovering and killing key members of militant groups. When militants know that they cannot escape punishment, those who are already part of a militant group will probably not change their minds. But if someone is just considering joining, they will think twice before doing so. I hope that we will improve our strategy significantly this year. In the last couple of days, we have been conducting operations in the republic. It is a good sign that there has not been any activity of this kind for a week. But I always say – while leaders of militant groups are alive, if they have not been arrested or killed, we cannot hope that things will get back to normal.

RT: In your opinion, are there radical terrorists or just youngsters who lost their way and are they foreign mercenaries or someone else? Someone is financing them, right? In your opinion, are these issues being investigated?

YY: I have always divided them into three categories. The first category is those who are just making money. They get paid for every terrorist attack they are taking part in and they just make money this way.

The second category are those "lost sheep", they might be relatives of the people in the first category, so they have to be there. They might be blackmailed. For example, they participated in one attack, and then they just cannot leave the group, because their name already appears in the records. Every time we find a base, kill a group of militants, we discover their records, listing all the names of the group's members. There is often video material documenting this guy committing a crime. So the leaders have these materials and they blackmail him. He knows that if he leaves relatives of the people he killed or police will be given the evidence. So it is an effective tool that leaders use to keep younger guys in a militant group.

And the third category – people who fight for ideological reasons. But there are very few of this kind. These people sincerely believe that modern Islam is not what it should be. They want to see something else in its place. But again, the percentage of people like that is very small.

So we should consider these categories when developing our strategy.

Militants from the first category should be destroyed. We can show no mercy to them. But we should work with the second and third categories.

We need to guarantee people from the second category that even if we discover proof that they participated in some crimes, we will prosecute them in accordance with the law. We will not torture them. This is another way leaders use to keep people in the group. They show on video and tell in detail about how special services torture those they catch. They try to make it sound like the Gestapo during World War II. So we need to talk to people from the second category, so they understand that nothing will happen to them. Yes, they will be prosecuted, sent to prison. But if they turn themselves in, a court will take it into consideration when sentencing them. Their term will be reduced. We want to do everything to help them to leave the militant group.

And as far as the third category is concerned, we just need to talk to them and explain things to them. We cannot talk about traditional and non-traditional Islam. Islam is Islam. As a citizen of the Soviet Union, citizen of the Russian Federation, an officer who served in the army, fulfilling my duty and defending my homeland, but also a Muslim, I get offended when the world connects all terrorist attacks with such a pure religion as Islam. It really hurts me. So I would like to tell everyone who is listening to me right now that Islam has nothing to do with these evil deeds. And those who commit these acts will never have peace in heaven, never. Because you cannot kill in the name of Allah. You need to do good in the name of Allah.

RT: You said that there is an ideology that militants use trying to attract young people. So how do they appeal to young people? Also what steps do you take to bring them back to a peaceful life?

YY: Of course, we need to engage young people, give them something to do. If they are busy with something, they do not have time to do bad things. So we need to give them opportunities for education and work. If there are no jobs for them, they need to be engaged in volunteer work. They need to understand that society needs them. Of course we do everything we can to put all this in place. We have representation not just in the republic, but in other Russian regions as well. We have appointed envoys of the Ingush president in these regions, who work on a volunteer basis. One of their objectives is to work with young people who study in a particular region, work there or serve in the army. They also monitor Ingushetians serving a prison term in that region. So Ingushetians could always contact this envoy and ask for help. We also organize national festivals in Ingushetia and other regions. This way we try to nurture patriotism, national pride in our young people. Of course, these measures are not enough. The most important thing now is to create jobs. And although the program of social and economic development of the republic is not the ultimate cure, it does allow us to make significant advances in this direction. It is also important that we teach classes on good manners at school, classes on national traditions and culture. This way we try to communicate to people that family values are foundational – mother, father, brothers, sisters, traditions and national culture

RT: Thank you very much