The Islamic State group on Wednesday released a video in which a Russian-speaking man confesses to spying for Russia’s security service before apparently being beheaded by another man.
The authenticity of the video or the claims in it could not immediately be confirmed and there was no comment from Russia’s foreign ministry or its FSB security service. There was no indication of when and where the video was produced.
Russia on September 30 launched airstrikes in Syria that it said are focused on IS fighters and the illegal oil trade that funds them. However, critics in both Syria and abroad claim that Russia is heavily targeting other rebel groups not affiliated with the IS, in order to back up the forces of long-time Moscow ally -- Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
IS claimed responsibility for bombing a Russian airliner shortly after it took off from the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh in mid-October, killing all 224 people aboard.
The video begins with a graphic in Arabic and Russian, saying, “You will be conquered and humiliated, O Russians.”
Then a bearded man, seemingly in his late 20s, is shown speaking from a chair. He says he is from Chechnya and identifies himself as Magomed Khasayev. He then says he is a spy sent to IS-held territories with orders from Russian intelligence to identify fighters who seek to return to the Caucasus region for carrying out attacks.
The Russian-speaking man then says he was pressured into working for the FSB, to report on Russians who had gone to fight with the Islamic State. He claims to have travelled to Turkey, sent to Iraq by a recruiter while maintaining contact with his Russian intelligence handler before being arrested by the extremist group.
The video then shifts to showing the man kneeling on a beach while another man stands behind him, delivering a speech to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The man, brandishing a knife, says in Russian, “Listen to me, Putin, you dog” and then declares that Russians will be killed in retaliation for its airstrikes in Syria against IS. The man then places his large knife against the prisoner’s throat and appears to begin decapitating him.
In the wake of the Russian airliner bombing and the November terror attacks in Paris, Moscow has publically declared its determination to defeat IS and has pushed for international cooperation towards that goal.
However, Russia’s Syria operation took a blow last week when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane that it said had violated Turkey’s airspace. Russia hotly denied any airspace violation and has announced an array of sanctions against Turkey, including a ban on fruits and vegetables from Turkey and halting the sale of package tours to Turkey.
Russians are an important component in Turkey’s tourism industry.
Russia’s Caucasus region has been hit by Islamist insurgencies for two decades, including two full-scale wars in Chechnya. The IS is believed to find the Caucasus a productive region for recruiting fighters.