Russia warns Arab unrest may empower `fanatics`

Russia said that revolts risked bringing Islamist fanatics to power.

Last Updated: Feb 23, 2011, 00:16 AM IST

Moscow: Russia on Tuesday sounded the alarm
over the unrest sweeping the Middle East, saying the revolts
risked bringing Islamist fanatics to power and breaking up
Arab states into "little pieces".

Striking a strong note of discord with Western
sympathy for the protesters demonstrating against dictatorial
regimes across the Arab world, President Dmitry Medvedev
warned that the events could also impact Russia itself.

"The situation is tough. We could be talking about the
disintegration of large, densely-populated states, talking
about them breaking up into little pieces," he told an
anti-terror meeting.

"These are not simple states and it is highly probable
that there will be difficult events, including fanatics coming
to power," he said in comments broadcast on state television.

"This will mean fires for years and the spread of
extremism in the future. We need to look this straight in the
eyes."

Medvedev made the comments to top security officials
at a meeting in Vladikavkaz, a city in the heart of the
Northern Caucasus where Russia has been fighting a deadly
insurgency against Islamist rebels.

He said the Arab rebellions would have a "direct
effect on Russia".

"We are talking about the next decades -- let`s be
honest with each other, we don`t need to deceive ourselves and
lead our citizens astray," he said.

"This is a big, serious problem which will require
very serious efforts from us for a very long time."

The presence in power of strongmen in the Middle East
was long convenient for Russia, creating stability and also
allowing Moscow to build up important economic ties,
especially in the arms industry.

Russia -- a country with at least 20 million Muslims
-- is also deeply sensitive to the rise of Islamic extremism
outside its borders and has played up the links between North
Caucasus insurgents and foreign Islamists.

"Those who want blood can drown in their own blood,"
Medvedev said. "This is our country and our earth and we have
to bring order for the sake of ourselves and above all for the
sake of our children," he said.

PTI