Police detained 300 Muslims in Moscow as part of a crackdown on radical Islamists by President Vladimir Putin.
Police said 170 of the 300 Muslims detained were foreigners and were being held at a Muslim prayer room in Moscow. This marks the third time Russian officials have conducted a roundup of radical Muslims in either Moscow or St. Petersburg this year.
The Muslims were found with extremist literature, Radio Free Europe reported.
Russian offiicials said the crackdowns are taking place ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Putin said in a meeting of security force officers that the country must continue with the systematic arrests.
The “fight against corruption, crime and the insurgency has to be carried out harshly and consistently,” Putin reportedly said.
There are close to 23 million Muslims living in the Russian Federation, mostly in the north of the Caucasus and southern republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Dagestan. Russia has struggled with an insurgency stemming from two wars against separatists in Chechnya and North Ossetia.
The arrest of 300 Muslims in Moscow comes as Putin is also taking a more aggressive stance outside Russia’s borders. He recently deployed the Russian navy to the Mediterranean for national security reasons shortly after Russian nuclear submarines were sent to the southern hemisphere.
Putin said the navy was deployed to “fulfill the tasks of strategic deterrence” for Russia. At the same time, Putin has been sending Russian anti-air missiles to Syria’s government despite the United States government backing Syrian rebels.Some believe Putin is using the Syrian conflict as a way to create a permanent Russian presence in the Mediterranean sea, which he claims is a “strategically important region, where we have interests connected with ensuring Russia’s national security.”
Putin maintains that the Russian navy deployment is not meant to be a threat to any nation.
“Resuming a permanent Russian military naval presence in the Mediterranean sea isn’t saber rattling,” Putin said.
There was no word yet on what charges the 300 Muslims might face.