Russia is obsessed with controlling its near abroad in order to secure the core homeland. The strategic calculus from the Russian perspective requires their sphere of influence over the Caucusus Mountains. It is for this reason that Russian leaders despise western support for Georgia’s independence. It is also a key reason for Russia’s punitive campaign and show of force against Georgia in 2008.
At the same time, Russia continues to let its long-term conflict with independence movements in Chechnya and Dagestan simmer with occassional flare ups. Firefights between Russian Federation police officers and Dagestani militants are common and an increasing use of bomb attacks are directed at Russian security forces.
In this light, the recent uptick in cross border militant activity could be the result of insurgent groups engaging in criminal activity to provide operational support for their independence campaign.
Of course, other explanations are equally plausible…