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20 April 2024

Deadliest terrorist attack in Moscow

Putin blames the west and the Ukraine

Published: 07:58, 1 April 2024

Putin blames the west and the Ukraine

Photo : Messenger

On March 22, a group of camouflaged men armed to the teeth stormed the Crocus City Hall concert venue outside Moscow, murdering over 130 people in cold blood and then setting the building ablaze.

The gunmen who carried out this carnage were later apprehended not far from the Ukrainian border and were promptly and thoroughly interrogated. The investigation has shown that the perpetrators were adherents of jihadist ideology. However, officials believe that this savage act of terrorism may have been masterminded by another group or force.

The head of Ukraine's intelligence service, Kyrylo Budanov, can become a legitimate target of the Russian armed forces, Bortnikov noted. "Those who commit crimes against Russia and Russian citizens are legitimate targets," Bortnikov told reporters.

The information transmitted by the United States on the preparation of a terrorist attack was of a general nature, and the Russian special services responded to it.
"This information about the preparation of terrorist attacks in places of mass gatherings of citizens was of a general nature. We responded to this information and, of course, took appropriate measures to prevent such manifestations. But, unfortunately, our actions that we carried out in relation to a specific group and specific individuals this information was not confirmed at that time", Bortnikov told reporters.

The mastermind behind the terrorist attack is not identified yet, but response measures will be taken following the tragedy, the official added.
The Russian special services are actively working with the 11 people detained in connection with the terrorist attack and the circle of identified accomplices will be larger, the FSB head said.

When asked if the US, the UK and Ukraine are behind the attack, he said that the Russian special services believe so, adding that Russia is aware that Ukraine trained militants in the Middle East.

Russia needs to recognise the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) as a terrorist organisation, Bortnikov also said.
"We have to do this, of course," Bortnikov commented.

The Security Service of Ukraine should be recognized as a terrorist organization, the FSB director noted, adding that the terrorist threat in Russia remains. — Sputnik (@SputnikInt) March 26, 2024

Islamic State (also known as ISIL/IS/ISIS) is a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.

Russia will investigate the terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall concert venue on its own, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on March 26, 2024, when discussing Interpol’s readiness to support the investigation.

President Putin has stated several times in the past, and once again in his recent interview with Tucker Carlson, that the CIA was involved in the Islamic insurgency in the Caucasus. As far back as 2015, he said in an interview with Rossiya-1 television channel host Vladimir Solovyov for a documentary film ‘President,’ commenting on The Second Chechen War, that the West was trying to tear Russia apart by supporting terrorists and that North Caucasus elements were in direct contact with representatives of US intelligence in Azerbaijan.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the US, along with Saudi Arabia, mobilised Islamic extremists to launch a jihad from Pakistani soil against Soviet forces. Central Asia, with its Muslim population, was considered the soft underbelly of the Soviet Union and the strategy was to de-stabilise it by provoking a religious conflict in the country. While Central Asian countries are today independent, they can still be used as springboards to strike at Russia

Moscow is watchful about this possibility. Russia has a large Muslim population and preserving religious harmony in the country would be crucial for internal stability.
President Putin, in his address to the nation after the terror attack, pointed a finger at Ukraine. The terrorists, he said, were heading towards the Ukrainian border and there were arrangements to take them across it.

In his second address on Monday night, he went a step further, saying the attack may be only a link in a whole series of attempts by those who have been fighting Russia since 2014, “using the neo-Nazi Kyiv regime as their hand.” This is a grave charge, with very serious implications

The US is trying to deflect attention away from any Ukrainian involvement. Immediately after the terrorist mayhem in Moscow, the White House spokesperson stated that Ukraine was not involved. This is unusual.

The US and the UK had in early March warned their citizens in Russia to avoid mass gatherings, concerts etc. Very often, countries do issue such advisories as a precaution because they have got a whiff of some terrorist attack being planned. But, for the White House spokesperson to immediately, after the attack in Moscow, rule out Ukrainian involvement raises some questions. It is not clear why Ukrainian extremist elements intending to target Moscow would share their plans with the US.

On the issue of terrorism, there is consensus in so many forums, be it the UN, the G7, the G20, BRICS and SCO, on collective action by the international community to combat terrorism. It is repeated in many multilateral documents that no cause justifies a recourse to terrorism.

In this light, whatever the current differences between the US and Russia, if the US had hard information about the planned terrorist attack in Moscow, one could argue that they should have alerted Moscow more precisely. More so to stave off the real possibility of Russia holding Ukraine responsible for this act. The Russians have long accused Ukrainian nationalists of terrorising the Russian ethnic civilian population in Donbass and also cite the case of pro-Russians set on fire in a building in Odessa by Ukrainian nationalists in the early days of the conflict in May 2014.

More recently, Moscow has accused Kyiv of numerous terrorist attacks, including two bombings of the Crimean Bridge, in which civilians were killed, as well as the targeted assassinations of Russian public figures, including journalist Darya Dugina, the daughter of prominent Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, in August 2022, and military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky. Last year, the Washington Post reported that Ukrainian security agencies “have carried out dozens of assassinations against Russian officials in occupied territories, alleged Ukrainian collaborators, military officers behind the front lines and prominent war supporters deep inside Russia.”

Many are questioning the narrative of the West, led by the US, that ISIS is responsible for the Moscow attack. In their view the political intention is to deflect attention away from any Ukrainian complicity because such a massive attack against innocent civilians could negatively affect world opinion, especially in the Global South, on Ukraine as a victim of “unprovoked” Russian aggression.

It is widely believed that the West has used Islamic extremists in Syria to fight the Assad government. President Putin, while targeting ISIS in Syria, has voiced concern that these elements could present a potential terrorist threat to Russia, with Russia’s experience of the conflict in the Northern Caucusus in mind, when the sympathy of the West lay with the insurgents.

It would not be difficult for intelligence agencies to manipulate Islamic extremists from behind the scenes, organise funds and arms for them, and even have them claim responsibility. This would be standard practice to ensure deniability. The fact that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the Crocus City Hall attack does not definitively close the matter.

If it was ISIS that was behind this monstrous act of terror, the four suspects arrested and interrogated do not fit into the profile of ideologically committed Islamic extremists. They do not come across as persons ready for martyrdom for a cause they deeply believe in. Rather, they come across as small-time mercenaries, ready to do a job, however heinous, for some money.

Russia does not need the excuse of a major terror attack to step up its operations against Ukraine.

Ukraine could have officially distanced itself from the Moscow attack in sober language. Instead, President Zelensky has abusively attacked Putin and Russia. It does not help Ukraine’s case.

The writer is a freedom fighter who writes on politics and international issues.