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Boston Bombing: Russian Media Question U.S. Tolerance Toward Chechen Immigrants

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

The country's TV and radio pundits claim Washington has been too lax granting asylum to "Islamists."

MOSCOW – The Boston bombings continued to lead Russian television news bulletins Saturday following the dramatic arrest late Friday of 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a Watertown, Mass. Backyard.

Top pubcaster Channel One focused on the running story – with its correspondent in Boston describing the security around West Clinic Center, where Tsarnaev is being treated for wounds received during the police manhunt as '"like Fort Knox."

Channel One ran footage from U.S. networks' rolling coverage of Friday's shootout and standoff with Tsarnaev, followed by jubilant reactions from Boston police and local residents after his capture. It then aired President Barack Obama's White House statement on seeking answers for the families of those “so senselessly killed."

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The Russian channel moved on to how the bombing suspects' Russian background might impact relations between the two countries. It also covered Friday's telephone call – before Tsarnaev was cornered -- between Obama and Russian leader Vladimir Putin. During the call, Putin expressed his condolences to the families of those killed in Boston.

The channel also challenged the notion that the Tsarnaev brothers were unknown to U.S. authorities.

Speaking to reporters in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, the neighboring region to Chechnya, the suspects' father, Anzor Tsarnaev, said U.S. special services had monitored them for years.

“They told us when we arrived: 'we are listening to you, watching you, recording you, what you are talking about, eating, what you are reading on your computer. They came to us officially and said that,” he said, speaking in Russian.

Speaking from the U.S. by telephone with hte Kremlin-backed channel Russia Today, the suspects' mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, said her eldest son, Tamerlan, had been watched by U.S. authorities for five years.

“They monitored the [internet] sites he used, where he went, with whom. They called him a radical and knew how often he checked extremist sites,” she said.

Russia Today also examined what may have prompted the suspects to commit such acts of violence.

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Russia Today opined that since the bombings, there has been an about-face in American altitudes toward Chechenya. Previously, the U.S. position had been sympathetic toward the  country that had suffered two brutal civil wars in the 1990s. Now commentators on U.S. news programs were branding it “a breeding ground for terrorism." Russia Today also noted that Russian security services had long warned the U.S. of the dangers of allowing natives of the region to immigrate to America.

“Russia has long cautioned Washington about giving asylum to Islamists from the North Caucasus,” political analyst Dmitry Babich told Russia Today.

Babich added: “The Russian government has warned a lot about the kind of refugees, about the kind of immigrants that the U.S. and Western European countries are ready to accept.

“A lot of them are die-hard Islamists. They didn’t change after leaving Russia, and I can easily imagine that a lot of them consider both Russia and the U.S. part of the same Western decadent civilization.”

Babich said he was surprised that U.S. foreign policy towards Russia since the late 1980s had barely changed and that it had “always supported groups, sometimes militant Islamic groups, which challenged Russia.”

“I don’t agree with that. I think that Russia was actually fighting a genuine international Islamism threat in the North Caucasus, at least, during the second Chechen War (in 1999-2000).”