Analysis: Appalling attack is a blow to a Russian leader who promised security

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on March 20.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting in Moscow on March 20. Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Barely a week since Vladimir Putin secured his fifth presidential term, Russia has been plunged into carnage.

The appalling attack on the vast Crocus City Hall concert venue and shopping complex near Moscow – claimed by ISIS – left more than 100 people dead.

This is hardly the stability and security for which so many Russians voted for Putin. For years, the Kremlin strongman has been cast as a leader able to guarantee order in this vast, turbulent country.

But Russia today seems more insecure and volatile than at any point in Putin’s 24 years in power. The Kremlin’s brutal war in Ukraine, now in its third horrific year, has cost Russians dearly.

Ukrainian drone strikes and cross border raids by Ukraine-based Russian militias continue apace. The mutinous uprising last year of Yevgeny Prigozhin was a shocking, unprecedented challenge to Kremlin authority.

But now, the focus is firmly on the apparent reappearance in Russia of jihadists, unrelated to the Ukraine war or domestic opposition to the Kremlin. To make matters worse, the US and other Western governments warned of intelligence suggesting such an attack in early March.

Perhaps it was distrust, with US-Russian relations at such an historic low. It could also have been that the US intelligence was just too vague or not actionable. But for a leader who has promised security and stability to Russians, a large-scale terror attack on home soil is a powerful blow to his image.

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