Crocus City Hall
That Ukraine participated in some way in Moscow's Crocus City Hall was always plausible, though hardly a certainty. US involvement seemed to me a little far-fetched, putting aside just how out of touch and desperate Washington and Brussels are in general and particularly as Ukraine's eastern fronts collapse increasingly more rapidly and the northern and southern fronts continue to more slowly be pushed west. I began to consider whether or not there might be alternative ways in which the US government or elements thereof could have been involved in the Crocus attack besides the more difficult to imagine direct matter-of-policy generation, organisation, planning, and direction of any Ukrainians and/or ISIS proxies who might have been involved.

Looking at the time line suggests a different, if hypothetical scenario.

January or earlier — Terrorists are already being recruited.

January 31 - Nuland visits Kiev, promised "Putin is going to get some nice surprises on the battlefield."

February 22 — Nuland upped the ante in a presentation at DC-based, US government-tied think tank CSIS, threatening "asymmetric warfare" and "nasty surprises."

February 24 — the curator of the terrorists assigns the target as Crocus City Hall and photographs scenes from the Ukraine war, one with a Ukrainian flag in it.

February 25 - NYT CIA in Ukraine expose.

March 5 - Nuland's perhaps oddly timed release from her State Department position.

March 7 - The US and UK embassies in Moscow issue public warnings of a possibly impending terrorist attack in Moscow, and one of the terrorists cases out Crocus City Hall.

March 22 - A group of Tajiks attacks Crocus City Hall, killing 143 and wounding nearly as many. ISIS in Khorosan (ISIS-K) claims responsibility. US government says ISIS is responsible and there was no Ukrainian involvement of any kind. US government-tied media reports within little more than an hour that the Crocus City Hall attack was carried out exclusively by ISIS-Khorosan, with no Ukrainian involvement of any kind. The US government follows suit two days later.

So we have a terrorist plot in progress at the time when Nuland arrives in Kiev, meets with high-ranking Ukrainian officials, insists against all reality that "Ukraine is winning this war, Putin is losing it," and promises the latter "nice surprises." Nuland's mention that the surprises would be on the battlefield, does not necessarily make the statement irrelevant to a terrorist plot in far away Moscow. On the second anniversary of Russia's February 22nd 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Nuland gave what could be read as a farewell speech, summing up the NATO-Russia Ukrainian War as she understands it or at least portrays it. She repeated her threat, tying it to her call for a need to pass the stalled congressional bill that would send some $60 billion to Ukraine: "Ukraine will be able to fight back in the East and accelerate the asymmetric warfare that his been most effective on the battlefield. And as I said in Kyiv three weeks ago, this supplemental funding will ensure Putin faces some nasty surprises on the battlefield this year". In other words, Nuland may have made her threats having in mind, perhaps among other things, the Crocus City Hill plot or some general information about a Ukrainian-tied plot which she may have had knowledge of or even generated or approved, according to my present hypothesis. Two days later, on February 24th, the curator of the Crocus terrorists sent a message to one of their mobile telephones with a photo of Crocus City Hall venue and photographs of destroyed buildings with a man standing before one with a Ukrainian flag draped on his soldier.

Three days later, the New York Times published a feature article on February 25th about the CIA's involvement in Ukraine since 2014 and the Ukrainian special services' supposed tendency to undertake operations without US consent and against US strictures. The article claimed to have obtained its data from hundreds of Western and Ukrainian officials and operatives and revealed publicly what seemingly should be top secret information. This means that the article's publication must have at a minimum cleared with, perhaps proposed, and edited by Langley. Most importantly, the piece revealed that the CIA had been intimately involved in training the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and Ukraine's Military Intelligence (HRU), particularly a special operations unit called '2245', and trained the HRU's chief, whose department, along with the SBU, had carried out a series of assassinations and other terrorist attacks against civilians inside Russia. The article went out of its way to underscore that the CIA and Washington in general had not approved or participated in these operations, opposed them, and scolded their Ukrainian clients for undertaking them. Although Budanov appears to have been angered by the article, SBU chief Vasilii Malyuk publicly acknowledged Ukraine's involvement in all the previous pre-Crocus attacks, Moscow had accused Ukraine of executing, adding confirmation to the NYT report, if any might have needed.

