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Why Russia’s Vast Security Services Fell Short on Deadly Attack

[2024年3月30日] 来源:NY Times  整理:Geilien.cn   字号 [] [] []  
莫斯科郊外的一个音乐厅发生袭击事件,造成至少143人死亡后,在街头的安全部队。 Nanna Heitmann for The New York Times

A day before the U.S. embassy in Moscow put out a rare public alert this month about a possible extremist attack at a Russian concert venue, the local C.I.A. station delivered a private warning to Russian officials that included at least one additional detail: The plot in question involved an offshoot of the Islamic State known as ISIS-K.

American intelligence had been tracking the group closely and believed the threat credible. Within days, however, President Vladimir V. Putin was disparaging the warnings, calling them “outright blackmail” and attempts to “intimidate and destabilize our society.”

Three days after he spoke, gunmen stormed Crocus City Hall outside Moscow last Friday night and killed at least 143 people in the deadliest attack in Russia in nearly two decades. ISIS quickly claimed responsibility for the massacre with statements, a photo and a propaganda video.

What made the security lapse seemingly even more notable was that in the days before the massacre Russia’s own security establishment had also acknowledged the domestic threat posed by the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, called Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K.

Internal Russian intelligence reporting that most likely circulated at the highest levels of the government warned of the increased likelihood of an attack in Russia by ethnic Tajiks radicalized by ISIS-K, according to information obtained by the Dossier Center, a London research organization, and reviewed by The New York Times.
据伦敦研究机构Dossier Center获得的信息,极可能在政府高层流传的俄罗斯内部情报报告警告说,受到伊斯兰国呼罗珊组影响,成为激进分子的塔吉克族人在俄罗斯发动袭击的可能性增大了。《纽约时报》查阅了相关信息。

Russia has identified the four men suspected of carrying out the attack as being from Tajikistan.

Now, Mr. Putin and his lieutenants are pointing fingers at Ukraine, trying to deflect attention from a question that would be front and center in any nation with an independent media and open debate in its politics: How did Russia’s vast intelligence and law enforcement apparatus, despite significant warnings, fail to head off one of the biggest terrorist attacks in the country in Mr. Putin’s nearly quarter century in power?

枪手在番红花城音乐厅开火的视频画面。伊斯兰国很快声称对这次屠杀负责。 via Reuters

The full picture is still unclear, and U.S. and European officials, as well as security and counterterrorism experts, emphasize that even in the best of circumstances, with highly specific information and well-oiled security services, disrupting covert international terror plots is difficult.

But they say the failure most likely resulted from a combination of factors, paramount among them the deep levels of distrust, both within the Russian security establishment and in its relations with other global intelligence agencies.

They also point to the way Mr. Putin has hijacked his domestic security apparatus for an ever-widening political crackdown at home — as well as his focus on crusading against Ukraine and the West — as distractions that probably did not help.

This account of the Russian failure to prevent the concert attack is based on interviews with U.S. and European security officials, security experts and analysts specializing in international intelligence capabilities. Many spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence details.

“The problem is to actually be able to prevent terrorist attacks, you need to have a really good and efficient system of intelligence sharing and intelligence gathering,” said Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russian intelligence, who underscored that trust is needed inside the home agency and with agencies of other countries, as is good coordination. He said, “That’s where you have problems.”

An Expanding Definition of Extremist

Mr. Putin’s definition of what constitutes an extremist began to expand even before his invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.

The agency primarily responsible for combating terrorism in Russia is called the Second Service, a branch of the Federal Security Service, or the F.S.B. It once focused on Islamist extremists, bands of assassins and homegrown neo-Nazi groups.

But as Mr. Putin has advanced his political crackdown at home, its list of targets ballooned to include opposition figures like Aleksei A. Navalny, who died last month in a Russian prison, and his supporters, as well as L.G.B.T.Q. rights activists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, peace activists and other Kremlin critics.

The number of Islamist-related organizations on the register of extremist organizations listed by Russian Federal Service for Financial Monitoring has declined since 2013. At the same time, hundreds of organizations have been added related to Jehovah’s Witnesses, which has its worldwide headquarters in the United States and is viewed with suspicion by the F.S.B. Still, U.S. and European officials say the Russian officials tracking Islamist extremists have their own unit within the Second Service that has remained robustly staffed and funded, despite the strains on the security services from the intensifying domestic political crackdown and the war against Ukraine.

The failure to prevent the attack was probably the result of a combination of other factors, including fatigue after being “especially alert” during the period before Russia’s recent presidential election, said a European security official, who tracks the activities of the Russian intelligence services.

