July 6, 2015 – Two senior Communist Party lawmakers have asked the government to introduce a visa regime with former Soviet republics in Central Asia, claiming that this would help to prevent members of the Islamic State terrorist group from getting into the country.
MPs Valery Rashkin and Sergey Obukhov sent a letter to the heads of the Federal Migration Service and the Federal Border Guard Service, asking them to impose additional controls on the borders with Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and to check all migrants who enter Russia from these states for links to Islamic State (previously ISIL/ISIS) or any other radical Islamist organization.
“We respect the peoples of the Central Asia and we have special deference towards religious leaders who explain to their parish that the Koran denounces the terrorist activities as absolutely inadmissible, but the terrorists still have high chances to recruit citizens of Central Asian countries through propaganda, blackmail or threats,” Valery Rashkin said in comments to Izvestia daily. The MP added that Islamic State had already threatened Russia with terrorist attacks and war.
The MPs added that if Islamic State intends to send its emissaries to Russia it would be much easier for them to recruit a number of people in the Central Asian republics, which have a visa-free regime with Russia and to send a great number of labor migrants to the country. According to official statistics, 80 percent of some 10 million immigrants who come to Russia hail from Central Asia.
The difficult economic situation in most post-Soviet states in Central Asia is another factor that could make such recruitment easier, Obukhov and Rashkin wrote in their letter.
According to the MPs, the simplest and most effective way to defend Russia from infiltration by ISIS radicals is to introduce a visa regime with Central Asian states, with enough time between visa applications and their issuance for security services to check the would-be migrant’s connections.
Russian special services have already reported about several detentions of suspected Islamic State recruiters on Russian territory. In June, Russian media discovered that a number of Russian citizens, including young women, went to Turkey with the intention of going further to Syria and joining ISIS.
After this incident, MP Valery Rashkin addressed the Russian Education Minister Dmitry Livanov with a proposal to establish special posts in all higher educational establishments for people who would uncover and prevent extremism among students.
In 2014, Russia officially recognized Islamic State and the affiliated group Al-Nusra Front as terrorists, banning Russian citizens from participating in these organizations or rendering any support to them under threat of criminal prosecution. Russia has also called upon all nations to recognize the two groups as terrorists, in line with resolutions passed by the UN Security Council.
Earlier this year, Russian Muslim organizations issued fatwas (religious rulings) against Islamic State, denouncing the group as enemies of Islam and calling for its members to be put on trial and punished accordingly.