The Washington Post

Putin says Russia had nothing to offer on Tsarnaev brothers

Russia’s President Vladi­mir Putin called today for greater anti-terror cooperation with the United States and defended his economic policies against a background of rising discontent, in the first nationwide phone-in of his new Kremlin term. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that, “to our great regret,” Russian security services lacked any operative information on the Tsarnaev brothers that they could have shared with their American counterparts.

Russian officials had raised concerns about Tamerlan Tsarnaev with the FBI in 2011 and later that year also with the CIA. But analysts here doubt that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) was warning the Americans; more likely, they say, it was acting out of worry that Tsarnaev might join an underground group in the strife-torn Russian region of Dagestan during a visit there.

The FSB did not respond when the FBI asked for more details about him, U.S. officials said.

Putin, speaking with reporters after a nearly five-hour-long call-in television show, pointed out that the Tsarnaev brothers lived in the United States and had only visited Russia. That left the FSB little to go on.

During Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s six-month stay in Russia, which took place after the Russian contacts with the U.S. agencies, there was little evidence that Russian security agents were monitoring him. Most of the time he was in Dagestan, in the North Caucasus. A member of the Dagestani anti-terrorism committee said in an interview Wednesday that he wasn’t being observed there and that he had done nothing to attract notice.

During the call-in show, Putin said he hoped the Boston bombings would enable American and Russian security agencies to work more closely together. He expressed annoyance that Americans tend to describe militants from the Caucasus as “rebels,” rather than as “terrorists.”

“This is a common threat — terrorism,” he said. “And we need to cooperate more closely with each other. These two criminals, in the clearest way, have confirmed the validity of our thesis.”

But on other topics, cooperation between Moscow and Washington still faces some hurdles. An election-monitoring nonprofit group, Golos, was fined $10,000 Thursday for failing to register as a foreign agent, and its director was fined $3,300. Golos, which uncovered widespread electoral fraud in Russian elections in 2011 and 2012, formerly received grant money from the United States.

“Disappointed with the decision rendered on Golos,” tweeted U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul after the court ruling.

And the controversial embezzlement trial of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, closely followed by U.S. officials, continued in Kirov on Thursday. Navalny and his supporters say he is being railroaded for leading last year’s protests. Without mentioning Navalny by name, Putin assured his viewers that there can be no place for politics in Russian justice.

People who publicly object to corruption, he said, must be as clean as “crystal,” because they are inviting scrutiny.

Kathy Lally in Makhachkala con tributed to this report.



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