Brandon Martinez / Non-Aligned Media
Recall the October 2015 crash of Metrojet Flight 9268 over Egypt’s Sinai, killing all 224 passengers and crew on board. The plane was carrying mostly Russian vacationers on their way back home. The crash occurred about one month after Putin ordered Russian air forces to enter the Syrian civil war on the side of Assad.
A month or so went by without an official storyline explaining what happened, but some quarters of the mainstream media – drawing on speculation from Western intelligence sources and terror analysts – began hypothesizing about an ISIS revenge attack following the entrance of Russia into the air war against the militant group in Syria.
Russia eventually settled on the narrative that ISIS somehow smuggled and detonated a bomb on the plane, causing it to tear apart in mid-air shortly after takeoff. But curiously, during the Russia-Turkey spat after the Turks shot down a Russian military jet that crossed into their airspace from Syria, the Kremlin spuriously tried to implicate a militant Turkish nationalist group called the Grey Wolves in the Metrojet crash. At this time the Russian media was on an all-out propaganda offensive digging up any dirt it could find on Turkish President Erdogan to avenge the downing of the Russian fighter jet in November 2015.
ISIS officially did not initially put out any serious claims of responsibility for the Metrojet disaster during the first few weeks when authorities were treating it as an accidental or mechanical malfunction-caused crash, but once the Kremlin and others officially declared it terrorism, ISIS was happy to take credit for it as it has done with just about any act of violence in countries that belong to the Western anti-ISIS coalition. ISIS later published an official claim of responsibility accompanied by a laughable photo of an improvised “pop can bomb” in their magazine Dabiq, claiming that was the device used to bring down the Metrojet flight. An ISIS affiliate in the Sinai did put out an early claim of responsibility, but suggested that they shot it down with a rocket launcher from the ground (which is not what happened) and did not explain how they knew this particular commercial plane (which was at cruising altitude of 31,000 feet when it suddenly fell out of the sky) was Russia-bound and had mostly Russians on board. In other words, it was disinformation.
It was not sufficiently explained how explosives made it through airport security in a highly-militarized police state like Egypt. Nearly all of the passengers and crew on board were Russians, so if a “pop can bomb” really did cause the destruction, then how did it get onto the flight in the first place? Was it slipped into a traveler’s bag and that person unwittingly brought the bomb on board with them? Either that or ISIS had a mole embedded within the baggage handling staff at the Egyptian airport. But such a person has never been identified. No evidence for any of this was presented by Russia, the Egyptian authorities, or anyone else. The claim of responsibility alone is not sufficient, especially considering ISIS’s proven overeagerness to claim credit for just about anything foreign governments are willing to attribute to it.
An interesting article published in Britain’s Daily Mail lays out another possibility: Putin ordered the bombing of the plane to elicit international support for Russia’s nascent military campaign in Syria as well as a generalized sympathy for Russia just as it had become increasingly isolated via Western-led economic sanctions in response to Putin’s seizure of Crimea and interference in Ukraine. The murder of hundreds of Russian tourists would indeed provide a powerful incentive for the international community to rally behind Russia. The effect was similar to that of the massacre of British vacationers on a Tunisian beach (allegedly by an ISIS-linked gunman) in June of 2015. That attack exponentially raised international opprobrium against ISIS and educed more public support for British military intervention in Syria and Iraq.
The Mail interviewed a former high-ranking KGB major now living in exile somewhere in England, Boris Karpichkov, who claimed to have in his possession a secret dossier through his contacts in Russia’s intelligence community which proved a Russian FSB hand behind the Metrojet disaster. The Mail outlined the boon to the Kremlin’s global standing resulting from the crash thusly:
Islamic fanatics soon claimed responsibility for this horrific act of mass murder, subsequently publishing a photograph of a drinks can concealing a timer and explosives, which the extremists claimed had been smuggled on to the aircraft, and detonated after it took off.
Yet, intriguingly, the [ISIS] extremists initially seemed to have as little detail about what actually happened as authorities on the ground, who, in the first hours after the disaster, were unsure of the cause.
Instead, in a brief and strikingly vague statement, IS condemned ‘Russian crusaders’ for their involvement in Syria, and warned that infidels ‘neither have safety in the lands of Muslims nor in their air’ and that ‘soldiers of the Caliphate were able to down a Russian airplane over Sinai province’.
If anything, the implication seemed to be that they had shot down the plane from the ground, not sabotaged it with a bomb. What’s not in dispute is that the atrocity prompted an extraordinary, seismic shift in world politics between former foes.
Even though sanctions had been imposed on the Moscow regime over its intervention in Ukraine, David Cameron immediately made efforts to improve relations with Russia by phoning President Vladimir Putin to tell him that the British people ‘shared the pain and grief’ of the Russian people.
Putin was said to have been ‘gladdened’ by the call, and welcomed Cameron’s offer to help Russia track down the perpetrators, as other world powers — including France, Germany and China — pledged their solidarity with Russia over the outrage.
