The Russian Investigative Committee announced on Thursday (28) that it had found evidence of a connection between those accused of the recent attack in Moscow and “Ukrainian nationalists”, confirming the path that authorities had already been pointing to regarding the “Ukrainian trail” in the act. terrorist. The resolution of the case, however, is far from consensus, and has already created a new chapter in the discord between Russia and the West.

The chronology of the ‘Ukrainian trail’

The thesis about the “Ukrainian trail” in the attack on a concert hall in Moscow, which left at least 140 dead and more than 350 injured on March 22, was voiced by Russian authorities in the first hours after the incident, and reiterated by the president , Vladimir Putin, the next day. Last Monday (25), both the Russian leader and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) reinforced the version.

“The terrorist attack in ‘Crocus’ was prepared by Islamic radicals, but both the Western intelligence services and the Ukrainian intelligence services were directly involved in it. In general terms, we believe that they were involved in it. There is information that indicates that this party is biased in preparing this action. Ukraine trained militants in the Middle East,” said FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov.

On the same night as the attack, after the first reports emerged on telegram channels of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) claiming the attack, the US immediately sought to disconnect Ukraine from the attack in Moscow.

“There is no indication at this time that Ukraine or Ukrainians were involved in the shooting. But again, this just happened, we are watching it, but I must disabuse you at this point of any connection with Ukraine,” John Kirby , spokesperson for the US National Security Council.

Subsequently, international vehicles, such as the agency Reuters and the newspaper The New York Times, disclosed that the “Islamic State-Khorasan” (a branch of the jihadist group in Afghanistan) had claimed responsibility for the attack, citing intelligence information about preparations for the attack. Russia kept its distance from this version.

Vladimir Putin made a point of criticizing the American bias, claiming that “the USA, through various channels, is trying to convince its satellites and other countries in the world that there is allegedly no trace of Kiev in the terrorist attack in Moscow, that the bloody terrorist attack was committed by followers of radical Islam, members of the organization banned in Russia Islamic State”.

“The joint work of our special services and law enforcement agencies should provide answers to a number of questions. For example, are radical Islamic organizations, even terrorists, really interested in attacking Russia?” asked the president.

Method and ability

In an interview with Brazil in factthe deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics at the Moscow State Pedagogical University, Vladimir Shapovalov, stressed that the issue of divergence of versions is not so much a dispute as a way for the US to “hinder the Russian investigation”.

According to the analyst, it is very unlikely that the Islamic State is behind the attack in Moscow, considering the type of method used and the current situation, which, according to him, does not correspond with the group’s actions in Russia.

“Currently Russia does not represent a priority objective for Islamic terrorists. Secondly, the method of the IS attack is completely different, there are suicide bombers, there are threat statements, designation of the objectives of the attack. Here we are dealing with mercenaries, who carried out the attack for money and tried to escape”, he argues.

The political scientist points out that Russia’s situation of confrontation with Ukraine and the West says more about who was behind the organization of the attack at the Crocus City Hall concert hall.

Crocus City Hall concert hall in flames after attack in Moscow, on March 22, 2024. / STRINGER/AFP

On the other hand, analysts point out that the claim by the jihadist group Islamic State appears to be legitimate, which still does not prove or explain the group’s carrying out of the attack itself. According to journalist specializing in the Middle East, Ruslan Suleymanov, it is not possible to rule out IS involvement in the attack, considering the verification of the channels that claimed the act, but, at the same time, the analyst notes that the attack in Moscow does not correspond with the current capabilities of the terrorist organization.

“Observing purely from the outside, the impression given is that, yes, the Islamic State (IS) could have carried out this act, they could be IS militants, because the Telegram channels that broadcast IS messages, photos, videos, report that were members of the group. There is a video recorded in first person, in which these militants carry out this carnage”, he explains.

At the same time, Ruslan Suleymanov highlights that this action “does not correspond at all to what the Islamic State has been like in recent years”.

“The group was practically destroyed in Iraq and Syria, remaining ‘dormant’. It is dispersed in several countries – Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and other African states – and at best the group manages to succeed in some local incursions, attacks with some fighters, specifically in Afghanistan where the Islamic State is in confrontation with the Taliban, and practically the only tactic used is suicide bombers”, he states,

“Outside Afghanistan, this IS branch, the Islamic State-Khorasan, has not carried out any attacks. This all raises questions. How this group would be able to carry out an action on this scale with a huge amount of weapons, and not in Afghanistan, but in Russia, so for now it is not possible to understand much”, he adds.

Investigation points to financing by ‘Ukrainian nationalists’

This Thursday (28), the Russian Investigative Committee made new statements to support the thesis of Ukrainian involvement, despite not presenting concrete evidence. According to the agency, the results of the work with the detainees suspected of carrying out the terrorist attack provided evidence of the “connection with Ukrainian nationalists”. It was reported that investigators have information that the perpetrators of the terrorist attack received “significant amounts” of money from the territory of Ukraine, which were used in the preparation of the attack on the concert hall in Moscow.

“As a result of working with detained terrorists, studying technical devices seized from them and analyzing information about financial transactions, evidence was obtained of their connection with Ukrainian nationalists. The investigation has at its disposal confirmed data that the perpetrators of the terrorist attack received significant amounts of money and cryptocurrencies from Ukraine, which were used in the preparation of the crime,” says the Investigative Committee statement.

The agency also announced the arrest of another suspect for participating in terrorist financing. On March 26, the Moscow court arrested the eighth defendant in the terrorist attack case. In total, Russian security forces detained 11 people for their involvement in the action in Moscow, some of whom are still being interrogated and have not been tried.

Consequences for the war

Russian diplomacy has already made it clear that it rejects the idea of ​​Western collaboration in investigating the attack and combating terrorism in the country. According to Chancellor Serguei Lavrov, Western assistance in this case would have a premeditated bias. The minister reinforced distrust over the Western approach to the case.

“Interesting that apparently just a day after the terrorist attack, statements were made in the West that, of course, it was not Ukraine and, of course, it was the Islamic State. At the same time, Interpol leadership suddenly announced that they would be ready to help with the investigation. I don’t remember such an initiative by Interpol in previous cases, which also required the greatest international attention”, he highlighted.

According to Lavrov, any Western assistance in the investigation “would be a manifestation of ‘double standards’ and will most likely be aimed at promoting a convenient theory for the West that the Islamic State did this and that Ukraine had nothing to do with it. ”, he added.

Although the investigation by the Russian authorities is officially still ongoing, everything indicates that the final Russian version will have Ukraine as the main source of the attack. And it also seems clear that the West will hold the opposite version.

Thus, one thing already seems certain: the attack in Moscow and the conflict of versions of the attack have already reinforced the discord between Russia and the West in international politics. And, depending on how much the final resolution of the Russian Investigative Committee points to what is called the “Ukrainian trail”, the attack could have serious impacts on the war in Ukraine.

According to analyst Ruslan Suleymanov, ‘in any case, Russia’s position will be to try to extract some benefit from this attack, seeking to unite society and convert this possible union [a seu favor]”

“The government will try to do everything to unite people, and, theoretically, could announce a new wave of mobilization [de civis para a guerra]announce some new raid on Kharkov [cidade do leste ucraniano], etc. Putin, for whom the most important problem is still Ukraine, will try to direct the entire reaction to the attack towards Ukraine,” he added.

Editing: Rodrigo Durão Coelho


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