Russia Has Uncovered 42 'Terrorist' Funding Cells: Finance Watchdog

Putin chairs Kremlin meeting
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with government officials at the Kremlin, in Moscow, on March 2. Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/Kremlin/Reuters

Russia's finance watchdog has uncovered 42 militant cells in the country that fund groups the Kremlin has designated "terrorist" organizations . Another 30 were found abroad, the head of Rosfinmonitoring told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

Yury Chikhanchin said that the watchdog was carrying out three types of investigations. Firstly, security officials are on alert for so-called financing "cells" of militant groups that collect funds in Russia and abroad.

Secondly, they are working to identify the bank accounts of militants who are currently fighting on territories held by Islamist group Islamic State (ISIS).

And finally, the watchdog is cracking down on businesses that support such groups and individuals or help them launder their funds.

"If we are speaking about terrorists, then over the last year we have added 1,500 people to the official list of terrorists," Chikhanchin told Putin, according to an official transcript on the Kremlin website. "Over 3,500 bank accounts have been frozen." He did not say which group or groups these people were affiliated with.

According to Chikhanchin, Russia's finance monitors are working closely with Malta and Turkey and "very closely" with France at the moment.

"One cell uncovered in France was organized by volunteers in our own Caucasus region. They maintained contact with over 1,000 people on the territory of Russia and sent them money," Chikhanchin said. "Some of them, unfortunately, are already fighting for ISIS."

Chikhanchin pointed out that Russia finds it easiest to cooperate with members of its economic union known as the Commonwealth of Independent States, comprising of former Soviet republics.

"Kyrgyzstan [has] been working particularly well, where 500 people linked to ISIS have been uncovered," Chikhanchin said. "Dozens of criminal cases have been opened."

Russian security services have claimed thousands of Russian nationals are fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria, with North Caucasus and Central Asia being regions of particular concern. Earlier this week, the group threatened to carry out attacks on Russian soil against "the apostate Putin" in a Russian-language video.