Arrest of French citizen in Ukraine highlights diversity of terrorism threat

  • 10 Jun 2016 10:55

Article written by Junior Risk Analyst Julia Westbury, published 09/06/2016


Ukrainian authorities have revealed that a French national was arrested on the Ukrainian border with Poland on 21 May on suspicion of planning mass attacks in France. Gregoire Moutaux was apprehended by security services near the Ukraine-Poland border checkpoint at Yagodyn. Weapons including five Kalashnikov assault rifles, two anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades, 5,000 bullets, 100 detonators and 125kg of TNT explosives were found within the vehicle. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has revealed that Moutaux had been monitored since December 2015 after making contact with Ukrainian armed forces in the region, and making several unusual remarks on how to buy arms and explosives. Although arrested in May, the SBU revealed that it had not intended to announce the arrest until after the conclusion of the 2016 Euro football championships, but information was leaked to the media.

The Yagodyn border point is a renowned route for the smuggling of weapons and drugs, and French authorities remain sceptical of the SBU’s report. Paris police prefect Michel Cadot has since insisted that there is no concrete evidence that Moutaux was planning mass attacks during the tournament and he was more likely involved in criminal activities. However, French authorities have also admitted that they have received limited information from the Ukrainian authorities who continue to insist that Moutaux was planning to carry out some 15 attacks over the coming weeks, targeting bridges, railways, synagogues, and mosques.

Moutaux has expressed far-right views, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and was particularly opposed to the spread of Islam, globalisation and France’s immigration policies. While Islamist-related terrorism is considered the main threat to the Euros and France, the far-right is also a significant source of terrorist activity. The 2015 State of Hate report warned that far-right extremists are increasingly turning to violence amid an increasing public profile. Indeed, a report by RUSI logging acts of lone-terrorism, from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2014, found of the 98 identified plots in Europe, 36 were religious-inspired and 31 were attributed to the far-right, highlighting the disconnect between perception and reality of the main contributors to terrorism. Of note, the majority of targets in the religious-inspired terrorist attacks were Muslims. Some 80 percent of deaths associated with lone-actor terrorist attacks in Western Europe have been attributed to right-wing extremists, nationalists, anti-government elements or other forms of political extremism.

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