Home MarketsEurope & Middle East Russia claims the West and Ukraine are behind the attack on Moscow, but has no evidence

Russia claims the West and Ukraine are behind the attack on Moscow, but has no evidence

by SuperiorInvest

Russian President Vladimir Putin at an expanded meeting of the Prosecutor General's Office on March 26, 2024 in Moscow.

Contributor | Getty Images News | fake images

Russia has been reaffirming its narrative that Ukraine was behind a deadly terrorist attack in Moscow last week, a move widely expected by political experts who said Russia would likely use the tragedy to increase domestic support for the war against Ukraine.

However, it has gone a step further: Senior Kremlin officials claimed that the West conspired with Ukraine to carry out the attack on the Crocus City Hall concert hall last Friday, in which gunmen killed 140 people.

An investigation into the attack is underway, but the latest outlandish accusations present Moscow with a problem: It now has to find evidence to back up its baseless claims.

What is particularly uncomfortable for the Kremlin is that the Islamic State militant group has already claimed responsibility for the attack. Eight suspects, mostly nationals of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, have been charged with terrorism offenses and are being held in pre-trial detention.

“Going forward, it is important to see whether Russian investigators present any evidence of alleged Ukrainian/Western involvement,” said Andrius Tursa, Central and Eastern Europe adviser at consultancy Teneo.

“In such a case, Putin would probably have to make good on his promises to punish those responsible for the attack, which could escalate the war in Ukraine and increase tensions with the West,” he said.

Ukraine denies any involvement in the attack and says it was “absolutely predictable” that Moscow would seek to blame it. The White House said Ukraine had “no involvement” in the attack and that any claims to the contrary were “Kremlin propaganda.” UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on social media platform

Russia doubles

Propaganda certainly intensified after the attack, during which gunmen entered the Crocus City Hall grounds, shot concertgoers, and set fire to the auditorium.

A number of senior Russian officials and pro-Kremlin media outlets have alleged this week that Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States somehow coordinated an attack in an attempt to destabilize Russia and sow panic.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted that “radical Islamists” had carried out the attack, but insisted that Ukraine and its Western backers were linked to it, without presenting evidence.

Then on Tuesday, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, Alexander Bortnikov, claimed that the United States, the United Kingdom and Ukraine were behind the attack, saying it was beneficial for Western intelligence services and for Kiev as it sowed Panic in Russian society. He also did not present evidence to support his claim.

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with senior officials from the BRICS countries in charge of security affairs at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 26, 2015.

Sergei Karpukhin | AFP | fake images

Russian journalists also asked close Putin ally and nationalist ideologue Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia's Security Council who is in charge of issuing guidance and policy proposals on national security issues, whether Ukraine or the Islamic State group were behind it. of the attack.

“Of course, Ukraine,” Patrushev responded, according to a Google-translated article from the RIA Novosti news agency.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the United States' initial rejection of any Ukrainian involvement was suspicious and said the Islamic State group was created by the West. However, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the alleged link with Ukraine or indicate how Russia would respond if it confirmed Ukraine's involvement.

Peskov told CNBC on Wednesday that the Kremlin is waiting for the results of an investigation before commenting, stating in an email: “An investigation is underway. The final version has not yet been announced.”

Read more CNBC political coverage

Political analysts say Moscow appears desperate to divert attention from the fact that its intelligence services failed to detect or prevent Moscow's terrorist plot and ignored a warning from US intelligence several weeks ago that an attack could be imminent.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior Kremlin officials appear to be struggling to maintain a coherent rhetorical line on the Crocus City Hall attack, indicating that the Kremlin has not fully figured out how to reconcile its information operations with the reality of its intelligence and its law. failure in law enforcement,” analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said on Tuesday.

“Putin and other senior officials have not fully united around the false narrative that Ukraine somehow carried out the March 22 attack,” the ISW said, noting that the “oscillation between openly blaming Ukraine one day and then avoiding the topic the next day suggests that the Kremlin has not yet established a model line for how to discuss the attack, probably in part as a result of the shock felt by the Russian elite after the attack.”

Conspiratorial thinking

Despite IS's claim to have carried out the attack, high-profile Russian media commentators have said that the massacre was not typical of IS terrorist attacks, citing the fact that the attackers were not wearing suicide belts and They didn't seem to be religious fanatics.

According to the Tass news agency, RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, who is among those questioning the identities of the attackers, posted a video on her Telegram channel in which one of the suspects claimed that he was offered 500,000 rubles ( $5,400) to carry out the attack, suggesting that the motive was financial rather than ideological. The suspects appeared in court earlier this week looking beaten and bruised. It is unclear whether the reported video was filmed under duress.

Russian media personalities have also parroted the claim that the attackers tried to flee to Ukraine, a stance questioned, unusually, by Putin's close ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who said the attackers originally fled to Belarus. but they had been forced to change direction, towards Ukraine, due to heightened security measures from Belarus.

This combination of images created on March 24, 2024 shows (clockwise from top left) Rachabalizoda Saidakrami, Dalerdjon (alternatively spelled Dalerdzhon) Barotovich Mirzoyev, Muhammadsobir Fayzov and Shamsidin Fariduni suspected of involvement in the attack to a concert hall that killed 137 people. the deadliest attack in Europe claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, sitting inside the defendant's cage while awaiting his pre-trial detention hearing at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow during the night of March 24-25, 2024.

Tatyana Makeyevaolga Maltseva | afp | fake images

Analysts say that despite the discrepancies and anomalies in the narrative, the Kremlin is unlikely to retract its false claim of Ukrainian and Western involvement in the massacre.

“Such conspiratorial thinking in Russia, unfortunately, is something that has been quite endemic in society there since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it is something that is not going to go away and Putin will seek to feed on this,” Max Hess, a member of the Institute of Foreign Policy Research and author of “Economic Warfare: Ukraine and the Global Conflict Between Russia and the West,” he told CNBC on Wednesday.

“The Kremlin is not going to back down from this conspiratorial view that, 'although it was the Islamists who carried out the attack, it was the CIA or some other foreign agencies that ordered it together with the Ukrainians,'” he added.

“I also think we need to make it clear that there is probably a good chance that Putin himself genuinely believes in some of these paranoid thoughts. His level of paranoia is something that I think has not been adequately appreciated in recent years. I'm not that right.” something we should accept, but I think when it comes to dealing with Putin, we have to understand that, increasingly, he lives in his own reality.”

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