Tragedy Strikes Moscow: A Nation Mourns Amidst Terror and Political Turmoil

Tragedy Strikes Moscow: A Nation Mourns Amidst Terror and Political Turmoil

By Amit Sengupta

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unilateral, absolute and one-dimensional victory in a fake election with no opposition whatsoever might be yet another milestone of his great ‘presidential career for life’, like that of another dictator of a former communist regime, as in China, Xi Jin Ping, but it has arrived as yet another bad omen for a beleaguered nation with no freedom or democracy. The media has been totally banned, except the mouth-pieces of the establishment, several journalists have gone into exile with their publications, hundreds of anti-war protesters and dissenters have been put in jail, while tens of thousands of soldiers, mostly young, have been killed on the battlefield in a ‘meaningless war’ which seems to find no end.

While the western sanctions have not really worked on the ground, the economy has not been on the upswing, and several Russians have chosen to flee the country, to escape forcible recruitment in the army, or, to look for a peaceful environment in some other country to pursue their lives and careers. All in all, the scenario in Russia has not been rosy, since the Ukraine war has started, while a strategic victory has eluded Putin, despite some border regions having been annexed by its army, which has paid a heavy toll in this ongoing bloodshed.

Indeed, Ukraine has been ravaged in many parts, and thousands of its soldiers and civilians too have perished in this war. Ironically, many of their ancestors trace their lineage and bonding in the tragic and brave memories of World War II, when they fought together as civilian and armed forces of Soviet Russia against the Nazis, and defeated them, after making huge sacrifices. Almost 20 million people in the USSR died fighting Adolf Hitler’s murderous war machine.

Amidst this continuing pessimism, with no light at the end of the tunnel, the current mass tragedy at the Crocus City Hall in the outskirts of Moscow, has ignited a nation’s collective wounds, while the elders are crying their hearts out as they pray for the dead with flowers and candles at their memorial site outside the hall. As of now, there are 135 dead and 145 injured, according to sources, but the toll is bound to go much higher, in what was a packed concert hall.

As it happened, and suddenly, four camouflaged gunmen with automatic guns went on a shooting spree at the concert where a Russian pop group, ‘Picnic’ was performing. There were several fans from distant places who had gathered to enjoy the concert. Most of the dead are supposed to be young, in their 30s and 40s. Some children too have been killed.

Live videos show blood-splattered chairs with people hiding below or behind the chairs, in the stairs, screaming, and dead bodies all over, while the guns keep blasting. There are shots of the gunmen shooting at people who seem to be already dead. Till now, the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), through its official media, have claimed the attack. However, no one knows what is the real, short or long-term reason for the jehadis to attack Russia. Putin and his aides, surprisingly, kept mum for a long time, only to finally, predictably, blame Ukraine. Kyiv has vehemently denied any hand in such a terrorist act.

The Islamic State, observers are speculating, might have attacked Russia for helping Syria defeat them in the Syrian war. Also, for its role in other nations of the middle-east and Africa, where both Russian soldiers and mercenaries of the Wagner group have been operating. However, there is no clarity on the rationale behind the attack.

There are reports in the western media that the American embassy in Moscow had earlier warned Russia that it was “monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts”. This warning was repeated by the UK, which had warned British citizens not to visit Russia. Why Putin chose to ignore this tangible warning remains an enigma. He has chosen to given no explanation.

Instead, Putin has claimed that Ukraine is involved in the attack and the four suspects, “tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border”.

The president of Ukrain, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, responded by saying that this was typically the doublespeak by Putin and “other thugs”, while not accepting the moral responsibility for not being able to stop the bloody attack. Ukraine’s foreign ministry said that Russian officials wanted to stir up “anti-Ukrainian hysteria in Russian society” and create “conditions to boost mobilisation of Russian citizens into the criminal aggression against our state”.
In the past, Ukraine has targeted seaports, airbases, a gas terminal in St Petersburg, refineries in Youslavl and Volgograd, and has used drones over the Kremlin in Moscow. These were strategic and military operations, and not a single strike was used to hit ordinary civilians or large gatherings of ordinary people.

ISKP had earlier attacked Kerman in Iran killing 84 people. It targeted Kabul airport during the flux and chaos when the Americans were leaving — killing 170 Afghan citizens and 13 American soldiers guarding the airport, including women soldiers.

In terms of deadly, ruthless and gruesome terrorist attacks on civilians by the Islamic fundamentalists, the attack on the Moscow concert hall has resurrected tragic and painful memories of the past. The ghastly killings at the Bataclan in Paris in November, 2019, in which 89 people were murdered, and the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena in 2017 after the Ariana Grande concert, which left 22 dead, are two examples. Indeed, there were American intelligence leaks that suggested that the last Qatar football world cup was also under the radar of the Islamic State where tens of thousands of football fans from all over the world had gathered.

The Moscow mass murders also resurrected another deeply painful memory when cold-blooded Islamic terrorists executed the massacre of 334 people, which included 186 school children, in the Beslan school siege in 2004, which shocked and outraged Russia and the world. Those killed were kept hostage for two days.

Amidst this depressing scenario, the murder of Alexie Navalny, the only opposition leader with a mass following in Russia, and backed by the west, days before the fraudulent polls, has cast a blanket of gloom and doom over the country, and its opposition forces and dissenters. Navalny, 47, was murdered in cold blood in his cold prison cell in the frozen expanse of solitary confinement in the backwaters of Russia, far away from Moscow. His exiled wife has now taken over the leadership of the opposition, even while one of his supporters, who brought flowers as a tribute to him on his memorial site, had a gun put on his head by soldiers, seeking to know that from where he had got the flowers, his opinion on Crimea, and if he was a gay!
Writes Masha Alekhina (‘The Guardian’ of London, February 28, 2024), from the ‘Pussy Riot’ music group, which led the earliest protests against Putin, and in support of democracy and freedom of expression, including song, dance and music:

“Since 24 February 2022 there have been 19,885 arrests for an anti-war stance; 8,526 cases of ‘discrediting the army’ and ‘false information’; 835 people imprisoned for an anti-war position. Over these years, many more have passed through this repressive regime. Some did not survive, some took their own lives after their release, and some went to fight – to stop Putin from seizing new territories and turning them into torturous meat-grinders, into gulags.”

In a dark irony, while the West, America and NATO is fighting a proxy war against Putin in Ukraine, with massive sanctions in tow, she writes that EU countries have purchased 40 per cent more Russian gas than what it did before the war started! Besides, Apple paid10.02 million pounds anti-trust fine into Russia’s state budget.

She writes about the double-faced propaganda of the American media: “This month, a man came to Russia from the US to interview Putin, and to shoot a video about the clean Moscow Metro and the admirable lack of homeless people in the city. Do you know what else tends to get cleaned in Russia, Tucker Carlson? The cameras after one of Putin’s executions…!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *