Monday, June 18, 2018

Muscovites See ‘Act of Terrorism’ Where Russian Officials See Only ‘Unhappy Accident’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 17 – On Saturday evening, a taxi plowed into a crowd in the center of Moscow, something that led many Russians to conclude that it was a terrorist act like ones that have occurred in Europe. But Russian officials quickly insisted that it was only “an unhappy accident.”

            The police put out a video which was intended to support their version of events, but some who had been at the scene insisted that the pictures it showed did not correspond with either what they had seen or what the authorities insisted was the case (

            A copy of the video is now available online and certainly supports the claims of those who saw in this action some intentional action rather than simply an accident. The driver kept going along the sidewalk through the crowd, and when people opened the door of the taxi he was driving, he sought to flee (

            Former Yekaterinburg mayor Yevgeny Royzman helped spread the version that this was a terrorist action first on Twitter and then on Echo Moskvy. The opposition figure said that the authorities have put out all kinds of versions, but that he personally “considers this a terrorist action ( and

                In reporting this controversy, the Newsru agency notes that “the unwillingness of the police even to allow the version about an intentional attack on pedestrians was reflected from the first … This isn’t surprising, especially now when universal attention is focused on Russia in connection with the World Cup competition.

            Moreover, it adds, it is worth noting that the US State Department before the weekend “published an appeal to its citizens in Russia warning them about the possibility of terrorist acts at the World Cup.”  And the agency points out that “the siloviki in Russia are extremely reluctant to recognize any incident as a terrorist one, even if there seems to be evidence of that.”

            Newsru cites the case last when a 19-year-old attacked others with a knife in Surgut, something ISIS immediately took credit for and that the man himself said was a follower of Islamist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. “Despite this,” it continues, the magistracy continued to call what happened ‘attempted murder.’”

            It is often difficult to determine what lies behind a particular criminal act, and it is entirely possible that the Moscow authorities are correct in the current case.  But under conditions of low information when officials are known to lie to make the regime look good as now, many are unlikely to believe them -- and don’t.

            And that raises a still more dangerous possibility: Russians may see terrorism in actions that have nothing to do with terrorism and thus respond with fear and support for repressive measures as a result. 

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