Russia on Friday published a list of 17 groups it regards as terrorist organizations and did not include the Palestinian movement Hamas or Lebanon's Hizbullah group, both of which are regarded as terrorists in Washington. Groups on the list, published in the official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta, included al-Qaeda and the Taliban as well as the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a rebel group fighting for Kashmir's independence from India, and Egypt's banned Muslim Brotherhood.
The Russian Federal Security Service's top official in charge of fighting international terrorism, Yuri Sapunov, said that Hamas and Hizbullah were not a major threat to Russia and were not regarded as terrorist groups worldwide. But he said that Russian security agencies took account of international lists of terrorist groups when exchanging intelligence with foreign counterparts.
Sapunov told Rossiiskaya Gazeta that the list of 17 "Includes only those organizations which represent the greatest threat to the security of our country." Also on the Russian list were groups linked to separatist militants in Chechnya and Islamic radicals in Central Asia. Russia in the past has come under criticism for its refusal to list Hamas and Hizbullah as terrorist organizations.
Russian angers US, Israel
President Vladimir Putin earlier this year provoked US and Israeli anger by inviting leaders of Hamas to Moscow. The meeting made no progress in softening the group's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist or foreswear violence.
The European Union considers Hamas a terrorist organization and along with the United States slapped financial sanctions on the new Hamas-led government. But it does not list Hizbullah as a terrorist group.
Israel is currently engaged in a fierce ground and air offensive in Lebanon against Hizbullah fighters, who in return are firing a barrage of rockets into northern Israel. Israeli forces have also attacked the Gaza Strip to target Hamas gunmen.
The fighting over the last few weeks has caused devastation and hundreds of civilian casualties.