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On March 22, 2024, a terrorist act took place in the Crocus City Hall concert hall in the city of Krasnohorsk near Moscow. As a result, 145 people died and 551 were injured. The terrorist group "Wilayat Khorasan", which is the Afghan branch of the "Islamic State" (IS), claimed responsibility for the incident. DM had already written that from the very beginning of these events, when none of its details were yet known, Russian propaganda tried to place responsibility for the terrorist attack on Ukraine. However, this was done inconsistently and without any evidence. This week, Russia’s agitational propaganda continued to develop this narrative, adding new details.

Direct accusations of Ukraine for committing a terrorist attack

Recently, Putin's propaganda has moved from conjectures, insinuations, and unspoken accusations of Ukraine's alleged involvement in the terrorist act in Crocus City Hall to direct allegations and attempts to fabricate "evidence" of the connection of the crime’s perpetrators with Ukraine.

For example, on April 7, the Russian "First Channel" released a propaganda clip interview with four people detained on suspicion of committing a crime, in which they claimed that they received instructions from Ukraine from someone named Saifullo. Allegedly, they were shown two possible ways of leaving the scene of the terrorist attack, as well as promised the crossing of the Ukrainian-Russian border and 1 million rubles each upon arrival in Kyiv. "Saifullo said that there will be people waiting for you at the border of Ukraine who will help us cross the border and get to Kyiv," said one of the detainees. It is not known what the terrorists would do with Russian rubles in Ukraine, where they cannot be legally exchanged if this version was even remotely true.

An additional detail is a message from one of the largest Russian propaganda channels in Telegram (2.5 million subscribers): "In addition, photos of people in camouflage uniforms with the Ukrainian flag in front of destroyed buildings and a Ukrainian postage stamp with an obscene gesture were found on the terrorist's phone. All this may indicate a connection between the special military operation (SVO) and the terrorist attack." Of course, Tajiks, who barely understand and speak Russian and have never been to Ukraine, are ardent Ukrainian nationalists and Banderites who keep Ukrainian patriotic images on their phones.

A subsidiary channel of one of the largest Russian propaganda channels in Telegram (675,000 subscribers) directly accuses Ukraine of the mass murder in Crocus: "Kyiv is to blame for the terrorist attack in Crocus, it's obvious. The terrorists were driving towards UGIL (an abbreviation from Russian, derived from the derogatory naming of the "Ukrainian State of Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv"), and, according to the FSB, they were waiting for them. National battalions prepared two roads for the departure of Tajik killers [from the crime scene] and demined the fields. Now the Kyiv regime is openly accused of shooting people in Crocus on the federal channel — all confessions come from the captured bandits who expected to be paid on enemy territory." Afterward, the post contains calls for revenge and the harshest possible response to Ukraine from the Putin regime, as well as another anti-Ukrainian passage: "Nezalezhna (from Ukrainian “independent”) is not going to give up the image of UGIL, they lost their moral face a long time ago, and misanthropy and Russophobia have become the dogma of Ukrainian statehood."

The former president and now the deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, Dmitriy Medvedev, also accused Ukraine of organizing the terrorist attack and trying to shift the responsibility for its instigation to the Islamic State (IS): "But the real organizers are still hiding in the shadow of the IS." Yet, the very first information published from the phones of the hired bastards unequivocally indicates the nationality of the organizers, among many other things. These are Nazi Ukraine’s officials. The idea was born in their ugly brain to compensate for failures at the front with terrorist attacks, which is not surprising." After that, Medvedev, in his style, expressed several threats towards Ukraine and its authorities.

FSB director Alexandr Bortnikov also spoke in the classic style of Russian propaganda: "Ukrainian neo-Nazis and their Western patrons are organizing the instigation of the most brutal crimes on the territory of Russia. For their purposes, they use members of the international terrorist underground, as evidenced by the terrorist attack in Crocus. Russian Senator Konstantin Dolgov was more cautious in his own Telegram channel but also accused Ukraine of the terrorist attack: "Western countries do not need the truth about the terrorist attack in Crocus." They want to impose on their citizens a convenient picture according to which Ukraine is an innocent state, while the detainees' confessions about the curator in Kyiv are strictly ignored."

