| Legitimate target Bellingcat defends terror attack at St Petersburg cafe | MR Online “Legitimate target” — Bellingcat defends terror attack at St. Petersburg cafe

“Legitimate target” — Bellingcat defends terror attack at St. Petersburg cafe

Originally published: The Grayzone on April 3, 2023 by Alex Rubinstein (more by The Grayzone)  | (Posted Apr 05, 2023)

In the hours that followed the April 2, 2023 bombing of a cafe in St. Petersburg, Russia, Christo Grozev of the U.S. government-funded Bellingcat outlet defended the terror attack that killed a war reporter and wounded 30 others.

Throughout his eight-minute interview with Sky News, Bellingcat’s lead Russia investigator Christo Grozev offered an unapologetic, de facto endorsement of the terror attack at a public event at the Street Food Bar № 1 cafe in St. Petersburg. In order to justify the bombing, Grozev cast it as either a legitimate Ukrainian operation carried out in the context of “hybrid warfare,” or a potential Russian false flag.

Grozev characterized the target of the attack, the Donbas-born war reporter known as Vladlen Tatarsky, as a “legitimate target” because Tatarsky had served as an armed participant in the 2014 rebellion in eastern Ukraine against the post-coup government in Kiev. The Bellingcat blogger also argued that the cafe where the explosive was detonated was not “purely civilian,” but rather, a hub for “Russian cyber warriors.”

| Street Food Bar no1 | MR Online“He was a legitimate target, he was an officer and a propagandist at the same time,” Grozev confidently told Sky News.

Asked by the presenter why Ukraine would not confine its operations to military sites “rather than a cafe in Russia’s second city,” Grozev argued:

but this is a war of little resemblance to what we’ve seen before. It’s a hybrid war in addition to being a hot war.

The Bellingcat writer, arguably a military blogger himself, justified the bombing of the cafe by insisting that it “was used regularly as a sort of a gathering point for Russian cyber actors, cyber warriors that are, that are in fact targeting Ukraine’s infrastructure… So whether or not this was a purely civilian location—one might argue with that.”

Grozev’s comments echoed those of neoconservative activists like Michael Weiss and the pro-Kiev troll army known as NAFO.

| Street Food Bar no1 | MR OnlineThe cafe’s internet presence tells a different story, with 2,073 Google reviews and 161 reviews on TripAdviso r. Presumably, Russian cyber warriors have more important things to do with their time than rate restaurants online. Sky News itself reports that the blogger Tatarsky was meeting with “members of the public” at the time of the attack.

Grozev went on to justify the Ukrainian SBU security service’s attempted assassination of Russian nationalist philosopher, Alexander Dugin, which wound up killing his daughter, Dariya Dugina instead. He described the latter as “equally a propagandist but not in any way as influential as her father, um, or, and as much as a legitimate target.”

Asked about the potential for the St. Petersburg attack to have been committed by a Russian national, Grozev lamented the country’s lack of homegrown terror, commenting to Sky News,

As much as one would hope that there is an an active resistance within Russia that takes risks I think a lot of the talk that we’ve seen about that are in fact Ukrainian operations that are presented as local resistance.

Grozev’s argument that Vladlen Tatarsky and Alexander Dugin were legitimate terrorist targets because they functioned as “propagandists” would not only open up droves of Western media commentators to political violence if his logic was applied to them, it would place Grozev’s employers at Bellingcat in special danger. Indeed, Grozev works for an outlet that has been funded by the CIA cutout known as the National Endowment for Democracy, and which participated in a covert UK Foreign Office initiative designed to “weaken the Russian state’s influence.”

Alex Rubinstein is an independent reporter on Substack. You can subscribe to get free articles from him delivered to your inbox here. If you want to support his journalism, which is never put behind a paywall, you can give a one-time donation to him through PayPal  here or sustain his reporting through Patreon  here.

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