Why would CIA wish to see such an article published? Initially, many thought it was a message to Kiev that Washington was preparing to roll back its activity inside the country or pull out all of this part of its operations altogether. Some argued it was a CIA and/or general US government attempt to distance themselves from Ukraine's special services given the criminal, even terrorist nature of some of GRU and SBU attacks and their potential to provoke Russia into retaliating beyond Ukraine. Could it be that the article was an effort not simply to distance oneself from the Ukrainians' unsavoury past attacks inside Russia but to distance from an impending attack the CIA had gotten wind of — that is, the Crocus City Hall attack? Certainly, given the CIA's deep involvement in Ukrainian affairs and the certainty that it is listening in on Ukrainian officials, it seems almost surprising that the CIA would not have had knowledge of any hypothetical Ukrainian state involvement in the Crocus attack and even could have had information on quasi- and non-state actors' involvement.

The CIA prior knowledge track and the Nuland involvement track come together in our hypothetical with Nuland's surprising resignation/firing from the position of US Deputy Secretary of State. It still seems a curious thing that Nuland would be one of the first to throw in the towel on NATO's great Ukrainian project. She dedicated her entire career to NATO expansion, the continuation of which depends on Ukraine pulling it self out of the frying pan and surviving so that one day — as the 2008 NATO summit promised — will join NATO. At the same time, her departure came as catastrophe, even state dissolution hangs over the very Ukraine she and the entire Western elite pushed out front by pushing NATO expansion down the throat of the 'nasty Russian bear.' This kind of surrender and abandonment seems out of character — a complete surrender in futility for Victoria. Could it be that she had put herself in a bad, perhaps legally vulnerable position and the Biden administration in a politically catastrophic position somehow; one that forced her to give up the ship without a fight? In other words, could Nuland have been involved in generating or coordinating elements in the plot? Here, recall her less than cryptic promise as she stood under the war-torn skies in Kiev that there were "nasty surprises waiting for Putin." Did Nuland's resignation have anything to do with the sudden and curious US embassy warning on March 7th of a possibly impending terrorist attack or an apparent two-week delay in carrying out the Crocus attack?

On March 7th there were two curious events. They are curious by dint of the simultaneity, their partial and aborted natures, and their close proximity in time to Nuland's departure from the State Department just two days earlier. Both events also curiously reflected the break represented by Nuland's sudden departure from State. On March 7th, as has been widely reported in Russian and some Western media, the US embassy warned of an impending terrorist attack in Moscow in the following 48 hours, emphasizing the threats to "concerts," and one of the terrorists cased the Crocus City Hall venue, suggesting there was a plan to attack the March 8th concert by the popular singer Shaman. Both these events were incomplete. In the case of the embassy warning, the embassy and all other US government departments failed to give an additional warning after the 48-hour period of the original US embassy warning had expired with no terrorist attack, which is usual practice if the threat still remains. Moreover, the Russian government claimed in the attack's aftermath that it had received only "general" information, and the NYT report weeks later seemed to confirm this, saying that the US withheld information from Moscow ostensibly because of a lack of trust.

Both the lack of a second warning after the attack initially did not materialise and the incomplete information could explain at least in part why Russian intelligence and security bodies strengthened security for the early March Shaman concert but failed to prevent the Crocus attack two weeks later. More importantly, the inconsistency in not following through on a second warning and giving incomplete data could be a result of an internal bureaucratic power struggle, even opposing policies being carried out by opposing camps in the Biden administration, with neocons like Nuland somehow in on the plot to attack Moscow and having been unmasked by a more moderate camp. Possible conflict inside the US government might also be reflected in the changing messages about the warning: the warning mentioned only concerts; the Washington Post then cites a US intelligence source saying Crocus City Hall was mentioned as the target in warnings to Russian intelligence, and then a US official saying the latter is not true. Therefore, could Nuland's resignation have been a result of the plot being discovered by moderates or at least the neocons' opponents in the Biden administration? Could the US embassy warning have been merely an attempt to cover tracks and, like the NYT article on CIA ops in Ukraine, to distance the administration's less radical hawks from any damaging revelations regarding the Crocus attack's plotters uncovered by Russian investigators — hence the incompleteness of both the warning and the information?

In the same way, could the two-week delay in carrying out the attack from March 8th to March 22nd have been the result of the plot's unmasking and/or the resignation of its lead patron or protector, Ms Nuland? If Ukraine's alleged involvement in the attack was limited to financing and perhaps logistics as Russians claims suggest, with whom was Nuland working with in Ukraine? Did the supportive comments regarding the attack made by the Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council, Oleksiy Danilov, and his firing days later signal his involvement in the plot along with the all too present "nationalists" being fingered by Moscow and repeatedly whitewashed by US government officials, acolytes, and minions?

Again, all of the above is a hypothesis; one, perhaps, worth keeping in mind as details come and given the likelihood that a full account of any possible US involvement in, or inaction despite greater knowledge of, the Crocus attack than the US government has acknowledged is most unlikely in the near future.