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Problems of Urban Terrorism in Russia

Konstantin V. Frolov

Mechanical Engineering Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Today in Russia and in the world, problems of protecting the population, critically important infrastructure elements, and the environment against natural and technogenic disasters and terrorist attacks have become some of our most significant priorities. Under the leadership of the president of the Russian Federation, the Security Council and the Presidium of the State Council discussed these problems at a meeting on November 13, 2003, and passed a number of important resolutions. As a result, for the first time in our country at such a high and prestigious level, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, and the Ministry of Science and Industry were authorized to develop a Program of Basic Research and Applied Analysis on these problems for 2004–2010. This program includes instructions and major objectives for scientific development in the area of sociopolitical, economic, national, and regional sources of terrorism-related threats; principles for analyzing and monitoring the consequences of crises and disasters caused by terrorism; and consideration of terrorism in the overall strategic risks faced by the country.

The most important special feature of urban terrorism in Russia, as in other countries, is the abrupt increase in direct damage (loss of life, destruction of infrastructure) and indirect negative impact (fear, panic, paralysis of control) caused by the high concentration of population, potentially dangerous objects, and increased opportunities for maintaining secrecy and preparing terrorist attacks.

The most vulnerable targets for terrorist activities are Russia’s major cities—Moscow, first of all, as well as the large cities and towns in areas marked by social and political instability and military conflict (Grozny, Makhachkala,



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Countering Urban Terrorism in Russia and the United States: Proceedings of a Workshop Problems of Urban Terrorism in Russia Konstantin V. Frolov Mechanical Engineering Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Today in Russia and in the world, problems of protecting the population, critically important infrastructure elements, and the environment against natural and technogenic disasters and terrorist attacks have become some of our most significant priorities. Under the leadership of the president of the Russian Federation, the Security Council and the Presidium of the State Council discussed these problems at a meeting on November 13, 2003, and passed a number of important resolutions. As a result, for the first time in our country at such a high and prestigious level, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, and the Ministry of Science and Industry were authorized to develop a Program of Basic Research and Applied Analysis on these problems for 2004–2010. This program includes instructions and major objectives for scientific development in the area of sociopolitical, economic, national, and regional sources of terrorism-related threats; principles for analyzing and monitoring the consequences of crises and disasters caused by terrorism; and consideration of terrorism in the overall strategic risks faced by the country. The most important special feature of urban terrorism in Russia, as in other countries, is the abrupt increase in direct damage (loss of life, destruction of infrastructure) and indirect negative impact (fear, panic, paralysis of control) caused by the high concentration of population, potentially dangerous objects, and increased opportunities for maintaining secrecy and preparing terrorist attacks. The most vulnerable targets for terrorist activities are Russia’s major cities—Moscow, first of all, as well as the large cities and towns in areas marked by social and political instability and military conflict (Grozny, Makhachkala,

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Countering Urban Terrorism in Russia and the United States: Proceedings of a Workshop Vladikavkaz, Nazran, Beslan). These cities are the focus of 90–95 percent of terrorist attacks. Following is a breakdown of targets of urban terrorism:1 Eighty-five to ninety percent of the targets are public transportation systems (metro, buses, trains, airplanes) and military transportation systems (automobiles, armored personnel carriers, tanks, helicopters). Three to five percent are mass gatherings of people (markets, theaters, stadiums, shops). Two to four percent are gas and oil pipelines in urban zones. One to three percent are power supply lines and transformer electrical stations. Russia faces extraordinary danger in view of the considerable increase (by three to five times) in the quantity and gravity of terrorist attacks in comparison with the increase in the quantity and impact of natural and technogenic disasters. In this sense, the year 2004 was most significant, given the tragedies in Beslan and Moscow and on civilian aircraft, which involved the loss of hundreds of people, including children. These terrorism trends in Russia have led to the need to implement comprehensive organizational, programmatic, scientific, and social measures, which will be described in more detail later in this meeting by our Russian experts. This paper mentions a few measures in which the Russian Academy of Sciences and the special working group under the president of the Russian Academy of Sciences provided leadership and supervision: meeting of the Interdisciplinary Committee on Disasters, at which the Report of the Russian Academy of Sciences on Problems of Technological Terrorism was presented (2000) Scientific and Industrial Conference on Technological Terrorism and Terrorist Threat Prevention Methods (2003) meetings of the Working Group on Risk Analysis and Safety Problems of the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, including discussion of general and special questions of terrorism prevention (tagging of explosive materials, controlled detonators, creation of protection systems) (2001–2004) International Conference on the Safety of Large Cities (2003) special seminar within the framework of the Committee on Scientific and 1 This breakdown covers the period from 1998 to 2002. See Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations. 2004. P. 313 in Problems of Technological Terrorism and Methods of Countering Terrorist Threats: Compilation of Materials from a Scientific and Practical Conference. Moscow: Institute of Mechanical Engineering of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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Countering Urban Terrorism in Russia and the United States: Proceedings of a Workshop Technological Cooperation between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (2004) publication of special monographs, conference proceedings, and the series Russia’s Security on interdisciplinary aspects of terrorism During recent years, the scientists of the Russian Academy of Sciences and other Russian scientific organizations have carried out important work under the state scientific and technical program on security, as have Moscow researchers under the comprehensive program on Moscow’s security. One major result of this work has been the development and approval of the Security Principles for Moscow in 2000 by the Moscow city government. This document represents the officially adopted system of views on the objectives, tasks, basic principles, and directions of activities for ensuring the security and sustainable development of the city under conditions of possible external and internal dangers and threats. These principles are approved as the basis for the following: development of security strategy improvement and further development of the legal and regulatory base for the provision of security development and implementation of special programs for providing security against specific threats formation and implementation of joint policy by the city administration, economic and social entities, and the city’s population with the aim of ensuring the security of Moscow The Security Principles for Moscow include the following types of threats: social, political, terrorist, natural, technogenic, environmental, informational, psychological, criminal, and military. At present in Moscow, priorities have been set for development program implementation strategy and corresponding program activities. Chief among them is the improvement of the effectiveness of measures to counteract terrorist activities. The Security Principles of Moscow provide the following description of terrorist threats: Terrorism has become one of the most dangerous challenges for the security of society. It poses a special hazard for large cities and political, economic, and cultural centers. Acts of terrorism have been increasing in scale and becoming more multifaceted from the standpoint of objects targeted and method of implementation. Terrorism has the opportunity to use the achievements of science and technology for its criminal pursuits. The main threats from terrorism are as follows: attacks on political and economic entities (seizure, bombing, arson, and so forth)

