MOSCOW – The head of a U.S. congressional delegation said Sunday that its meetings in Russia showed there was “nothing specific” that could have helped prevent the Boston Marathon bombings, but that the two countries need to work more closely on joint security threats.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who led the six-member delegation, described discussions with Russian parliament members and security officials as productive. Some of the meetings, he said, were made possible by American actor Steven Seagal.
Seagal, who attended the news conference in the U.S. Embassy, is well connected in Russia. He met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, and last week paid a visit to Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman who rules Chechnya, a province in southern Russia that has seen two brutal wars between federal troops and Chechen separatists since 1994.
Those wars spawned an Islamic insurgency that spread across the Caucasus region, including to neighboring Dagestan, now the center of the violence. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who is accused of carrying out the Boston bombings with his younger brother, spent six months in Dagestan last year. Investigators have been trying to determine whether he had contacts with the militants there.
Rep. Steve King said Russian security officials told the delegation they believed that Tsarnaev and his mother had been radicalized before moving to the United States in 2003. “I suspect he was raised to do what he did,” said King, a Republican from Iowa.
His account of the meeting at the FSB, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, was disputed by Rep. Steven Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, who said he understood that the radicalization took place much later, when the family was living in Boston.
Rohrabacher said a higher level of cooperation between the United States and Russia is necessary to keep people safe in both countries. “Radical Islam is at our throat in the United States, and is at the throat of the Russian people,” he said.
The congressional delegation also included Michele Bachmann, but she made no public appearances and left before Sunday’s news conference.