The western narrative of a ‘losing Russia’ has just been decimated by Moscow’s blitzkrieg against Ukraine and its foreign-backed terror operations.
First published in The Cradle.
The terror attack on Krymskiy Most – the Crimea Bridge – was the proverbial straw that broke the Eurasian camel’s back.
Russian President Vladimir Putin neatly summarised it: “This is a terrorist attack aimed at destroying the critical civilian infrastructure of the Russian Federation.”
The head of the Russian Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, confirmed face-to-face with Putin that Terror on the Bridge was carried out by the SBU – Ukrainian special services.
Bastrykin told Putin, “we have already established the route of the truck, where the explosion took place. Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, North Ossetia, Krasnodar… The carriers have been identified. With the help of operatives of the FSB, we managed to identify suspects.”
Russian intel leaked crucial info to military correspondent Alexander Kots. The cargo was ordered by a Ukrainian citizen: explosives packed in 22 pallets, in rolls of film under plastic wrap, were shipped from Bulgaria to the Georgian port of Poti. Afterwards, the cargo was loaded onto a truck with foreign license plates and proceeded overland to Armenia.
Clearance at the Armenia-Russia border was smooth – according to the rules of the Eurasian Customs Union (both Russia and Armenia are members of the Eurasian Economic Union, or EAEU). The cargo evidently avoided detection through X-rays. This route is standard for truckers traveling to Russia.
The truck then re-entered Georgia and crossed the border into Russia again, but this time through the Upper Lars checkpoint. That’s the same one used by thousands of Russians fleeing partial mobilisation. The truck ended up in Armavir, where the cargo was transferred to another truck, under the responsibility of Mahir Yusubov: the one that entered the Crimean bridge coming from the Russian mainland.
Very important: the transport from Armavir to a delivery address in Simferopol should have happened on October 6-7: that is, timed to the birthday of President Putin on Friday the 7th. For some unexplained reason, that was postponed for a day.
The driver of the first truck is already testifying. Yusubov, the driver of the second truck – which exploded on the bridge – was “blind:” he had no idea what he was carrying, and is dead.
At this stage, two conclusions are paramount.
First: This was not a standard ISIS-style truck suicide bombing – the preferred interpretation in the aftermath of the terror attack.
Second: The packaging most certainly took place in Bulgaria. That, as Russian intel has cryptically implied, indicates the involvement of “foreign special services.”
‘A mirage of cause and effect’
What has been revealed in public by Russian intelligence tells only part of the story. An incandescent assessment received by The Cradle from another Russian intel source is way more intriguing.
At least 450 kg of explosives were employed in the blast. Not on the truck, but mounted inside the Crimea Bridge span itself. The white truck was just a decoy by the terrorists “to create a mirage of cause and effect.” When the truck reached the point on the bridge where the explosives were mounted, the explosion took place.
According to the source, railroad employees told investigators that there was a form of electronic hijacking; the terror operators took control of the railway so the train carrying fuel received a command to stop because of a false signal that the road ahead was busy.
Bombs mounted on the bridge spans were a working hypothesis largely debated in Russian military channels over the weekend, as well as the use of underwater drones.
In the end, the quite sophisticated plan could not follow the necessarily rigid timing. There was no alignment by the millimeter between the mounted explosive charges, the passing truck and the fuel train stopped in its tracks. Damage was limited, and easily contained. The charges/truck combo exploded on the outer right lane of the road. Damage was only on two sections of the outer lane, and not much on the railway bridge.
In the end, Terror on the Bridge yielded a short, Pyrrhic PR victory – duly celebrated across the collective West – with negligible practical success: transfer of Russian military cargo by railway resumed in roughly 14 hours.
And that brings us to the key information in the Russian intel source assessment: the whodunnit.
It was a plan by the British MI6, says this source, without offering further details. Which, he elaborates, Russian intel, for a number of reasons, is shadow-playing as “foreign special services.”
It’s quite telling that the Americans rushed to establish plausible deniability. The proverbial “Ukrainian government official” told CIA mouthpiece The Washington Post that the SBU did it. That was a straight confirmation of an Ukrainska Pravda report based on an “unidentified law enforcement official.”
The perfect red line trifecta
Already, over the weekend, it was clear the ultimate red line had been crossed. Russian public opinion and media were furious. For all its status as an engineering marvel, Krymsky Most represents not only critical infrastructure; it is the visual symbol of the return of Crimea to Russia.
Moreover, this was a personal terror attack on Putin and the whole Russian security apparatus.
So we had, in sequence, Ukrainian terrorists blowing up Darya Dugina’s car in a Moscow suburb (they admitted it); US/UK special forces (partially) blowing Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 (they admitted and then retracted); and the terror attack on Krymsky Most (once again: admitted then retracted).
