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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB Tapped to Lead Anti-Terrorism Body

President Vladimir Putin tapped Federal Security Service director Nikolai Patrushev to lead a powerful body that will coordinate the anti-terrorist efforts of the so-called power agencies.

Under the decree, which was made public Thursday, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, will take charge of counter-terrorist operations in crisis situations and FSB officers will head the federal and regional counter-terrorism headquarters -- a role the agency had previously shared with the Interior Ministry, which commanded rapid-response forces in each region.

The decree will come into force when a revamped counter-terrorism bill, which is being prepared for a second reading in the State Duma,becomes law. The bill is expected to pass in the next few months.

Patrushev welcomed the decree on Thursday, saying that in the future the FSB would "bear the responsibility for preventing terrorism, fighting terrorism and liquidating the consequences of terrorism," Interfax reported.

The decree "will influence the efficiency of our actions and the speed of decision-making," he said.

Besides the FSB, the National Anti-Terrorism Committee will include the interior, defense and justice ministers; heads of the Foreign Intelligence and Federal Guard services; the prosecutor general; a deputy head of the presidential administration; top military commanders; and deputy speakers of both chambers of parliament.

Patrushev said ministers and other top officials on the committee would bear "personal responsibility" and would not be allowed to delegate their duties to deputies.

He also suggested that judges serve on the committee.

The National Anti-Terrorism Committee will effectively replace a largely inactive government body, the Federal Anti-Terrorism Commission, whose functions overlap those of the new committee. The commission, which is headed by the prime minister, has met infrequently since its formation in 1998.

The new committee will have a central staff of 300, the Kremlin press service said Thursday.

The counter-terrorism bill, which passed in its first reading in December 2004, gave the older commission the lead role in coordinating the government's anti-terrorist response.

At the time, the bill was heavily criticized, including by Putin, for tramping civil liberties and handing excessive power to the state security agencies.

Senior Duma deputies have recently said that a reworked version is now ready to be passed into law. Given that pro-Kremlin lawmakers control both chambers of parliament, the law could come into force as soon as this summer.

The Kremlin press service declined to comment on the wording of Putin's decree on Thursday and would not say which agencies had prepared it.

Ivan Safranchuk, an analyst at the Moscow office of the Washington-based Center for Defense Information, said the committee's creation was prompted by authorities' continuing efforts to find the best organizational structure to fight terrorism.

"Russia has a philosophy for fighting terrorists that combines sticks for die-hards and carrots for those who repent. But the Kremlin has failed so far to find a good way to implement this in real life," Safranchuk said.

The lack of a clear chain of command in anti-terrorist operations has been revealed during several major attacks, including the September 2004 Beslan school seizure, which claimed the lives of more than 330 hostages.

The committee may be a reflection of authorities' discontent with the existing approach to combating terrorism -- focusing on responding to attacks rather than preventing them -- as well as of their concern about the spread of terrorist attacks across the North Caucasus.

A senior Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters Thursday that the situation in the North Caucasus was increasingly alarming, and suggested that law enforcement measures could be only part of the solution. Social and economic woes, as well as "heavy-handed" actions by the security forces, were contributing to a "combustible" situation in the region, he said.