crocus moscow
© Maxim Blinov / SputnikCrocus concert hall, March 22nd 2024. 139 people died and around 200 were injured in last Friday's Crocus City Hall massacre.
The proper approach to explaining any event — say, a murder, a revolution, a war, or a terrorist attack — is not to fly exclude any cause, perpetrator, contractor and begin to narrow the range of possible causes and perpetrators, and contractors solely on the basis of evidence carefully gathered and analyzed. It would be a fool's errand to immediately focus on a single cause or actor to the exclusion of all others. We still and may always lack sufficient information to determine the gamut of players that might or might not have been involved in ordering, organizing, facilitating, and carrying out the 22 March 2024 Crocus City Hall terrorist attack in Moscow that killed some 150 and wounded as many and whether Ukraine may have participated in any way.

However, there is good preliminary reason not to exclude but rather include ISIS-Khorosan, based in Afghanistan, in the list of those possibly or even, perhaps, likely involved. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. However, ISIS has a record of playing loose in its claims of responsibility by including being responsible not just because of its recruitment for, and organisation, planning, and execution of attacks but for simply having inspired attackers. One of the four gunmen told security services on video after being captured that he was inspired by a "preacher" through Telegram. Another caveat is the same perpetrator claims that the terrorists were offered money to carry out the attack. But jihadi attacks are rarely carried out for money. Rather they are driven by the above-mentioned inspiration, jihadism-oriented inspiration. Radical Takfirst jihadist theo-ideology and its teaching that killing the kufr/infidel will give one eternal bliss in paradise is the motivation. These caveats bring in the possibility that this was an attack involving multiple parties, one of which might be one or more elements in Ukraine and/or the West in addition to ISIS-Khorosan and perhaps others.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's 25 March speech to an expanded meeting of the Russian government seemed confused on this subject and was filled with indications that he strongly suspects Ukraine, the US and perhaps other elements in the West were somehow involved in, and might be those who ordered the attack — the orderers or contractors, zakazchiki. On the one hand, he said that it is known that the Crocus attack was carried out by "radical Islamists." But on the other hand, he seemed to cast doubt on this version of events. Rather than focusing on the terrorists' claim that he did it for money and jihadi takfirism or 'radical Islamism', Putin focused on more general questions, saying the Russian secret services need to find answers to the following:
"Are radical and even terrorist Islamic organizations really interested in striking at Russia, which today stands for a just solution to the escalated Middle East conflict? And how do radical Islamists, who position themselves, by the way, as faithful Muslims, professing the so-called pure Islam, commit grave atrocities and crimes in the holy month of Ramadan for all Muslims?"
Russia's Investigate Committee and other security organs would waste their time preparing an answer to these two questions. The answers are obvious. Regarding the first: Russia has been supporting Palestinians for decades and yet has seen ISIS and other jihadi groups (foreign- and domestic-based) recruit, target, and attack Russia at the same time. On the second issue, ISIS has a history of carrying out attacks during Ramadan. In 2016, ISIS claimed responsibility for four attacks during Ramadan, including three attacks targeting fellow Muslims in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

Putin's and Russia's main concern, the Russian president said, is who might have ordered the attack. In this regard, he made it clear that he has intense suspicions that Ukrainians were involved and held the US and the West are responsible even in the did not participate in any way. He noted:
"Who benefits from this? This atrocity can only be a link in a series of attempts by those who have been fighting our country since 2014 at the hands of the neo-Nazi Kiev regime. And the Nazis, as is well known, never disdained to use the dirtiest and most inhumane means to achieve their goals.

Especially today, when their advertised counteroffensive has completely failed. This has already been recognized by everyone, it is not disputed. The Russian Armed Forces are holding the initiative along the entire line of contact, and all measures taken by the enemy to stabilize the front are not successful.

Hence the attempts to enter and gain a foothold in our border territories, shelling, including with the use of multiple rocket launchers, peaceful neighborhoods, civilian facilities, including energy infrastructure, attempts at missile strikes on the Crimean Bridge and the peninsula itself.

Bloody acts of intimidation, such as the terrorist attack in Moscow, quite logically fit into this series. The goal, as I have already said, is to sow panic in our society and at the same time show our own population that all is not lost for the Kiev regime. ...

(I)t is necessary to answer the question: why did the terrorists, after committing a crime, try to leave for Ukraine, who was waiting for them there? It is clear that those who support the Kiev regime do not want to be accomplices of terror and sponsors of terrorism. But there are really a lot of questions.