Public opinion, both in Russia and internationally, swung behind Putin after he swore to take ruthless revenge on Islamic State. Moscow started bombing Syria (where ISIS is taking on the ruling Bashar al-Assad government) within days of the aircraft being downed.
Karpichkov opines that Putin,
cynically authorised the tragedy not only to obtain worldwide sympathy at a time when Russia was being treated as a pariah because of its aggression towards Ukraine, but also to gain support for its ostensible belligerence against ISIS, which Putin would use as a cover to attack rebel groups in Syria who were sworn enemies of his ally President al-Assad.
Furthering the argument, the Mail writes:
The major claims his information comes from a general lieutenant in GRU (one of Russia’s numerous military intelligence wings).
This man told him, he says, that around the time of the plane’s crash, Putin had been expressing his concerns to Kremlin allies about ‘possible losses of political influence’ in Syria and the Middle East. Putin, he went on, was worried about the fate of his traditional ally in the region, President al-Assad, given the West’s support for rebel groups trying to depose him.
A plan was allegedly hatched by officials within GRU to reverse Russia’s declining influence in the region and — as Major Karpichkov claims he was told by a senior source — to ‘kill two rabbits with one bullet’.
The aim was to get ‘at least silent international approval’ for massive military operations against Assad’s enemies under the guise of a campaign against the IS terrorists blamed for bombing the Russian passenger jet; and to bolster Russia’s multi-billion-pound weapons business with the Middle East.
This was all summarised in a dossier compiled by the former KGB spy: ‘In order to accomplish all these aims and to get Western consent to fighting Islamic State (which was, essentially, official support for keeping the Assad regime in power), the Kremlin desperately needed the kind of justification which would generate worldwide attention and full international sympathy and approval for military action.’
The article does caution that Karpichkov assumed a new identity after having a falling out with his former KGB bosses over money the agency failed to pay him, a dispute that lead to his exile. This could lead some to question his objectivity and it is worth noting, but his logic is sound and his theory is not far out of left field considering the KGB’s notorious track record of extreme deception, lies and terrorism against its own people to maintain power.
Conclusive evidence confirming Karpichkov’s theory has not yet been uncovered, but the thesis’ general logic is compelling and it is as plausible as any of the other theories, with the official Western and Kremlin-backed narrative of the ISIS pop can bomb being the most dubious of all.
During the aftermath of this event the “alternative” media was confused as to which way to spin it. Alt-media outlets were initially skeptical of the ISIS narrative because its loudest early proponents were Western governments and intel sources, but as soon as the Kremlin endorsed that theory the Kremlin-loyal alt-media fell right in line.
The fact that no major alt-media outlet even aired out the possibility of a Russian false-flag demonstrates the Kremlin’s pervasive influence over the charlatans, hacks and opportunists at the helm of the compromised industry. These same outlets frantically pour over every minute detail of every high-profile terrorist attack or shooting that occurs in any Western country trying to find the slightest flaw or crack in the narrative. They jump to conclusions of “false flag” and “staged event” involving crisis actors, fake blood and green screens extraordinarily quickly, often within hours of any given incident. Yet when an international terror spectacle involves Russia, none of these alt-media outlets or personalities raise the most basic cui bono type questions, let alone studiously investigate, which they are notoriously overeager to do when following up on major occurrences in the West.
This is not the first plane that some suspect was downed by Putin’s Kremlin for political reasons. There was the curious crash of the Polish presidential plane in 2010, killing the entire upper echelons of the Polish government and military who were en route to Russia for a memorial service commemorating the Katyn forest massacre, the slaughter of more than 20,000 Polish POWs by the Soviets during World War II. One cannot help but reflect on the eerie coincidence surrounding the suspicious crash: the Polish presidential plane met its demise in a wooded area in Smolensk, a city in the West of Russia, not far from where the original Polish victims of the Katyn forest massacre were shot and then buried by their Russian NKVD executioners. A frightening amateur video surfaced showing the immediate aftermath of the crash in which what appear to be gun shots can be heard ringing out near the wreckage of the downed plane – the implication being that Russian police or military quickly swept in and executed survivors of the crash, thus eliminating any witnesses who could have revealed what actually brought down the aircraft. As James Corbett notes in his stellar reporting below, Vladimir Putin took “personal control” of the investigation of the tragedy, ensuring that anything anomalous was kept from public view and out of official reports.
There was the 2002 helicopter crash that killed former Russian general and politician Alexander Lebed, a rival of Putin who had publicly accused the Kremlin of orchestrating the 1999 apartment bombings. Then there was the July 2014 shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17 over war-torn Eastern Ukraine, killing all 300 passengers and crew, which investigators believe was perpetrated by Russian-backed rebels. Although in this case the Kremlin-loyal alt-media has heavily pushed the theory, taking its cues from RT, that Ukraine’s military shot it down as a false-flag to blame Russia. Whatever the truth of that event, if Putin’s key role in the 1999 apartment bombings tells us anything, it’s that the Machiavellian Kremlin ruler is very much capable of killing his own people for political gain.