Was the Moscow terrorist attack carried out as a false flag operation?

28.03.2024

Russian and strategic communication specialists Ilmar Raag, Peeter Tali, and Marko Mihkelson analyze whether the Crocus City Hall terrorist attack could have involved the use of false flag techniques. The term “false flag” refers to a technique where various activities are carried out under the guise of another group, giving the impression that someone else is behind the action, not the actual perpetrator.

The Russian Investigative Committee released a video showing individuals accused of orchestrating the terrorist attack being brought into their building. Image: screenshot, Telegram

Examples of Russia’s use of false flag operations were offered by Propastop just before the outbreak of a full-scale war in Ukraine. A classic example is the four bombings in apartment buildings in Russia in September 1999, which killed a total of 293 people. According to popular opinion, the bombings were orchestrated by the Russian security service FSB, and then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin used the terror as a pretext to start the Second Chechen War.

Peeter Tali suggests that a “false flag” scenario was likely employed

Peeter Tali. Author/source: Siim Lõvi / ERR

Peeter Tali, a member of the Riigikogu and former head of strategic communication at the Ministry of Defense, presents both arguments for and against the use of a “false flag” operation in his analysis.

“The list of factors favouring the false flag operation, however, is considerably longer. Firstly, the terrorist attack was meticulously planned and executed with professionalism. Secondly, the terrorists displayed good military training, employing classical small-unit tactics.”

Thirdly, the customary ‘Allahu akbar’ chant was not heard in the video,” Tali listed. “Fourthly, the terrorists managed to flee towards Belarus for 4-5 hours despite the extensive surveillance throughout Russia.”

Fifthly, the captured men didn’t resemble cold-blooded killers. “Rather, they seem like random Tajiks who could confess to anything under duress,” says Tali, adding as a final argument in favor of the false flag tactic: “Blaming Ukraine for aiding terrorism, a narrative that would surely be believed by Russians chained to the Ostankino television tower.”

Peeter Tali presents two arguments against the false flag operation: Firstly, the USA warned the Russians beforehand. “But this could also be a case of multiple deceptions – ‘deception’ in English and ‘strategicheskaya maskirovka’ in Russian,” Tali acknowledged. “ISIS-K advertises itself as the owner of the operation, but at the same time, one should not underestimate the FSB network.”

Ilmar Raag: it rather wasn’t a setup

Ilmar Raag. Author/source: Priit Mürk / ERR

According to strategic communication specialist Ilmar Raag, if the FSB had orchestrated a purely self-contained “false flag” operation, it would have unequivocally used evidence pointing towards Ukraine.

Ilmar Raag assessed, “The simple fact that the Russian Federation doesn’t need another front in the war argues against a staged event. This is evidenced by Putin’s ludicrous attempt to link everything to Ukraine, even though ISIS-K has been making critical statements for some time and has, among other things, attacked the Russian embassy in Kabul.”

It’s possible that it was a semi-staged event. “This means that the attack was known about, but allowed to happen to provide a pretext for repression. The most important question is whether ISIS-K will have the capability to carry out larger attacks on Russian territory shortly. In that case, we would see a significant force emerging that can sow regional instability. Currently, this possibility must be considered unlikely, but not impossible.”

Marko Mihkelson: Attack commissioned or supported by Putin

Marko Mihkelson. Author/source: Siim Lõvi / ERR

“The terrorist attack was commissioned or facilitated by Putin’s regime,” affirmed Marko Mihkelson, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu.

“Warnings from Western countries were disregarded, labelling them as blackmail,” Mihkelson listed the reasons. “The terrorists operated freely within the centre, despite the presence of security forces. The FSB/National Guard unit, located 4.4 kilometres away, responded at a leisurely pace, entering the building only an hour and a half later.”

Mihkelson also pointed out that, strangely, the terrorists were heading towards Ukraine and were only apprehended several hundred kilometres away from Moscow. “Despite ISIS claiming responsibility, Putin, Medvedev, Zakharova, and others redirected the accusations towards Ukraine, accusing them of aiding ISIS. It is more likely that Russian special services themselves created this connection through their contacts,” Mihkelson assessed.

The impact of the terrorist attack

“Putin’s regime gives this terrorist act an opportunity to tighten screws faster and more forcefully, mobilize its people, and shape the human landscape for a new mobilization,” summed up Peeter Tali regarding its potential impact.

According to Ilmar Raag, the aftermath of the Crocus City Hall attack doesn’t depend on whether it was staged by the FSB or not. “If broader societal mobilization measures follow the event, they were to be expected one way or another,” said Raag.

The photos are from the sources referenced in the article.