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Countering Urban Terrorism in Russia and the United States: Proceedings of a Workshop bombings and other terrorist acts in crowded areas (metro, railway stations and terminals, means of transportation, residential areas) kidnappings and seizures of hostages hijackings of airplanes and other means of public transportation attacks on facilities that are potential threats to the population in an effort to destroy them or disrupt technological operations disruption of aviation and rail traffic control systems, power supply lines, means of communications, computers, and other electronic devices (electromagnetic terrorism) disruption of the psychophysical state of the population by means of programming behavior or activities of large population groups cyberattacks against the most important computer networks dissemination of information in the press and on radio and television that may distort public opinion and cause civil commotion disruption of information networks dispersion of chemical and radioactive materials in crowded areas contamination of water supply systems and foods dispersion of infectious pathogenic organisms The main preconditions aggravating the rise of terrorist threats are as follows: combination of organized terrorist groups with a large quantity of independent, autonomous cells and individuals appearance of new kinds of terrorism (informational, technogenic,2 cybernetic) expansion of the means of terrorist activity (biological, chemical, radiological, and so forth) absence of motivation and unpredictability of so-called unscrupulous terrorism, in which violence is aimed at the disorderly murder of certain individuals increase in the intellectual level of terrorism relative to the pace of development of science and technology Realization of the above-mentioned threats may cause disruption of the public order in the city for long periods of time creation of a climate of fear large numbers of casualties 2 Technogenic, or technological terrorism is represented by actions aimed against infrastructure targets critical to national security or committed using especially dangerous technologies, devices, and materials. Konstantin Frolov, e-mail message, March 15, 2006.

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Countering Urban Terrorism in Russia and the United States: Proceedings of a Workshop In accordance with the Security Principles of Moscow, the main measures to ensure the security of the city in terms of preventing, detecting, and suppressing terrorist activity and minimizing its consequences are as follows: identification and elimination of causes and conditions that may support further terrorist activities ideological, informational, administrative, and organizational efforts to counter and prevent the formation of terrorist intentions in people’s minds legal, informational, and administrative efforts to counteract the rise of terrorist groups and organizations institution of a ban on importing terrorist means (ammunition, explosives, dangerous chemical agents, and so forth) into the city creation of a city system for the efficient suppression of terrorist actions implementation of a set of special measures to protect especially dangerous facilities and sites creation of a crisis management system covering the period from the initial threat of a terrorist act through the elimination of its consequences organization of effective cooperation between all federal and municipal structures involved in counterterrorism activities improvement of the technical means used for eliminating the consequences of terrorist acts upgrading of monitoring systems for detecting radioactive and chemical materials and biological agents formation of specialized municipal chemical and biological emergency response groups heightening of industrial safety to reduce the risks of technogenic terrorism Pursuit of objectives aimed at ensuring the city’s security and development and implementation of measures for their fulfillment must be carried out in accordance with the following main principles: The principle of general obligation ensures the security of the city by making it the obligatory function of all federal government agencies, local government institutions, enterprises, organizations, companies, and various legal and organizational entities as well as the obligation of every citizen. The principle of legal dependence ensures the security of the city is carried out in strict accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, current Russian Federation legislation, the Principles of the National Security of the Russian Federation, the Moscow city charter, and Moscow city legislation. The principle of universality assures that measures to ensure the security of the city are organized and carried out with regard to the potential realization of any reasonably probable kind of threat.

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Countering Urban Terrorism in Russia and the United States: Proceedings of a Workshop The principle of prevention assures that measures to ensure the security of the city are organized first and foremost in the interests of threat prevention and carried out in advance in conjunction with the efficient increase in their volume and intensity. The principle of reasonable sufficiency assures that measures to ensure the security of the city are planned and carried out with an eye to the reasonable adequacy of their volume, duration, and economic basis. The principle of differentiation assures that the nature, volume, duration, and order of implementation of measures to ensure the security of the city corresponds to the special characteristics of each administrative region and city district, enterprise, organization, and company and guarantee the rational use of labor, material resources, and funds. The principle of coordinated control ensures the security of the city based on a division of responsibilities between federal government entities, local government institutions, and the administrations of enterprises, organizations, and companies. It is based on a combination of centralism in control over the measures and obligatory active control for their implementation in all entities. We hope that the results of our work in Washington, D.C., and New York City and our practical recommendations will be used in Russia and Moscow in implementing and further developing the principles that have been adopted for reducing the risks of terrorism.