Putin Says Thousands From Russia, CIS Joined Islamic State

  • Extremists pose a threat if they return home, president says
  • Ex-Soviet states should coordinate terrorism fight, Putin says

President Vladimir Putin said 5,000 to 7,000 people from Russia and states of the former Soviet Union have joined the ranks of Islamic State.

Those who’ve left to fight for Islamic State “can’t be allowed to apply later on at home the experience they are gaining today in Syria,” Putin told a Commonwealth of Independent States summit of ex-Soviet republics in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Friday. Russia considered it a “duty to take concrete action in the fight against the so-called Islamic State and other radical groups in Syria.”

Russia is in talks with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and other countries about its campaign of air strikes in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that began Sept. 30, Putin said. It is also trying to “establish cooperation” with the U.S. and Turkey, while CIS states should provide for an effective regional center to coordinate the fight against extremism.

A task force to strengthen the external borders of CIS member states would also enhance efforts to combat terrorism, drug-trafficking and other crime under a proposed cooperation program for 2016-2020, Putin said.

Global ‘Strategy’

Russia can’t be left to lead efforts to end Syria’s civil war, which requires “a global and comprehensive strategy” involving a “large international coalition,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said in an interview late Thursday after a European Union summit in Brussels. “I believe that it is important to involve Russia in this coalition, but it would be a mistake to leave only Russia to lead this strategy,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held phone talks on Syria on Thursday, after Putin criticized American policy as weak and lacking objectives. Kerry countered that Russia must make “good on its commitment, repeated many times, to help” the U.S.-led, 65-member, coalition that’s also fighting against Islamic State.

“It would be totally self-defeating to the point of farce to try at the same time to prop up Bashar al-Assad and his murderous regime, which seems to be precisely what Moscow wants to do,” Kerry said Thursday in a speech at Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies in Bloomington, Indiana.

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