Perpetrators don't matter.

TL;DR: The following post has been composed in the night after the terrorist attack on the Crocus City Hall in Moscow, on 22nd of March 2024. I ended up only sharing it with a few people because I wasn’t entirely comfortable with posting it here at the time. So .. here it is now.

A few hours ago, Moscow fell victim to a significant terrorist attack. Dozens of people were killed, hundreds injured. The incident is still ongoing, we don’t know all of the details yet, and the death toll might well continue to rise.

And already there is significant discussion, especially on social media, about who was behind the attack. Understandably, because a terror attack of that magnitude in a country that’s, despite the political situation and the ongoing war with Ukraine (which is one of the clearest violation of international law if I have ever seen one), situated in Europe is shocking for most Westerners.

There are so many possibilities, so many actors that could have been behind this horrifying event. It could have been an attack perpetrated by Islamic State Khorasan Province, it could have been an attack perpetrated by one of the threat groups active in Dagestan or Chechnya, it could have been an incident that has been perpetrated entirely by Russian security services themselves, it could have been the Ukrainians - all of those ideas were making their rounds on the Internet, starting almost immediately after the news of the attack first broke.

All of those examples, and many more, could have been possible. Some are more likely than others, and some are significantly more unlikely than the others.

I definitely wasn’t immune to those speculations and the allure they had. Trying to not give in to my own confirmation bias and staying vigilant in order not to drown in the sea of mis- and disinformation was a challenge, because it was quite tempting to go ahead and simply accept some things as truth.

But the crucial point is that it ultimately doesn’t matter who was behind the attack. Because it hasn’t been important, hasn’t mattered before. When hundreds of people were killed in 1999, when apartment complexes in Moscow, Volgodonsk and Buynaksk were blown up, Russian authorities immediately blamed “Chechen militants”.

Their responsibility has never been proven beyond reasonable doubt. On the contrary, there are plenty of weird circumstances, irregularities and circumstancial evidence that point to a very different culprit. If you ask Westerners, you are very likely to hear the claim that the Russian authorities, above all the internal security service FSB, were behind the explosions.

But to the Russian public, “Chechen terrorists” were behind the attack. Russian authorities were certain of that, which why they were forced to take drastic measures to combat these terrorists. Which lead to the Moscow Apartment Bombings becoming the official legitimisation for the Second Chechen War.

The situation we are witnessing now is almost identical. No matter what we think about the incident, no matter who’s behind the incident, or even what exactly happened. The truth doesn’t matter, because what is going to be seen as the truth (at least internally, inside of Russia) is going to be shaped, and ultimately (potentially tightly) controlled by the Kremlin. There is very little, if anything, that we can to about this “truth”. Calling it anything else, calling it a lie, protesting, none of that will change a thing.

Which means that these very questions are the important thing: What is the Kremlin-defined “truth” going to be? And how is the Russian state going to use said “truth”?