Not to mention the shelling of Russian villages in Belgorod, NATO supplying long-range weapons to Kiev, and the routine execution of Russian soldiers.
Darya Dugina, Nord Streams and Crimea Bridge make it an Act of War trifecta. So this time the response was inevitable – not even waiting for the first meeting since February of the Russian Security Council scheduled for the afternoon of 10 October.
Moscow launched the first wave of a Russian Shock’n Awe without even changing the status of the Special Military Operation (SMO) to Counter-Terrorist Operation (CTO), with all its serious military/legal implications.
After all, even before the UN Security Council meeting, Russian public opinion was massively behind taking the gloves off. Putin had not even scheduled bilateral meetings with any of the members. Diplomatic sources hint that the decision to let the hammer come down had already been taken over the weekend.
Shock’n Awe did not wait for the announcement of an ultimatum to Ukraine (that may come in a few days); an official declaration of war (not necessary); or even announcing which ‘”decision-making centers” in Ukraine would be hit.
The lightning strike de facto metastasising of SMO into CTO means that the regime in Kiev and those supporting it are now considered as legitimate targets, just like ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra during the Anti-Terror Operation (ATO) in Syria.
And the change of status – now this is a real war on terror – means that terminating all strands of terrorism, physical, cultural, ideological, are the absolute priority, and not the safety of Ukrainian civilians. During the SMO, safety of civilians was paramount. Even the UN has been forced to admit that in over seven months of SMO the number of civilian casualties in Ukraine has been relatively low.
Enter ‘Commander Armageddon’
The face of Russian Shock’n Awe is Russian Commander of the Aerospace Forces, Army General Sergey Surovikin: the new commander-in-chief of the now totally centralised SMO/CTO.
Questions were being asked non-stop: why didn’t Moscow take this decision way back in February? Well, better late than never. Kiev is now learning they messed with the wrong guy. Surovikin is widely respected – and feared: his nickname is “General Armageddon.” Others call him “Cannibal.” Legendary Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov – also a colonel general in the Russian military – lavishly praises Surovikin as “a real general and warrior, an experienced, strong-willed and far-sighted commander.”
Surovikin has been commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces since 2017; was awarded the title of Hero of Russia for his no-nonsense leadership of the military operation in Syria; and had on the ground experience in Chechnya in the 1990s.
Surovikin is Dr. Shock’n Awe with full carte blanche. That even rendered idle speculations that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov were removed or forced to resign, as speculated by the Wagner group Telegram channel Grey Zone.
It is still possible that Shoigu – widely criticised for recent Russian military setbacks – could be eventually replaced by Tula Governor Alexei Dyumin, and Gerasimov by the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces, Lieutenant General Alexander Matovnikov.
That’s almost irrevelant: all eyes are on Surovikin.
MI6 does have some well-placed moles in Moscow, relatively speaking. The Brits had warned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the General Staff that the Russians would be launching a “warning strike” this Monday.
What happened was no “warning strike,” but a massive offensive of over 100 cruise missiles launched “from the air, sea and land,” as Putin noted, against Ukrainian “energy, military command and communications facilities.”
MI6 also noted “the next step” will be the complete destruction of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. That’s not a “next step:” it’s already happening. Power supply is completely gone in five regions, including Lviv and Kharkov, and there are serious interruptions in other five, including Kiev.
Over 60 percent of Ukrainian power grids are already knocked out. Over 75 percent of internet traffic is gone. Elon Musk’s Starlink netcentric warfare has been “disconnected” by the Ministry of Defence.
Shock’n Awe will likely progress in three stages.
First: Overload of the Ukrainian air defence system (already on).
Second: Plunging Ukraine into the Dark Ages (already in progress).
Third: Destruction of all major military installations (the next wave).
Ukraine is about to embrace nearly total darkness in the next few days. Politically, that opens a completely new ball game. Considering Moscow’s trademark “strategic ambiguity,” this could be a sort of Desert Storm remixed (massive air strikes preparing a ground offensive); or, more likely, an ‘incentive’ to force NATO to negotiate; or just a relentless, systematic missile offensive mixed with Electronic Warfare (EW) to shatter for good Kiev’s capacity to wage war.
Or it could be all of the above.
How a humiliated western Empire can possibly raise the stakes now, short of going nuclear, remains a key question. Moscow has shown admirable restraint for too long. No one should ever forget that in the real Great Game – how to coordinate the emergence of the multipolar world – Ukraine is just a mere sideshow. But now the sideshow runners better run for cover, because General Armageddon is on the loose.
Pepe Escobar is a columnist at The Cradle, editor-at-large at Asia Times and an independent geopolitical analyst focused on Eurasia. Since the mid-1980s he has lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Singapore and Bangkok. He is the author of countless books; his latest one is Raging Twenties.