Circling the Lion's Den


Agencies involved in countering terrorism

According to a 1998 statute, the FSB, the Interior Ministry, the Foreign intelligence SVR, the Federal Protective Service and the Ministry of Defense are all tasked with fighting terrorism. However, the FSB, which has an anti-terrorism department inherited from the KGB, took the primary role in counterterrorism operations until 2003, when the Interior Ministry became more heavily involved, taking over management of the Regional Operations Staff (Regionalny operativny shtab: ROSh) responsible for counterterrorist operations in the North Caucasus.

In August 2003, the Interior Ministry further strengthened its antiterrorism capabilities with the creation of "Centre T", which was integrated into the organized crime division. However, following the Beslan attack, the Interior Ministrys antiterrorism role was further enhanced when the organized crime unit (GUBOP) was reformed. The situation became more confused, however, when Interior Ministry, which had already taken control over the ROSh for the North Caucasus, also took control over the Combined Group of Forces (Objedinennaya gruppirovka voysk: OGV) in the North Caucasus. As a result of these reforms, there was a great lack of clarity over jurisdiction, in some places it overlapped, and co-ordination problems reached a critical level.

By August 2004, the situation in the North Caucasus had become quite confused, with at least three divisions of the national FSB, as well as regional offices, military intelligence and the Interior Ministry units all operating in the same area. There was little or no co-ordination between them. In November 2004, Dmitry Kozak, the presidential envoy in the North Caucasus, declared: Within two years of functioning a regional operations staff have been regulated by nothing. There were two attempts to remedy this situation after Beslan. In November 2004, a new counterterrorist group was created drawing together the efforts of the FSB, the Interior Ministry and GRU units carrying out operational investigation in the region. However, the new structure is responsible for tactical (military) intelligence, not criminal intelligence admissible in court, which does little to help defeat terrorism.

A second attempt to solve the problem saw the creation of a series of 12 operational management groups (Gruppi operativnogo upravleniya: GrOU), launched in August 2004 for the North Caucasus region. Each is headed by a colonel from the Interior Ministry and acts as direct superiors to the military forces in operations to identify subversive and terrorist actions. The GrOU includes conventional and special operations troops from the Interior Ministry and the ministries of defence and emergency. The GrOU head is ranked deputy head of the regional anti-terrorist forces, thereby making them the second highest ranking official in the region, after the governor, in terms of combating terrorism. In the event of a hostage situation or insurgents carrying out incursions into Russian-held territory, the GrOU commander will automatically assume control and has the right to make decisions, independent of control from Moscow. As result, for the first time in the history of hostage crises in Russia, the responsibility for addressing the crisis rested with the regional rather than central authorities.

However, the GrOUs still suffers from the fact that they can only react to terrorist attacks, rather than actually preventing them. This was clarified when insurgents attacked Nalchik in October 2005, leaving the GrOU of Kabardino-Balkaria desperately trying to respond to the situation.

Similarly, the concept of a local GrOU commander taking operational control did not always work in practice. While a GrOU was already in place in Northern Ossetia during the Beslan crisis, Valery Andreev, the local FSB chief, supervised the operational staff overruling his GrOU counterpart. During the attack on Nalchik, the GrOU commander was responsible for the situation for only four hours before being superseded by commander of the Interior Troops for the North Caucasus region.

In 2004-2007 Moscow was forming the Grouping of troops in the North Caucasus, consisted of the Internal Troops, brigades of the Ministry of Defense and the FSB, the process was ended by 2007.

In February 2006 the legal situation radically changed, when the Federal law "On countering terrorism" was passed. This law saw the creation of the National Antiterrorist Committee (NAK). The National antiterrorist committee was created within the structure of FSB, not the Interior Ministry, and was headed by the director of FSB. The NAKs staff comprises 300 agents from the FSBs central apparatus and 7 FSO agents. Within the framework of this committee, federal and regional operational staffs were created tasked with taking control should a terrorist attack or hostage situation arise.

According to the presidential edict, regional operational staffs should be headed by chiefs of territorial divisions of FSB. GrOUs, created by the 2004 reforms, became part of the regional operational staffs. Thus, the creation of the National Anti-terrorist Committee actually indicates that the system that had been developing since 2004 had been rejected. One exception was made. In August the President signed an additional edict, stipulating the composition and management of operational staffs across the North Caucasus. In every single case but one the management of these staffs was handed to the FSB. The Chechen republic was that exception. There, the deputy minister of internal affairs remained Chief of Staff (In August 2006 the Regional Operations Staff (Regionalny operativny shtab: ROSh) was renamed into the Operations Staff (Operativny Shtab: OSh) in Chechnya).

This changed in October 2009 when the position of Chief of Staff in Chechnya was handed over to the chief of the local FSB department in Chechnya following to the decision to end anti-terrorism operation in Chechnya.

In 2009 the Combined Group of Forces (Objedinennaya gruppirovka voysk: OGV) in the North Caucasus was also disbanded and replaced with the new structure - the Committee to preserve security in the region (Komitet po podderzhaniyu bezopasnosti), a combined group consisted of personnel of the Ministry of Defense, Interior Ministry and the FSB.

At the same time, it's worth to remember that Border troops of the FSB were given a special role in preserving stability in the region. See: Reforms of the Border Service of the FSB in the North Caucasus in 2003-2010.

Agentura.Ru, September 2010