It is worth noting that even the pro-Russian publication "Strana" in its Telegram channel "Politics of the country" (268,000 subscribers) emphasizes the absolute failure of this version: "It should be noted that after the publication of a video with the beating of the terrorist attack’s suspects and a video with the cutting off the ear of one of them, the value of any of their further statements and their credibility is completely nullified. Because it is obvious that after such torture, they can say anything they will be asked to say. It is also noteworthy that these recordings were shown more than two weeks after the terrorist attack. Moreover, in the footage of the first interrogation after the arrest, the terrorists did not say anything about Ukraine and the payment of "a million rubles in Kyiv" to them.

"A gang of international terrorists led by Biden" are complicit in the crime

If Russian propaganda accuses Ukraine of something, then, according to classic Russian traditions, it does not go without reproaches against the Western allies of Ukraine, primarily the USA. This time, agitational propaganda pulled out a story about the Ukrainian gas-producing holding "Burisma", with the help of which Russian propaganda tried for years to discredit the then-vice president and now the president of the United States, Joe Biden. The company is owned by the ex-minister of ecology of Ukraine during the Yanukovych era, Mykola Zlochevskyy, and the son of President Biden, Hunter, was a member of the holding's board from 2014-2018.

Russian propagandists did not come up with anything better than to invent the alleged involvement of Burisma in the financing of international terrorism without mentioning any specifics. But at the same time, Russian agitational propaganda is trying to connect US President Joe Biden to the funding of international terrorism through his son, who has not had anything to do with the company for six years. This propagandistic statement was initiated by the corresponding statement of the Investigative Committee of Russia, which opened a criminal case "regarding the financing of terrorism by officials from the USA and NATO countries. According to the investigation, money for committing terrorist attacks in Russia and abroad came through commercial organizations, including the Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma Holdings. The purpose of this was to eliminate well-known political and public figures and cause economic damage." All the Russian propaganda and anonymous pro-Russian Telegram channels that spread this news had written about Hunter Biden and his work at Burisma Holdings.

The reason for opening this criminal case was a collective statement to the Prosecutor General's Office, the Investigative Committee of Russia, and law enforcement agencies of the USA, Germany, France, and Cyprus. Its initiators and signatories are deputies of the State Duma of Russia Nikolay Kharitonov, Andrey Krasov, Yana Lantratova, Russian propagandist Alexandr Dugin, and ex-Deputy of Ukraine for several terms, state traitor Andriy Derkach, who was deprived of Ukrainian citizenship. The main initiator of the appeal was the latter. It is worth mentioning that Derkach was one of the campaign organizers to discredit Joe Biden and the then President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, to influence the results of the presidential elections in the USA.

In the appeal, Derkach claims that the Ukrainian and American authorities are allegedly behind the detonation of Nord Streams and the terrorist attack in Crocus and that the financing of both was carried out through Burisma. The statement refers to "the existence of an organized criminal (terrorist) group, which includes high-ranking US officials, leaders of the NATO military-political bloc and individual countries that are part of it, Biden's Ukrainian business partners, the political leadership of Ukraine, and employees of the HUR (Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine) and SBU".

State Duma deputy Yana Lantratova wrote in her personal Telegram channel: "Terrorism by name!!! Biden, Nuland, Blinken, Sullivan, Zelenskyy, Yermak, Zlochevskyy, Budanov, Malyuk—this is just part of the international criminal gang that methodically practices terrorism as a method of foreign policy. The blow-up of Nord Streams, Crocus City, the murder of Dasha Dugina, Vladlen Tatarsky, the assassination attempt on Zakhar Prilepin, the shelling of Russian cities, and many other acts of terrorism—it is all the work of a large and well-organized group of villains with American and Ukrainian passports."