Why did the terrorists, after committing the crime, try to leave for Ukraine, who was waiting for them there? It is clear that those who support the Kiev regime do not want to be accomplices of terror and sponsors of terrorism."
The President of Russia website
In the last paragraph from Putin's comments above Putin touches on the only significant evidence, albeit circumstantial, that Russian officials have offered to demonstrate that Ukraine might have been involved in the Crocus operation. This is the fact that after escaping the site, the four main terrorist perpetrators of the attack drove nearly 200 miles from Moscow on the M3/E101 highway which leads towards Ukraine before being stopped and arrested in Bryansk Oblast north-northwest of the Znamenskii Forest. Some have countered that the terrorists would have been hard put to gain the border in a war zone, needing to manoeuvre through Russian defense lines. But the area to which the terrorists may have been headed would have been one of the least populated in terms of Russian defense forces and where there has been no fighting. If one uses Google Maps and follows from the M3/E101 highway through Bryansk towards the Russian-Ukrainian border, one will find a left turn off E101 before the Russian Border Customs Point that leads to the small border town of Nekislitsa. From southern Nekislitsa's most souther point it is a short, 700 ft. jaunt to the Kleven River. From that point it is some 500-1,000 ft. before the Kleven River becomes the Russian-Ukrainian border itself. The river is not wide, maybe 30ft. Could the terrorists have been making a run to the Kleven River? If so, were they heading to Ukraine because they had co-conspirators, contractors there or just because it was the nearest exit from Russia? The area I describe is not that which Ukrainian forces invaded or made incursions in the Belgorod direction, discounting the hypothesis that the area was made a window for their escape.
© Gavriil Grigorov/SputnikRussian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Aleksandr Bortnikov
FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov upped the ante on the Ukrainian involvement by saying the terrorists were waited for by curators on the other side of the Ukrainian border. On March 26th he said on Russia's main evening news program on First Channel that the SBU had "general information," which is still being checked, indicating that the US, Great Britain, and Ukraine were behind the attack, that the terrorists were in Ukraine shortly before the attack, that the SBU could be declared a terrorist organization, and that it, the HRU, and HRU chief Budanov are legal targets for Russian operations.

Nevertheless, no Russian official so far — and it is still early — has offered truly convincing evidence of Western or Ukrainian involvement. To be sure, several things seem odd. Regarding Ukraine, as noted, the terrorists run in the direction of the Ukrainian border is curious. Regarding the US and the West, the US and other Western governments' instant claim that ISIS-Khorosan was wholly responsible and that Ukraine played no role seemed odd. Indeed, even with the information the US government had and presumably provided in early March about a potentially impending attack (see below), there is no way Washington could no for sure that this was the same plot and that it had all information about its participants. For me, the mass Western unison singing of the same tune, 'no Ukrainian involvement', rings curious. Although the Western media's unison was especially rapid and unified in this case, it is hard to gauge the meaning, since loud unified messaging, much like a state-controlled media, is the modus operandi of the increasingly authoritarian US and West and their tied-to-the-hip media now. The unison often exceeds Russian state-controlled media's robust solidarity.
Kirill Budanov
© AFP / Sergei SupinskyHRU chief Kirill Budanov
Additional suspicion is cast on the US in this way, given the recent (February 25) New York Times article on the CIA's 14 intelligence-operational centers near the Russian-Ukrainian border and/or frontlines, which acknowledged the role of the Ukrainian SBU (Ukrainian Security Service), HRU (Main Military Intelligence of Ukraine), and especially HRU chief Kirill Budanov in numerous assassinations and terrorist attacks against Russian and pro-Russian civilian and/or non-military targets, depending on the case. Could the Crocus attack be another case of the Ukrainian secret services 'going rogue"? Was the NYT article — one that had to have been cleared by the CIA at the highest level, given the secrets it revealed — an attempt to wash its hands regarding its involvement in the previous attacks? Or, most disturbingly, did the CIA already have knowledge of Ukrainian involvement in the Crocus attack and was preemptively washing its hands of that attack, having played a role or not?

crocus terrorist photo at venue
© Niall Bradley/X

The US has let it be known that it had prior warning about a similar kind of attack. On March 7th, US embassy in Moscow warning to Americans of possible terrorist attack in Russia and not to attend public gatherings "such as concerts." The same day, a cell member, perhaps its leader, cased out Crocus City Hall, and was photographed by a venue photographer. Russia's most popular pop singer Shaman was scheduled to perform on Saturday, March 9th. The same terrorist who was photographed casing Crocus, one of seven already arrested, Shamsuddin Fariduni, has been shown by Russian security confessing to carrying out the attack for $10,000, but he also said he was influenced by a preacher, presumably a jihadi theo-ideologist. Perhaps the terrorists were planning to attack on the 9th, but the venue had a heavy security presence on that day. The US embassy warning may have sparked both the heavy security and the terrorists' decision to attack the March 9th concert, which it then reversed because of the heavy security. Clearly an attack on the weekend prior to that on which it occurred would have had the 'benefit' of upsetting the 15-17 March Russian elections, including the presidential election, perhaps undermining support for Putin, it may have been thought.

