French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has urged Russia and the West to join forces against terrorism during a visit to Moscow, after ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack which killed six men in Chechnya.
According to German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle, at least six Russians serving at a National Guard base in Chechnya were killed after terrorists rushed in under cover of heavy fog. The raiding party did not succeed in entering the facility, however, and was “neutralised” following an exchange of gunfire with base personnel.
Razman Kadyrov, head of Chechnya’s regional administration, said there was “no doubt that the gunmen planned to carry out high-profile terrorist attacks using weapons [from the base] if they managed to acquire them and escape alive,” and National Guard chief Viktor Zolotov praised servicemen for “preventing numerous deaths among civilians”.
Shortly afterwards the SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based think tank headed by Iraq-born Israeli analyst Rita Katz, reported that the Islamic State was claiming responsibility for the attack.
In a surprise meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the day of the attack, Ms Le Pen said that “the fight against terrorism can only be truly effective if the largest nations stand side by side and join forces.”
“[T]errorist blows have been delivered to France. Yesterday terrorists delivered a terrible blow with many casualties [in the UK]. They continue their attacks every day … I believe that in this situation we must do everything in our power to create conditions for an effective exchange of intelligence information in order to protect our nations,” she said.
An official transcript of the meeting indicates that President Putin was receptive to Ms Le Pen’s overtures.
“Today, so soon after the tragedy in London, a tragic event happened in Chechnya in the North Caucasus, where terrorists attacked a National Guard unit. We all live in difficult conditions. We must open our eyes to this threat and join forces to fight terrorism,” he agreed.
J'ai échangé avec le Président Poutine sur le sort des Chrétiens d'Orient, menacés chaque jour par les fondamentalistes islamistes. MLP pic.twitter.com/ikFLpFgbWO
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) March 24, 2017
The Russian president insisted his meeting with Ms Le Pen was not intended to “influence [the French elections] in any way, but we retain the right to meet with all the different political forces, just like our European and American partners do.”
It is fairly typical for Western heads of government to meet with opposition leaders in foreign countries, in order to establish a relationship between their administrations and possible future partners.
For her part, Ms Le Pen has sought to meet with a range of foreign leaders ahead of the French elections, in order to bolster her standing as an international stateswoman.
— Marine in English (@Marine2017_EN) March 22, 2017
Russia has a long history of dealing with radical Islamic terrorism in the North Caucasus, but the threat has increased since the country intervened in the Syrian conflict.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for an explosion which brought down a flight from Sharm-el-Sheikh to St Petersburg and killed 224 people in 2015. The UK introduced an indefinite ban on air travel to and from the region as a result, hammering Egypt’s tourism industry.
10-month-old Darina Gromova was the youngest among 224 passengers on Russian A321 that went down in Sinai. pic.twitter.com/rwkbphANLF
— Vera Van Horne (@VeraVanHorne) November 1, 2015