The Western connection

Ahmed Mustafa , Tuesday 26 Mar 2024

While Russia hints at Ukraine’s involvement in the terrorist attack near Moscow, the West insists it was carried out by IS.

The  Western connection


A Moscow court has ordered the detention of four suspects in the attack on a concert hall near the Russian capital which killed at least 137 people and injured 180. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) caught 11 suspects within 24 hours of the Friday attack in the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine.

The Investigative Committee has two months to interrogate the suspects before their trial can be resumed.

No definitive conclusions as to who carried out the attack is expected soon. Yet, from the first instance, fingers pointed to Ukraine and its Western backers. In response, the West accused the Kremlin of exploiting the incident to intensify its war against Ukraine.

The Afghanistan-based IS Khorasan (IS-K) quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, publishing photos of four people it claimed had carried it out. Despite the rapid announcement, neither FSB nor Russian officials have referred to the terrorist organisation at all.

Western media reports told a different story. Within hours of the attack, officials, columnists, and terrorism pundits clamoured to communicate the same message: This is an IS-K that Moscow will try to use to implicate Ukraine and the West. In his speech to the nation after the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin did point to Ukraine.

The attackers, he said, “tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border.” But Ukraine denied the accusation. “Miserable Putin, instead of attending to his own citizens of Russia, addressing them, remained silent for a day thinking about how to link this with Ukraine,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

The Americans vehemently denied any foreign involvement, noting that they had warned Russia earlier this month of an imminent attack by militants. This, the Russian authorities acknowledged, but they linked it to an FSB-foiled attack in the run-up to elections by the first week of March. The US National Security Council Spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said, “IS bears sole responsibility for this attack.

There was no Ukrainian involvement whatsoever.” Russian Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova ridiculed America’s denial of foreign involvement: “If only they could sort out the assassination of their own president Kennedy so quickly. But no, for more than 60 years, they have not been able to find out who killed him. Or maybe IS too?” She later wrote on a Telegram channel, referencing the “financing of the terrorist activities of the Kyiv organised crime group by American liberal democrats”.

In a TV debate I was part of, the Russian international relations expert Roland Bidjamov said that it could be IS that carried the guns killing people and setting fire to the venue, but “IS fighters are just tools: the West recruits them to achieve its goals”. That view was echoed by Margarita Simonyan, the editor of state media channel Russia Today, who wrote on Telegram: “It was not IS. It was the Ukrainians… The perpetrators were chosen in such a way that they would convince the dumb global public that it was IS.”

Western officials and media accuse Russia of propaganda and “weaponising information” to justify the failure of its security services in preventing the attack despite America’s early warning to Moscow. Ukraine and the US in particular are concerned that the Kremlin will use the attack as a pretext to mobilise the Russian people and recruit more resources to keep the war on Ukraine going after more than two years. But propaganda is not exclusive to Russia, as the very few independent voices in the West note.

The planning and outcome of the attack is not a typical IS operation, and as one American commentator told Al-Ahram Weekly, “an intelligence agency would probably have helped.” He added that the timing of the attack, a few days after the re-election of President Putin, is very significant. “It meant to show that Putin is not that powerful guy who protects Russians.”

He also noted that the US has recently urged Ukraine not to bomb civilian targets inside Russia, especially oil refineries. As the saying goes, the first victim of any war is the truth. This month, Moscow stopped calling the war in Ukraine “a special military operation” and officially acknowledged that Russia is “at war”.

But if the West accuses Russia of disinformation concerning that week’s attack, the same accusation might be levelled back at the West. Since the start of the Ukraine war, the media has turned into a tool. More recently, Western media bias for the Israeli narrative and its disinformation concerning the genocide in Gaza has proved telling.

Waiting for the results of Russian investigations to know who planned, supported and masterminded the deadly terrorist attack will not stop the new wave of Western media rhetoric about an IS revival.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 28 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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