Putin's spokesman Dmitri Peskov originally said that the Kremlin received no information from the US about an imminent attack, but that intelligence exchanges are usually made between intelligence services not to the executive branch. Later, FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov said Moscow received some "general" information from the US and that the Russian government took it into account. This might explain the beefed up security at Crocus on 7 and/or 9 March, causing the terrorists to delay the attack for two weeks. Some, mostly Russian sources, have claimed that the Ukrainian invasion of Belgorod was an effort not just to create fear and dissent on the even of the presidential elections but also to insert the terrorists into Russia. This claim does not hold water, since the large-scale assault in the Belgorod direction a cross the border into Russia began on 11-12 March, that is, 4-5 days after March 7th when one terrorist was supposedly already casing out the Crocus venue in Moscow for a March 9th operation.

There is some evidence that the Crocus terrorists may have been trained in Turkey for some two months. There are reports that information about the cells and training sites of some 40 terrorists detained in Turkey on March 25th was transmitted from Moscow likely on the 24th.

Crocus terrorist Fariduni said under questioning that he had arrived in Russia on March 4th from Turkey. He reportedly posted photographs of himself in Turkey on the social web on February 23rd. Turkey is a NATO member, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expert at playing many sides of the fence at once and paying little cost. Asa a NATO member Erdogan's Turkey is nevertheless seeking BRICS+ membership and cooperates with the Sino-Russian-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Turkey proposed to mediate new Russo-Ukrainian peace talks during the visit, which Zelenskiy rejected out of hand, while it provides air and sea drones to Kiev. Could Turkey have been in on a joint NATO-Ukrainian operation? The noted Zelenskiy visit to Erdogan took place on March 8th, adding intrigue to this line of reasoning.

We know that the Maidan Ukraine leadership has the mentality, motive, and means to participate, even solely generate such an attack. Ukraine's Maidan regime was born in the spilling of blood of fellow Ukrainians. On 20 February 2014, the Maidan protest movement's ultranationalist/neofascist wing carried out a snipers' massacre of over a hundred of their 'own' protestors, firing on both Berkut security forces and demonstrators simultaneously and thereby provoking further protestor violence overthrowing the Viktor Yanukovych government.* Once upon a time, when he stood outside the political elite, even then presidential candidate Volodomyr Zelenskiy noted this fact. The West blamed it on Yanukovych and the Berkut and has so ever since. If the Maidan movement could countenance the slaughter of more than a hundred its own, then it quite easily could join in the murder of hundreds of Russians in conditions of a bloody war it is losing. After all, for a decade now Kiev has been targeting its own civilians in Russian-populated territories they claim as Ukrainian sovereign territory, and it has carried out several assassinations of mere Russian commentators and propagandists since February 2022. Regarding the Crocus attack, Secretary of Ukraine's Defense and Security Council Oleksiy Danilov called for more attacks in Russia similar to Crocus: "Is it fun in Moscow today? I think it's a lot of fun. I would like to believe that we will arrange such fun for them more often. After all, they are "brotherly" people, and we need to please our relatives more often, go to visit them more often. So, we will go."

Is this why Zelenskii fired Danilov three days after the latter's comments that "we will arrange" "fun in Moscow" more often? Did Danilov spill the beans like a Ukrainian Joe Biden ('son of a gun, they fired him'). In sum, Ukraine is minded to, and capable of ordering, helping to organise, and even executing such an attack (although in this case we have Tajik who were perhaps jihadists to one extent or another).

Ultimately, the Russians must prove that their suspicions of some sort of Ukrainian involvement are correct by producing evidence and proof. Suffice it to say here that their suspicions are not just understandable but are to be expected given the history of Western-Russian post-Cold War relations, NATO expansion, Western meddling in Ukraine to facilitate that expansion to Ukraine, and the numerous cases of lies and deception directed at Russia from the West. Ukraine and their allies cannot as yet be removed from the list of potential suspects. Those who did so within a mere several days or hours have done so as a result of bias, denial, and/or propagandistic motives,


* See:
Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, Websites: Russian and Eurasian Politics, and