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March 18 – March 24, 2024
Belarus-Russia relations

The Unbearable Lightness of Mourning

The situation has not changed
The Unbearable Lightness of Mourning
Фото: Виталий Жихарев

March 24 was declared a day of mourning in Russia in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow. Belarusian officials, parliamentarians, and civil servants are holding solidarity mourning actions and grieve as if they were being paid for it. The moral of the story is quite simple: state sponsors of terrorism are not immune from “alternative” terrorism and do not have an exclusive monopoly on violence.

Aliaxander Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin had two phone calls last week. The first time, the Belarusian dictator congratulated his colleague on the “election victory” and was amazed by the “stunning” electoral result: the Russian Central Election Commission credited Putin with just over 87 percent — whereas the Belarusian Central Election Commission had dared to attribute only 80.1% to their boss in 2020. The second time, Lukashenka expressed condolences for the terrorist attack that occurred at the “Crocus” concert hall in the Moscow region.

On the evening of March 22, unidentified individuals dressed in camouflage opened fire at the “Crocus City Hall” during a concert by the band “Picnic.” After the shooting began, a grenade or incendiary device was thrown, leading to a fire. The death toll from the attack exceeded 130 people. According to the press service of the Russian Investigative Committee, the causes of death were gunshot wounds and poisoning by combustion products. About a hundred people were wounded and taken to hospitals.

Earlier on March 7, US officials warned the Russian side that members of the “Islamic State” (ISIL) were planning an attack. According to representatives of the US counter-terrorism service, most ISIL terrorist attempts in Europe had been thwarted, so the group’s members turned their focus to Russia. On March 19, Vladimir Putin stated: Western countries’ messages about possible terrorist attacks in Russia are a provocation. “All this resembles blatant blackmail and an attempt to intimidate and destabilize society,” he summarized.

Although ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack, the Russian Security Council is more inclined to believe in the “Kyiv trace” theory. “If it is established that these terrorists are from the Kyiv regime, it is impossible to deal with them and their ideological inspirers any differently. All of them must be found and ruthlessly destroyed as terrorists, including the officials of the state that committed the crime,” stated Dmitry Medvedev, the head of the Security Council.

Alexander Bortnikov, head of the FSB, promptly reported to Putin the arrest of 11 individuals, including four terrorists directly involved in the attack. The terrorists were allegedly detained in the Bryansk region, near the border with Ukraine. The FSB noted that the criminals had connections with the Ukrainian side and planned to escape persecution.

The Belarusian side reacted most vividly to the events in Russia, conducting a mass exemplary mourning ritual. This was commented on by the Russian Ambassador Boris Gryzlov: “The catastrophe is perceived by both Russians and Belarusians as a tragedy that happened to their kin.” According to him, the attack at “Crocus” was perpetrated by “neo-Nazis,” after which Gryzlov suddenly compared the events in the Moscow region with the tragedy of Khatyn.

On March 23, an official memorial action took place in Minsk, at the building of the Russian Embassy, with the participation of representatives of the parliament, public organizations, and associations of Belarus. Residents of Gomel brought flowers to the Russian House as a sign of support for the families of the deceased and the injured. In Grodno, people also began bringing flowers to the Russian General Consulate on the evening of March 22. The concert scheduled for March 28, dedicated to the Day of Unity of the Peoples of Belarus and Russia, was canceled. The Belarusian Ministry of Internal Affairs took additional security measures in connection with the events in the Moscow region.

The Belarusian Ministry of Health offered assistance to those injured during the shooting at “Crocus City Hall.” Finally, during a phone call with Putin, Lukashenka obligingly offered him any necessary assistance in connection with the terrorist attack, believing that the Russian side would appreciate such gestures.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.
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