Attempt on life of Chechen leader prevented in Chechnya?: Reportedly, Chechen law enforcement agencies have prevented an attempt on the life of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. (Interfax)
By Pavel Aptekar
Russia first marked its Day of People's Unity in 2005. Recognition of the holiday has since increased, from 20% in 2006 to 55% in 2015, according to Levada Centre statistics, although only 22% actively celebrated it. It is clear, however, that over the last two years a feeling of unity has appeared in the country; between 2012 and 2015, the number of Russians who feel united with other Russian citizens rose from 23 to 54%. The main reason given is that "Russia comes together in difficult times".
At first, the authorities played on xenophobia and tried to use for their benefit. Pro-Kremlin youth groups went hunting for migrants, and followers of anti-Caucasian slogans considered themselves Russian patriots, not grasping the damage they were doing to their multinational country. In those early days, the ideology behind the day of celebration was only representative of a political minority.
But the confrontation with the West has resolved this problem. State propaganda is now harnessing xenophobia against foreign enemies, rather than internal ones. Hostility towards "Banderites", the US and the West has been well-received within Russia, and has fomented patriotism. Though the amount of participants in the 'Russian March' has decreased, the quantity of aggressive slogans has increased.
Russian patriotism has always been pessimistic rather than optimistic; 'we are fighting the enemy', rather than 'we are rebuilding our country'. Without enemies, it would be difficult to be proud of Russia.
Russia risks of getting stuck in Syria: (i) Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Konashenkov said on Thursday that Russian aircraft had made 81 sorties in Syria over the past two days against 263 'terrorist' sites. Konashenkov dismissed US Assistant Secretary of State Nuland's claims that Russian airstrikes target not terrorists but regions which are not controlled by Syrian President Assad's regime. (ii) The media cites Nuland's statement that Russia has deployed heavy artillery systems in Hama and Homs provinces. According to some reports, Russia's military force in Syria has grown to about 4,000 personnel [from about 2,000 in the beginning of Moscow's military operation in Syria]. In an editorial, Vedomosti argues that Russian airstrikes have allowed the Syrian army and its allies to stabilize the situation on the front lines, but nothing more. The author warns that Moscow's tactical success could draw Russia further in the Syrian conflict. (iii) The media cites a political adviser of the Free Syrian Army Suyuf al-Haqq Abu Jad, who allegedly confirmed that preparations are underway for a meeting with Russian representatives next week. Earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova did not confirm a meeting with representatives of the Free Syrian Army. In an interview with the NTV channel on Thursday, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that his representative was holding unofficial talks with the moderate Syrian opposition. (Gazeta.ru, RIAN, TASS, Vedomosti; NTV)
If terrorists are to blame for the A321 crash, then it is clear that the attack was a response to Russia's military campaign in Syria, which is aimed at combatting the Islamic State.
The fight against terrorism abroad is designed to prevent extremists coming to Russia, while minimising casualties. Opinion polls from last month show that the majority of citizens support the authorities in this endeavour.
But it is difficult to pinpoint how informed respondents are with regards to what the war in the Middle East will bring Russia. In that region, it is hard to count on a swift and victorious war. With memories of the campaigns in Chechnya and Afghanistan still fresh in the mind, such an outcome is unlikely to be met with understanding and approval.
Russian aviation authority makes assessment of flight security: Reportedly, Rosaviatsiya issued a recommendation to all Russian air companies to provide information on the level of security in the airports of Turkey, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Europe. Newspapers say that the number of people that can afford to – and are willing to – travel abroad will shrink by 40% ahead of the New Year holidays. Meanwhile, other officials speak about the necessity of developing internal tourism, especially to the Northern Caucasus. (Kommersant, Nezavisimaya Gazeta)
New Russian commission deployed to combat terror financing: According to official reports, President Vladimir Putin has set up an interdepartmental commission to combat terrorism financing. In a decree signed on November 18, Putin ordered the Prosecutor-General's Office, Central Bank, and regional authorities to submit to the new commission any information they may have on organisations and individuals suspected of terrorist activities. The move comes after Russia confirmed that a bomb had brought down a Russian passenger plane over Egypt last month. (Vedomosti)
Counterterrorist operation in Kabardino-Balkaria: Russia's National Antiterrorist Committee stated that 14 militants, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, have been killed during a counterterrorist operation on Sunday in Kabardino-Balkaria. According to law enforcement agencies, the militants who had been killed "had organized channels" for sending local residents to Syria and plotted terror attacks in the North Caucasus region. (RBK)