The presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, answering reporters’ questions, commented on the Russian position on the country’s citizens fighting for militants in Syria, the explosion in the Ukrainian capital, journalist protection, cybersecurity issues and rumors about the pardoning of the senior members of Crimean extremist organization.
Russians in Daesh Ranks
The presidential spokesman characterized Russian nationals fighting alongside the Daesh terrorist group and using weapons against the Syrian armed forces and Russian servicemen who take part in the aerial campaign as criminals, and stressed that they were being eliminated.
Dmitry Peskov has also commented on the report on Syria by the Soufan Group strategic security intelligence services. Issued on Wednesday, the document said that Russian nationals in the ranks of Daesh in Syria and Iraq were represented more than nationals of other countries.
“We do not assess the results of the report in any way. First, we do not quite understand to what extent we can trust the cited data, what it is based on… what information sources that organization has, we do not have information on that account. We tend to doubt the credibility of that information.”
Peskov added that the return of those who fought for Daesh to Russia was dangerous, adding that this issue was being addressed by Russian security services.
The Soufan Group was founded by the former FBI agent Ali H. Soufan in 2005 and its stated aim is to provide all kinds of intelligence services to governments and multinational corporations including researchers, training programs, and security services.
Deadly Explosion in Kiev
Kremlin spokesman called the claims that Russia was linked to a possible attempt to kill a Ukrainian lawmaker in Kiev “absolutely groundless, unfounded hysterical accusations from Kiev which are voiced not only against [Chechen leader] Ramzan Kadyrov, but also anyone who occupies any post in Moscow.” He also added that it was another example of “manifestation of Russophobia which has engulfed Kiev and Ukraine.”
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On Wednesday, an explosion hit the center of Kiev. As a result of the incident, two people were killed and five injured, including a member of the Ukraine’s Radical Party, Ihor Mosiychuk. The blast went off when the politician was leaving the office of the private TV broadcaster along with his bodyguards.
So far, the explosion has been qualified by the Ukrainian security services as an act of terrorism. First Deputy Prosecutor of Kiev Pavel Kononenko said Thursday that investigators were considering several theories, including an attempt to kill Ukrainian lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk “organized by the Russian security services.”
Councellor to Ukraine’s Interior Minister Ivan Varchenko reminded that in 2014 Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov threatened Mosiychuk. When the lawmaker himself regained consciousness at the hospital, he claimed that the assassin’s paymasters were “sitting in Moscow” while the perpetrators were from the local population.
Enhancement of Journalist Protection in Russia
Amid the suggestions to arm journalists in order to protect them from violence, Dmitry Peskov said that Russia was not discussing int the introduction of additional legislative measures to enhance the protection of journalists in the country.
He explained that each person might come under an attack by a madman and in this case it is wrong “to give prioriry to journalists.” According to Peskov, each person is free to take security measures he believes necessary, but they must be in strict accordance with the current legislation.”
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The comment comes as Dmitry Muratov, an editor-in-chief of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta said Wednesday that he planned to “arm” his newspaper employees after a recent attack on Russia’s Ekho Moskvy radio journalist Tatiana Felgenhauer.
Felgenhauer, the host of the radio station, was wounded in the neck with a knife and hospitalized in serious condition on Monday. The assailant explained his attack during questioning, claiming that Felgenhauer “had sexually harassed” him through “telepathic contact.”
When asked why cybersecurity had been chosen as a topic of Thursday’s Russian Security Council extended meeting, headed by Putin, Peskov explained that threats related to cybersecurity are included on the Kremlin’s agenda and “the main goal is to ensure the smooth work of all the means of communication, information systems.”
Peskov specified that the session was not dedicated to considering specific cases of information security breaches, related to telephone and hacking attacks since this issue should be addressed on the expert level. Instead the task of the meeting of Russian Security Council was to discuss “conceptual issues.”
Since mid-September, Russia has faced numerous fake bomb threat calls which have resulted in nearly 1.4 million people evacuated from various infrastructure objects across the country. Peskov has characterized this situation as telephone terrorism.
The issues of cybersecurity have been in the spotlight of policies in many countries, including Russia, over the past months, especially in the wake of repeated hacking attacks on thousands of computers of commercial companies and governmental agencies across the world this summer.
Pardoning of Crimean Tatar Mejlis Members
Dmitry Peskov answering the question whether Putin had signed a decree pardoning senior members of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People (extremist organization banned in Russia) said that he could neither confirm nor deny this information.
Ilmi Umerov and Ahtem Chiygoz, deputy heads of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People were sentenced last month to two-year and eight-year prison terms, respectively, for separatism and stirring up anti-Russian protests. On Wednesday, Ruslan Balbek, deputy head of Russia’s lower house’s Committee on Nationalities, said that the two had been pardoned on appeal by the Mufti of the Crimean Muslims.