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ISW: Russia ties West to “terrorism” to rally support for war in Ukraine

Russian authorities are preparing to ramp up accusations that the United States and its Western allies are sponsoring “terrorist” attacks against Russia, a rhetorical ploy likely aimed at shoring up domestic support for the war in Ukraine.
Crocus City Hall
Aftermath of the attack in Crocus City Hall near Moscow, Russia, 22 March 2024.
ISW: Russia ties West to “terrorism” to rally support for war in Ukraine

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on 27 March that the Russian government is to intensify its rhetoric portraying the United States, the West, and Ukraine as “terrorist” threats to Russia, likely aiming to generate greater domestic support for the ongoing war in Ukraine.

As the Institute for the Study of War reports, “The Kremlin likely aims to seize on wider Russian social fears and anger following the Crocus City Hall attack by portraying Ukraine, the US, and the West as immediate terrorist threats.”

The shooting attack occurred on the evening of 22 March when crowds gathered for a concert at the Crocus City Hall concert center on the outskirts of Moscow. Russian Health Ministry reported that 140 people were killed as a result of the attack. The international terrorist organization Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the attack on Crocus City. The US, other countries, and ISW shortly after confirmed IS’s responsibility for the attack.

Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Chief said on 27 March that Russia knew about preparations for a terrorist attack on its territory as early as mid-February.

According to the ISW, Russian officials have already taken steps to intensify their rhetoric that the US, the West, and Ukraine as “terrorist” threats to Russia.

The institute reported that “The Russian Investigative Committee and Prosecutor General’s Office stated on 27 March that they will consider an appeal from the Russian State Duma to investigate American and Western financing and organization of terrorist attacks against Russia.” While they did not explicitly reference the Crocus City Hall attack, the timing suggests a connection, ISW said.

“Russian officials routinely describe Ukrainian military strikes against legitimate military targets in occupied Ukraine and Russia as terrorism and consistently claim that Western actors help organize these strikes,” according to the report.

The institute argues that this rhetorical shift is driven by a desire to bolster domestic backing for the war effort: “The Kremlin likely hopes that perceptions of Ukrainian and Western involvement in the Crocus City Hall attack will increase domestic support for the war in Ukraine.”

The ISW’s report cautions that the Kremlin may still formally accuse Ukraine of the Crocus City Hall attack if these “informational efforts are insufficient to generate the domestic response it likely desires.”

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