ROME, May 10. /TASS/. More than 4,000 Russian citizens are fighting on the side of the terrorists in Syria and will be criminally prosecuted upon return to Russia, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov in his speech at a counter-terrorism conference of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
"Russia’s law enforcement authorities are currently monitoring more than 4,000 Russian citizens who left the country to participate in armed gangs [in Syria,]" he said.
The senior diplomat reported that criminal cases were launched against almost 3,000 of them, and more than 3,700 are on the wanted list.
"That said, despite the fact that many terrorists state their Russian origin, they are not willing to return to our country, where they will inevitably face a strict and just criminal prosecution," Syromolotov noted. "They opt for comfortable European territories more often, where they manage to hide more or less smoothly."
He went on to say that new hotbeds of terrorism may appear in the near future.
"Today one can be certain that the backbone of international terrorism in Syria has been broken," he said. In spite of that, "one can expect the emergence of new hotbeds of terrorism, including in the OSCE space," Syromolotov stressed.
He warned that "although terrorists have to change their tactics, they will not abandon their strategic objectives." "The return of foreign militants to their countries of origin or third countries is fully in line with the scheme of international terrorism leaders to preserve and even expand their deadly influence," he emphasized.
Bringing terrorists to justice is a top priority while their rehabilitation and reintegration is a secondary issue, he said.
"We still believe that as far as the war against terrorists go, it is unacceptable… to give the top priority to issues concerning the rehabilitation and reintegration of terrorists. It is dangerous when such devious gimmicks are employed to present terrorists as victims," the senior Russian diplomat said.
"Those involved in terrorist activities and any kind of support of terrorism should be prosecuted first, which is the only way to ensure the inevitability of punishment for committed crimes," Syromolotov stressed.