Violence and terrorism continued to roil the North Caucasus, where the decline in incidents in Chechnya was replaced by an increase in terrorism in Dagestan, Ingushetia, and North Ossetia. Other violent acts took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but did not match the level of terrorist violence in Russia's south and were difficult to differentiate from criminal acts. The Russian government continued to view counterterrorism as a top priority, and considered cooperation in this field with the United States a pillar of bilateral relations. Russia did not pass significant new counterterrorism legislation in 2008, but President Medvedev signed a decree reorganizing the Ministry of the Interior's counterterrorism efforts by combining assets from counter-narcotics and anti-organized crime sections into new units to counter extremism. Russia did not offer safe haven to terrorists, but there was evidence of a foreign terrorist presence in the North Caucasus with international financial and ideological ties. As in 2007, there were no high-profile terrorist incidents in Russia involving a large number of civilian casualties.
In October, Director of Federal Security Services (FSB) Aleksandr Bortnikov announced that Russia had disrupted 69 terrorist acts planned by terrorist cells in the Volga region, the Urals, the North Caucasus, and Siberia. Among them, the FSB claimed to have disrupted a plot to bomb tourist sites in Sochi in July and August using improvised explosive devices.
Throughout the North Caucasus, groups have moved away from mass attacks on civilians in favor of targeted attacks on policemen, local interior ministry officials, and departments responsible for fighting the insurgency. As violence has declined in Chechnya, it has increased substantially in the surrounding region, although it was often difficult to characterize whether it was the result of terrorism, political violence, or criminal activities. In 2008, terrorists killed three colonels heading the Anti-organized Crime Units (UBOPs) in North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachay-Cherkessia. These units lead antiterrorist operations within their regions for the Interior Ministry. In one of the deadliest attacks in Russia since the September 2004 school seizure in Beslan, a female suicide bomber struck a minibus in the North Ossetian regional capital of Vladikavkaz on November 6. The attack killed 12 and injured as many as 41 civilians, most of whom were students at local colleges.
The 1998 federal law "On Fighting Terrorism" and the 2006 federal law "On Countering Terrorism" remained the main counterterrorism legal authorities. The National Antiterrorism Committee, organized in 2006, is the main government body coordinating the Russian government's response to the terrorist threat. On September 6, President Medvedev signed a decree reorganizing the federal and regional Ministry of Interior organized crime units, which were increasingly handling counterterrorism duties, into new units tasked with fighting extremism.
The United States and Russian Counterterrorism Coordinators met in June to advance cooperation within the context of the United States-Russia Counterterrorism Working Group. Cooperation continued on a broad range of counterterrorism issues. Russian law enforcement agencies also cooperated closely with U.S. agencies, including participation in the September 2008 Counterterrorism Working Group-Intelligence Sub Group meeting in Washington, D.C. with representatives from the CIA, FBI, Russian Federal Security Service, and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). The U.S. and Russian law enforcement agencies shared substantive, concrete terrorism intelligence at this meeting. Past cooperation led to the release of a hostage victim and the conviction of a U.S.-based subject attempting to purchase shoulder-to-air missiles.
Regulating and investigating terrorist websites was a major concern with numerous requests to the United States for assistance from both the Federal Security Service and the Cybercrime Directorate. At the St. Petersburg G8 Summit in July 2006, the United States and Russia jointly announced the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and invited other nations to join. The Initiative demonstrated Russia's effort to take a leadership role in establishing a partnership among nations to accelerate efforts to combat nuclear terrorism. The fourth meeting of the Initiative took place in Spain in June. (See Chapter 4, The Global Challenge of Nuclear Terrorism, for further information on the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.)
In March, Russia hosted the Seventh International Meeting of the Heads of special services, security agencies, and law-enforcement organizations, which FBI, CIA, DOE, and NCTC attended. Russia continued to work with regional groups to address terrorism. It sent representatives to September's OSCE Public-Private Partnership Counterterrorism Conference, which focused on partnerships between state authorities, civil society, and the business community in combating terrorism. Russia joined with other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), at its annual summit, in a commitment to work with the UN to develop a Comprehensive Counterterrorism Charter and to continue to conduct exercises like "Peace Mission 2007," which Russia hosted. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) elected not to hold its annual International Antiterrorism Forum.
Russia is a member of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (FATF) and is a leading member, chair, and primary funding source of the FATF-style body known as The Eurasian Group on Money Laundering (EAG). EAG members include Russia, China, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Russia, through EAG, provided technical assistance and funding towards establishing legislative and regulatory frameworks and operational capabilities.