Putin says unnamed foreign foes use radical Islam to weaken Russia
President Vladimir Putin accused foreign rivals on Tuesday of using radical Islam to weaken Russia and appealed to Muslim clerics to help reduce tensions after a deadly suicide bombing and nationalist riots.
The comments, his first on this month’s riots in Moscow, were delivered in the mainly Muslim region of Bashkortostan and underlined Kremlin concerns that ethnic or religious tensions could threaten the unity of the Russian state.
Monday’s suicide bombing, blamed on a Muslim woman from the North Caucasus, killed six people on a bus in Volgograd and raised fears about attacks as Russia prepares for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“Some political forces use Islam, the radical currents within it … to weaken our state and create conflicts on Russian soil that can be managed from abroad,” Putin told Muslim clerics meeting in Ufa, Bashkortostan’s capital, in southern Russia.
“Tensions between the West and the Islamic world are rising today, and someone is trying to gamble on that by pouring fuel on the fire,” he added.
Putin did not say which foreign rivals could be fostering Islamist separatism. But he has often accused other countries, including the United States, of interfering in Russia’s affairs and sought to deflect blame for problems onto other nations since securing a six-year third term as president last year.