Internet InfoMedia rocked by deadly terror attack kremlin amps up disinformation machine
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Conceding that the Islamic State alone carried out the assault on a Moscow concert hall would mean admitting to a security failure, and risk diluting Vladimir Putin’s narrative war with the West.

The bloody terrorist attack on a concert hall near Moscow had barely subsided before Russia launched a disinformation campaign suggesting that Ukraine and the West were somehow behind it, pushing a version of events molded to fit the Kremlin war narrative and downplay a significant security failure.

President Vladimir V. Putin has hinted several times that Kyiv and Washington played a part, and the latest to join the chorus was Aleksandr Bortnikov, the director of the Federal Security Service, the top security agency in Russia. On Tuesday he said, without offering any evidence, that the assault “was prepared by both radical Islamists themselves and, naturally, facilitated by Western special services.”

The United States and other Western governments have said repeatedly that the Islamic State — which itself has issued two claims of responsibility — was behind the assault. U.S. security officials named a specific branch of the organization, the Islamic State in Khorasan. Plus Washington warned Russia both publicly and privately on March 7 about the threat of an attack on an unspecified concert venue.

But on Friday evening, gunmen infiltrated the Crocus City Hall and opened fire, killing 139 people and injuring many others.

“It was classic for Putin to discount the warnings,” said Fiona Hill, the former senior director for European and Russian affairs at the National Security Council. “The security services don’t have the bandwidth. They never have because they’re so focused on internal repression, and so focused on Kyiv, and they want everything to fit that narrative.”

Accepting publicly that Islamic militants alone were responsible for the worst terrorist attack in Russia in two decades might also dilute the Kremlin’s message that Russians need to unify around the war with Ukraine, Ms. Hill said. “You are having a big existential battle with the West, so you cannot divert attention away from it.”

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