Dmitriy Medvedev accused not only Ukraine of allegedly organizing the terrorist attack but also the West and its leaders of complicity: "Other helpers or international sponsors of terrorists are much more interesting. Unfortunately, the situation is as follows—they [sponsors of terrorists] include the highest officials of NATO countries. They are different. However, Macron himself and his rhetoric may well be qualified as aiding and abetting a terrorist attack. That is why the lover of oysters with champagne got so f***ed up that he had to publicly deny France's involvement in the terrorist attack through his subordinates and personally. In another speech, Medvedev also accused Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, and Olaf Scholz of complicity in the terrorist attack.

Other propaganda sources, however, comment on the situation more cautiously. Thus, one of the anonymous pro-Russian Telegram channels (16,000 subscribers) posted a link to one of the Norwegian media outlets, which alleged that the terrorist attack was a "multi-stage operation" of Western and Ukrainian special services: "In Oslo, some have agreed that Islamists recruited the perpetrators. However, they believe that it was a multi-stage operation. Islamists were bribed by intelligence officers from interested countries, and it could be Americans or, British and Ukrainians. At the very least, Kyiv was a major stakeholder in this operation’s success."

The impact of the terrorist attack in Crocus on the US elections and the Deep State conspiracy

Taking into account the above-mentioned compilation, it becomes evident that Russia is deploying a broader disinformation campaign rather than one aimed only at Ukraine. This one is designed to discredit US President Joe Biden before the election race, which will occur at the end of 2024. The incumbent became the official nominee of the Democratic Party on March 12. It has already been officially proven that Russia interfered in the previous US presidential elections of 2016 and 2020—and this year will not be an exception.

Express analysis of propaganda sources also confirms this hypothesis. The Telegram channel of the Russian "z-warrior" Semyon Pegov, WarGonzo (1 million subscribers), after a general description of the situation and criticism of Joe and Hunter Biden for "corruption", writes: "Why should Russia officially accuse the Bidens? Perhaps this is a preparation for the future Trump administration to allow the US to abandon the Ukrainians while saving their face. These Ukrainians, under Biden’s protection, were engaged in terrorist activities using corruption money. Therefore, they should be drained, and the war should be ended. By the way, they also blew up Nord Stream—a similar version was already circulating in the Western press."

One of the leading anonymous pro-Russian Telegram channels (417,000 subscribers) also notes the probable influence of this propaganda statement on the course of the presidential election campaign in the USA: "An unexpected turn in the election campaign of Joe Biden! Of course, Trump's staff will not hesitate to take advantage of these circumstances, especially since high-profile legal proceedings are ongoing against Hunter Biden! We have written this before and will continue monitoring the "Burisma factor" in the US presidential elections. In another post, this channel accuses the so-called American Deep State of constantly disrupting Ukraine's supposedly peaceful talks with Russia and escalating the war: "Negotiations at the bifurcation points are constantly hindered by the Deepstate+ group: Nord Streams, Crimean bridge, Kakhovska HPP, Belgorod attack, Crocus. I think everyone has already learned to easily identify these events as triggers for further escalation." Deep state is a conspiracy theory, according to which there is supposedly a "shadow government" in the United States, which the voters did not elect, but actually runs the country, having the current acting authorities as its puppet.

Interestingly, the adept of this conspiracy theory is the already mentioned traitor of Ukraine and Russian propagandist Andriy Derkach, who, as in previous years, plays along with the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. In his Telegram channel, he speaks in Trump’s support and criticizes the alleged Deep State: "I have already spoken about the transition of hostilities to the scenario of "American hawks" from the "Deep State" Democrats, namely, the phase of terrorism and political assassinations. Derkach also compliments the anti-Ukrainian politician Vivek Ramaswamy, who lost the Republican Party primaries to Trump but is considered one of the candidates for vice president of the USA in tandem with Donald Trump.

Illustration and infographic credits: Natalia Lobach

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