Check for Scapegoats: International Fact-Checking Day and the Crocus City Attacks

Fact-checking is an essential part of debunking propaganda, disinformation and manipulation, such as “Kyiv is behind the Moscow’s Crocus City Hall attacks”. Actions on the ground suggest otherwise.

The 2nd of April marks the International Fact-Check Day. Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine and warmongering is wrapped in lies which need to be debunked to limit their pollution of the mind. Here on EUvsDisinfo we contribute by sharing our articles, research and examples of debunking as we have done since 2015. Our database with more than 16,800 cases brings updated examples of pro-Kremlin disinfo and manipulation together with checks and responses to the claim. We also feature the sections Learn and Research with material relevant to fact-checking in an environment where disinformation and manipulation are integrated tools of warfare in all domains, not only the kinetic fighting on the ground.

To mark the day, we turn to the practical work of fact-checking and debunking.

The Kremlin narrative is scapegoating Kyiv…

Last week, we examined the first set of Kremlin clams concerning the 22 March attacks in our disinfo review “Hinterland on fire”. ISIS-K had already claimed credit for while releasing bodycam footage taken by the assailants. Nevertheless, as expected, an array of accusations flowed from the Kremlin, which tried to indicate ‘Western’ responsibility.

Ten days after the 22 March attack, Kremlin reactions and claims appear to consolidate in three directions that illustrate peculiar aspects, some are mutually exclusive.

…but there is an uncomfortable ISIS track

On the ground, where physical safety matter, Russian authorities are searching, arresting, investigating and also deporting people coming from Central Asian. So far, numbers are limited, but ten people have been arrested, including the suspected four perpetrators of the attack; all Tajik nationals.

As has been widely reported, the US had issued public and private warnings to Russian authorities about an attack two weeks prior to 22 March. The warning was given not to incite panic but under the ‘duty to warn’ policy of the US intelligence community, even if those warned are rivals or adversaries.

Check for scapegoats: International Fact-Checking Day and the Crocus City attacks — EUvsDiSiNFO

News from credible sources have now appeared that Iran had warned Moscow a few days before 22 March of an imminent attack by ISIS. This was based on information obtained from arrested ISIS terrorists in Iran.

“Blame the West”

Sometimes the spin factory runs in different directions: The ‘blame the West’ game got ugly fast. While pushing this narrative, Kremlin spin-master and state outlet RT [formerly Russia Today] editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan quickly stated: “this is not ISIS” and referred to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a ‘Yahud pig from Kryvyy Rih’. ‘Yahud’ is an Arabic word meaning ‘Jewish’. Simonyan and her outlet is a prominent voice in the global promotion of the Russian state narrative.

While action on ground suggest that the ISIS connection is taken seriously by the Russian security apparatus, the Kremlin spin doctors still continue working hard to attribute guilt to ‘Kyiv’ or the ‘Anglo-Saxons’, or some other configuration of the ‘evil West’. Recent claims included “Crocus City Hall terror attack planned and paid for by Ukraine”.

Insert anti colonialism to spread the lies globally

We recall that the first narrative claimed that Western countries helped or even ordered Ukraine to carry out the attack. Outlets and commentators alleged, among other things, that the US was trying to cover up Ukraine’s involvement in the attacks; that NATO is behind the attacks; and that the real perpetrators of the attack are in Washington and London.

No recounting of Russian disinformation narratives would be complete without the usual random weirdness and sideways mud-slinging. For example, an article in one of the key Russian state platform targeting French-speaking groups in Africa, Sputnik Afrique, tied the attacks to the ‘corrupt schemes of the Biden family’. At least two similar articles said the quiet part out loud by alleging that it doesn’t matter who carried out the attacks, since the West is ultimately to blame.

The third: Blame everybody

The last explanation now featuring is a combination: not only the ‘West’ / Kyiv / or both in collaboration are said to be responsible but also in partnership with ISIS-K. The pro-Kremlin ecosystem is now claiming: “Crocus attacks could be conducted by both ISIS and Ukraine, both under US control” and similar.

There is a disconnect: the ‘West’ and ISIS are not easy-connected entities. The US and Western partner fought in a global coalition to defeat ISIS. It was a fierce and intense fight. But this does not disturb the radical Russian nationalism which seems on a path to a self-made prison of the mind with conspiracies and bunker-mentality feeding the urge for war against Ukraine.

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