Boston bombings 'are a gift to Putin', says Chechen dissident

The Boston bombings could be a 'gift' to Vladimir Putin in the Russian president's quest to enlist the West as an ally in his fight against the Chechens, according to a prominent opposition leader.

Akhmed Zakayev, who was deputy prime minister of Chechnya's breakaway government in the 1990s, insists that Chechen culture is 'not responsible' for the atrocity at last Monday's marathon apparently carried out by Chechen brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

And he also suggests that the Russian government will use the tragedy as an excuse to impose further controls on the Caucasus.

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Claims: Exiled Chechen separatist Akhmed Zakayev, left, says Vladimir Putin will seek to use the revelation that the Boston Marathon bombing was carried out by Chechens as an excuse to oppress them

Mr Zakayev was a leading rebel commander after the break-up of the Soviet Union, when Chechens were fighting for an independent state.

After the Second Chechen War which led to Moscow re-imposing central control on the territory, he was forced into exile and is now living in Britain, where he remains a fierce critic of Mr Putin.

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He told the Daily Beast that the revelation that the main suspects in the Boston Marathon attack which left three dead and more than 170 injured was 'a gift to the Kremlin and Putin'.

The Russian government has long sought to link its campaigns in Muslim-majority Chechnya with the global war against Islamist terror, and Mr Zakayev predicted that Boston would make this link seem more natural.

'They will say, "This is the Chechen,"' he said.

Suspects: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, and his brother Dzhokhar, right, are accused of carrying out the atrocity

Obama 'grateful for Putin help'

This prediction seems to be coming true already, as a number of senior Russians have pointed to the bombings as proof that the Chechens have always posed a threat to the rest.

'There is a sense of frustration that the Western intelligence services have not been fully co-operative with the Russian intelligence services,' former Kremlin adviser Alexander Nekrassov told the BBC yesterday.

'These people who are waging the terrorist threat in Chechnya and beyond are dangerous to everyone, and not just to Russia.'

Military adviser Igor Korotchenko used the crisis as an opportunity to warn against allowing exiles from the Caucasus into Western countries as asylum seekers.

'The question we should ask America is why are they not co-operating as much as the Russian secret services want them to on matters of terrorism,' he said.

Bomb: The moment the explosives went off at the Boston Marathon's finish line last Monday

Mr Korotchenko added that Britain had 'created a ticking time-bomb' by welcoming exiled Chechens such as Mr Zakayev.

Many American commentators have also argued that the U.S. must build stronger intelligence-sharing ties with Russia in the wake of the attack.

The Russian reaction to the news of the Tsarnaevs' identity was so swift that Mr Zakayev even suggested that the Moscow government could have had a hand in the attack in order to discredit Chechen separatists.

'Which Chechen military group trained this guy? Nobody trained this guy,' he said. 'I could believe if they come to Moscow that they have some instruction from someone, from Russian special services.'

There is no evidence of Russian state involvement in the Boston atrocity, but many believe the Kremlin was responsible for the 1999 apartment bombings which killed 293 and led to the start of the Second Chechen War.

Conflict: Russian soldiers patrolling Grozny in Chechnya during the Second Chechen War in 2000

The alleged Boston terrorists are of Chechen ancestry, but grew up in the independent country of Kyrgyzstan before moving to Dagestan, which borders Chechnya.

They moved to the U.S. in 2002, settling in Massachusetts - and Mr Zakayev pointed to the brothers' American upbringing as evidence that Chechnya bears no blame for the atrocity.

'Chechens and the Chechen nation are not responsible what two crazy guys committed in the United States,' he said.

'We always condemn any terrorist actions. These are not the methods to reach our political goal.'

He concluded: 'Don't try to link this tragic crime in Boston to the Chechen nation.'