EU backs Russia over Ingushetia suicide bomb

EU backs Russia over Ingushetia suicide bomb

ANDREW RETTMAN, 18.08.2009, EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The EU has voiced support for the Russian government after a suicide bombing in Northern Caucasus, amid lack of clarity on who carried out the assault.

"The European Union condemns today´s terrorist attack ...and conveys its deepest condolences to the families of the victims of this brutal act. The presidency expresses its sympathies with the Russian government and the Russian people at this difficult time," the Swedish EU presidency said in a statement on Monday (17 August).

The EU council chamber. Sweden condemned an attack in Ingushetia that killed 20 policemen and injured over 130 people (Photo: Eurpoean Council)

A truck full of explosives blew up at 9.00 am local time on Monday outside a police station in Nazran, Ingushetia, killing at least 20 policemen and injuring over 130 people, including civilians.

The incident is the most serious recent attack in a part of Russia which has seen sporadic fighting since the end of the Second Chechen war in 2000.

Analyst Nicu Popescu from the European Council on Foreign Relations said it was probably calculated to destabilise the office of Ingushetia president Yunus-Bek Yevkurov.

Mr Yevkurov took power in October 2008 and began a programme of reconciliation with moderate Muslims, threatening to erode support for radical Islamist groups. His predecessor, Murat Zyazikov, had swelled the ranks of violent opposition via police brutality and corruption.

But with "no single brand" of insurgency in the region, it is hard to pin the Nazran killings to any particular group, Mr Popescu said.

"People are fighting for a whole plethora of reasons. Some want to create a North Caucasian caliphate. Some just want chaos. In other cases, it´s a retaliation for police brutality, a sort of highlander pride for the lives of lost relatives."

Despite expressing sympathy with the Russian government over Nazran, the EU has in the past been critical of Russia´s handling of North Caucasus.

"Stabilisation is prevented by a climate of fear and impunity of human rights abusers ...[which spreads] radicalisation, insecurity and dissatisfaction with local governments," EU officials said in an internal paper in November 2008. "There are still widespread reports of human rights abuses and reprisals against civilians, including enforced disappearances and cases of torture perpetrated notably by security forces."

The EU has in recent weeks also remonstrated with Russia for failing to protect human rights campaigners in Chechnya.

For its part, Moscow blamed the weakness of local authorities for failing to prevent the Nazran attack, sacking a local police chief a few hours after the bomb went off.

Mr Yevkurov spoke of "Arab mercenaries" on Russian radio and suggested that outside forces may have had a hand in the events. "I have stressed this [before] and am saying it again now: the West will strive not to allow Russia to revive its former Soviet might," he said .