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One and the same? Syria related terrorist arrest(s) Ukraine

November 14, 2015

Whilst all the big issues relating to adopting much needed legislation in Ukraine, legislation also required to enable Visa-free with the Schengen nations of the EU at some point in the future, (whenever that may be) have been grabbing the headlines, the Ukrainian State Border Service and SBU have been arresting Islamic terrorist(s).

On 11th November, the Border Service of Ukraine announced it had arrested a Russian citizen “who was possibly a member of the Islamic State terrorist group” during the check-in at Boryspil airport, booked on a flight to Istanbul.  The Ukrainian State Border Service press release stating “the Ukrainian State Border Service detained a citizen of the Russian Federation who is on the international wanted list and suspected of participation in the terrorist group ‘Islamic State’. The Interpol National Bureau for Ukraine was informed about the detention of the Russian citizen.”

On 13th November the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) also released a statement, “The citizen of one of the former USSR republics took part in the Syrian armed conflict in 2013 – 2014. The combatant became head of a separate Jamaat of the international terrorist organization ‘Al-Nusra Front’ in 2015.”

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It seems highly unlikely that these two statements would relate to two separate arrests only 48 hours apart for wanted Islamic terrorists.  It is to be expected that the SBU press statement would be far more accurate in identifying the terrorist organisation involved, and less specific regarding the nationality of the wanted terrorist, than the Ukrainian Border Service which was more specific about the nationality of the wanted terrorist and less specific about the Islamic terrorist organisation.

If these statements relate to the same arrest, the it would appear that a Russian national circulated as wanted by Interpol, and who took part in the Syrian armed conflict during 2013-14, becoming head of a separate Jamaat of the Al Nusra Front in 2015, was arrested at Boryspil airport attempting to board a flight from Kyiv to Istanbul.

Since that arrest, Kyiv’s Shevchenko District Court has remanded in custody this individual pending extradition to whichever nation circulated this Russian citizen as wanted – and which nation that is, at the time of writing, is not public knowledge.

Clearly there are questions to be asked as to how this Russian citizen  arrived in Ukraine having not only fought, but headed a Jamaat of the Al Nursa Front?  How long has this individual been in Ukraine?  How did they enter?  Were they wanted when they entered, or circulated as wanted after they entered therefore legitimately?  Is Ukraine simply an entry and egress point, and if so where else did this individual go?  Why did this individual leave Syria?  Who did they meet either in Ukraine, or elsewhere?  For what purpose?  Was Istanbul a safer point of entry than elsewhere in MENA?  The most convenient route, or route with planned safe-passage back to Syria?  Was a return to Syria the purpose of the trip to Istanbul?  Was this individual traveling on legitimate or false documents?  Mobile phone?  Computer?  What bank cards/details in their possession?  Where and when used?  How much of a picture can be gleaned of time spent in Ukraine – and with whom if there is CCTV in locations where any bank card use occurred?

One must expect that the SBU has asked all these questions (and many more) of this individual during the period between the first mention of an arrest on 11th November, and the remanding in custody of this individual, pending extradition, on 13th November.  Between now and any extradition, no doubt more questions will want to be put to this individual – and not only by the Ukrainians – prior to delivery of the wanted to the country requesting extradition.

Are all the answers to the questions above (and many more) already known?  Was the arrest at  Boryspil airport by the Ukrainian State Border Services the conclusion, rather than beginning, of SBU engagement with this individual?

Perhaps rightly, not a headlining incident in light of recent events within the legislative world of the Verkovna Rada, and also the notable up-tick in the continuing war (no fig-leaf “shaky ceasefire rhetoric) in eastern Ukraine – but nevertheless it is an incident that will catch the eye of some readers of this blog.

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