Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was no intelligence of “operative value” his security agencies could have passed the U.S. authorities about the two ethnic Chechen brothers accused of bombing the Boston marathon.
“Due to the fact that the Tsarnaevs had not lived in Russia for many years, our security services could not provide information which had operative value,” he said Thursday.
Mr. Putin’s remarks were his first public comments addressing the issue of whether the brothers had been radicalized or trained in the volatile Russian North Caucasus region, an ethnic patchwork of Muslim nationalities encompassing Chechnya and neighboring Dagestan, which are subject republics of the Russian Federation. They were reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Putin denied the brothers had any links to Islamic extremist insurgents in the region, and he jibed at those in the West who have called the insurgents “rebels” or even “freedom fighters,” rather than terrorists.
“I have always been troubled when our Western partners … called our terrorists —who committed brutal, bloody crimes on the territory of our country — rebels, and almost never called them terrorists,” Mr. Putin said during a televised public question and answer session.
Djokhar Tsarnaev, 19, charged with the bombing Monday, and his brother Tamerlan, 26, who was killed last week in a shootout with police, are ethnic Chechens, who grew up in Dagestan, and earlier in the neighboring independent post-Soviet Central Asian Republic of Kyrgyzstan. They emigrated to the United States with their family 11 years ago.
Mr. Putin added that he believed the bombing might provide a spur to U.S. and Russian agencies to work more closely together on counter-terrorism. “I hope the Boston tragedy would serve as a just cause to deepen our cooperation.”
“We told them to make declarations that terrorism is a shared threat,” he said, “Now, these two criminals confirmed the correctness of our theory in the best way.”
Federal investigators and U.S. intelligence agencies have been trying to discover what the elder Mr. Tsarnaev did in Dagestan — now the center of the extremist insurgency that began in Chechnya in the 1990’s — when he visited his father there for six or seven months at the beginning of 2012.
“We are going to do our best to trace every footstep,” a U.S. intelligence official told the Washington Times this week.
A U.S. embassy official told the Wall Street Journal this week that FBI agents and their Russian counterparts in Dagestan were questioning anyone “who had contact” with Mr. Tsarnaev to see if he had met with any extremists.