There is also evidence that Russian authorities did respond to the warnings this month, at least initially.

本月,在莫斯科悼念阿列克谢·纳瓦尔尼的民众。俄罗斯政府在国内加紧政治打压,打击对象包括纳瓦尔尼这样的反对派人士,以及LGBTQ权益活动人士、“耶和华见证人”等。 Nanna Heitmann for The New York Times

Increased Security

On March 7, the day after the C.I.A. station issued the private warning to the Russians, the F.S.B. announced that it had killed two Kazakhs southwest of Moscow, while disrupting an ISIS-K plot to target a synagogue in the capital. U.S. officials thought the raid was possibly a sign that the Russian authorities were springing into action.

Iosif Prigozhin, a well-known Russian music producer, recalled that he and his wife, the Russian pop star Valeriya, who performed at Crocus City Hall this month, noticed how security had increased at the venue in early March; security guards checked people’s bags and cosmetics cases and took other measures he hadn’t seen there before, he said.

“I even called the general director and said, ‘Listen, what’s going on? Are you expecting high-ranking guests?'” Mr. Prigozhin said in an interview. “He said, ‘Iosif, I’ll tell you later.’ He didn’t say anything over the phone. He said it’s necessary — and that’s it.”

Around the same time, the venue’s staff was warned about the possibility of a terrorist attack and instructed on what to do in such an event, said Islam Khalilov, a 15-year-old student who was working in the coat check on the night of the attack, in an interview posted on YouTube.

One of Mr. Putin’s favorite singers, Grigory Leps, was performing there on March 8. Shaman, a singer whose pro-Kremlin jingoism has catapulted him to popularity amid wartime fervor, was scheduled to take the stage a day later.

But the heightened security didn’t ferret out one of the attackers, Shamsidin Fariduni. Employees at the music hall, speaking to Russian media, recalled seeing Mr. Fariduni at the concert venue on March 7. A photo of him in a light brown coat at the venue, verified by The Times, has circulated in the Russian press.

Aleksandr V. Bortnikov, the director of the F.S.B., emphasized Tuesday in public comments that the information the United States provided was “of a general nature.”

“We reacted to this information, of course, and took appropriate measures,” he said, noting that the actions the F.S.B. took to follow up on the tip didn’t confirm it.

The adversarial relationship between Washington and Moscow prevented U.S. officials from sharing any information about the plot beyond what was necessary, out of fear Russian authorities might learn their intelligence sources or methods.

In its March 7 public warning, the U.S. embassy said the risk of a concert venue attack in Moscow was acute for the next 48 hours. U.S. officials say it’s possible Russian authorities pushed hard around the 48-hour warning period but later grew more relaxed and distrustful when an attack didn’t occur.

But by then, the skepticism about the plot had grown within the Russian government, and Mr. Putin felt comfortable deriding the public warnings in a speech to top officers at the F.S.B., using the occasion to attack the West again.

涉嫌发动周五袭击的四人之一沙姆西丁·法里杜尼在莫斯科法庭上。 Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

“Because the F.S.B. — and Putin — sees the world through the prism that the United States is out to get Russia, any information that is not consistent with that frame is easily dismissed,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, who previously led analyses of Russia by the U.S. intelligence community. “因为联邦安全局——以及普京——是通过美国要对付俄罗斯的视角来看待世界的,所以任何不符合这个框架的信息都很容易被忽视,”新美国安全中心高级研究员安德里亚·肯德尔-泰勒说。她之前领导了美国情报界对俄罗斯的分析。

She said, “That dynamic may have resulted in an intelligence failure with devastating consequences.”

In the days since the attack, Moscow has returned the favor to Washington for offering the tip by claiming its warning should be treated as evidence of possible American complicity.

Mr. Bortnikov, the F.S.B. director, said on Tuesday that Islamist extremists alone couldn’t possibly have carried out the attack. He blamed, among others, the United States.

Oleg Matsnev、Safak Timur和Aric Toler对本文有报道贡献。

Paul Sonne是一名国际新闻记者,报道俄罗斯新闻和普京的国内和国际政策产生的一系列影响,主要关注乌克兰战争。

Eric Schmitt是时报国家安全记者,着重报道美国军事新闻和海外反恐新闻,他报道这一领域已超过30年。

Michael Schwirtz是时报国际版面调查记者。他自2006年加入时报,此前自莫斯科报道前苏联成员国新闻,他是因报道俄罗斯情报行动而获得2020年普利策奖的团队的首席记者。点击查看更多关于他的信息。