Moscow - Russia's
security service on Tuesday said it was on alert for the possible
return of jihadists from Syria ahead of the Soccer World Cup and the
presidential election in 2018.
The FSB's warning came after the Russian military last week declared
Syria "liberated" from the Islamic State group, and after a visit on
Monday by President Vladimir Putin to Russia's airbase in the
Russia first intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015, staging air
strikes in support of President Bashar al-Assad which targeted both IS
and other jihadists as well as rebels fighting government troops.
As many as 40 000 fighters travelled from all over the world,
including Russia, to join IS in Russia after the 2014 declaration of its
self-styled "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq.
In 2015, Russian security services estimated that 2 900 Russian
citizens had joined IS, as well as "several thousands" from Central
Now that IS' "caliphate" has all but collapsed, its "leaders and
fighters are looking for ways to continue their terrorist activities in
the territory of other countries, including Russia", FSB director
Alexander Bortnikov was quoted by Russian agencies as saying.
"The return of former members of illegal armed groups from the Middle
East to Russia poses a real danger" as they can form sleeper cells and
recruit new members, he added.
Bortnikov said the security services had ensured the Confederations Cup ran smoothly this year.
They will draw on this experience to ensure they prevent attacks on
venues in 13 cities hosting the World Cup from June 14 to July 15 next
"Our priority is to secure locations where crowds will gather, as
well as energy infrastructure sites ... and sports venues that will host
the 2018 World Cup, to ensure they are not targets for terror
attacks," Bortnikov said.
The FSB has thwarted attacks, including a suicide bombing, that an IS
cell from southern Russia was planning for the upcoming New Year
holidays and early next year, a statement carried by Russian news
Another assault was being planned for the presidential campaign, it added.
Security forces in a raid arrested three people and seized explosives and automatic weapons, it said.
Russia will hold a presidential election in March 2018, with the
campaign officially expected to start later this month, following an
announcement by Putin that he will stand for a fourth time.