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Russia, US to bolster ties after Boston bombings: Kremlin

Russian and US presidents decide to boost cooperation on counter-terrorism and security issues after Russia offered to help in Boston Marathon bombing investigation

AFP , Saturday 20 Apr 2013
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Views: 1325

Russia and the United States agreed Saturday to step up cooperation in their fight against terror in the wake of news that two ethnic Chechens were suspected of organising the deadly Boston Marathon bombings.

The Kremlin said Russian leader Vladimir Putin called US President Barack Obama to once again express his condolences and discuss ways the two sides can work more closely on security in the runup to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

"Both sides underscored their interest in bolstering the close cooperation of Russian and US special services in the fight against international terrorism," the Kremlin said in a statement.

The White House also issued a statement saying that Obama thanked Putin for the condolences "and praised the close cooperation that the United States has received from Russia on counter-terrorism, including in the wake of the Boston attack."

"The two leaders agreed to continue our cooperation on counter-terrorism and security issues going forward," the White House said.

US authorities said that the two young men who set off twin bombs Monday that killed three people at the Boston Marathon and then shot dead a policeman on Friday were ethnic Chechens from Russia's restless North Caucasus region.

The 26-year-old older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot and killed by police while his 19-year-old sibling Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended near Boston on Friday evening.

Cooperation between the US and Russian intelligence services remains weak due to temperamental diplomatic ties and concern in Washington that Putin was using the fight against terror to crack down on his political foes.

Russian analysts said this would likely change in the aftermath of the Boston bombings.

"The main lesson the United States should draw from all this is that they should strengthen their cooperation with Russia in their fight against terror," said Moscow's National Defence magazine editor Igor Korotchenko.

"Considering the roots of the terror in Boston, the United States should be interested in exchanging information between the two intelligence services," Korotchenko told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Kremlin-linked lawmaker Alexei Pushkov of parliament's international affairs committee said the shocking attack should also mute Washington's criticism of Putin's actions in the North Caucasus since his rise to power in 1999.

Russia waged two post-Soviet wars in Chechnya -- the second started by Putin when he was still prime minister in 1999.

The popular campaign helped his rise to the presidency in 2000 but immediately created tensions in his relations with the West.

"We told the Americans -- what are you doing (by criticising Putin)? You are supporting the seeds of terror," Pushkov told Russian News Service radio.

"And the Americans did not want to listen," he noted. "So this can now be a plus."

Other observers argued that Russia is currently ahead of the United States in Internet monitoring because of is laxer privacy laws.

Respected security analysts Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan wrote in the Yezhednevny Zhurnal online daily that Russia's powerful Federal Security Service has been closely watching social media since 2010 -- two years longer than the United States.

They added "that there was never any close cooperation" between the two intelligence services except for one joint operation conducted since sides agreed to work together on security in 2004.

"It looks like that US intelligence services will have to urgently review the level of their cooperation with the Russian security agencies," Soldatov and Borogan wrote.

But Russia is also keen to win more US assistance as it prepares to host a series major events ranging from August's World Athletics Championships in Moscow to the February 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Moscow on Tuesday announced extra security measures for Sochi due partially to its immediate proximity to the North Caucasus region.

Officials in 2011 also claimed to have uncovered a complex terror plot against the Games by Islamist rebels who allegedly used little-policed mountain regions of Georgia as their base.

Russia's state ITAR-TASS news agency ran a commentary on Saturday calling the Boston attack a serious warning for Sochi.

"Sochi and Chechnya are much closer to us than Boston and the Olympic Games are technically much more complex and far more difficult to police," ITAR-TASS said.

"We have something to think about," it stressed.

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