Russia points finger of blame at Kyiv over Moscow gun attack

AFP , Tuesday 26 Mar 2024

A senior Russian security official on Tuesday laid the blame on Ukraine for orchestrating the attack on a Moscow concert hall that left at least 139 people dead last week.

File photo: A view of the Crocus City Hall burned after an attack is seen on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, Saturday, March 23, 2024. AP


The accusation from the secretary of Russia's powerful Security Council Nikolai Patrushev comes after the Islamic State group said it was behind the attack -- the most deadly on Russian territory in over two decades.

"Of course, Ukraine," said Patrushev, answering a question on whether Kyiv or the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility, was behind Friday's attack.

Despite the claims from the jihadist group and assertions from US intelligence, Moscow has accused Kyiv of being involved in the attack, Kyiv has vehemently denied any link to the attackers.

President Vladimir Putin on Monday acknowledged for the first time that "radical Islamists" were behind last week's attack, but also suggested they were linked to Ukraine.

"Of course, it is necessary to answer the question, why, after committing the crime, the terrorists tried to go to Ukraine? Who was waiting for them there?" he added.

Putin connected the attack at Crocus City Hall to a series of incursions into Russian territory by pro-Ukrainian sabaotage groups, and said they were all part of efforts to "sow panic in our society".

The concert hall massacre dealt a major blow to Putin just over a week after he secured another term in office, an outcome the Kremlin hailed as endorsement for his military operation in Ukraine.

Eighth suspected remanded

A senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday again denied Kyiv's involvement and instead blamed the "incompetence" of the Russian security services.

The Kremlin has expressed confidence in the country's powerful security agencies, despite questions swirling over how they failed to thwart the massacre despite public and private warnings from the United States.

Islamic State jihadists have said several times since Friday that they were responsible, and IS-affiliated media channels have published graphic videos of the gunmen inside the venue.

A court in Moscow meanwhile on Tuesday remanded an eighth suspect in custody over the attack at the Moscow concert hall.

Moscow earlier announced it had detained 11 people in connection with the attack, which saw camouflaged gunmen storm into Crocus City Hall, open fire on concert-goers and set the building ablaze.

The court's press service said the latest suspect to be remanded was a man originally from the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan.

Officials said he was ordered to be held in detention until at least May 22, without detailing the exact accusations against him.

Four men charged on Sunday with carrying out the attack are citizens of Tajikistan, also in mainly Muslim Central Asia.

Three more suspects -- reportedly from the same family and including at least one Russian citizen -- were charged on terror-related offences on Monday.

A Turkish official said two of the Tajik suspects had travelled "freely between Russia and Turkey" ahead of the attack.

The two had both spent time in Turkey shortly before the attack and entered Russia together on the same flight from Istanbul, the official said.

All of those held in custody have been charged with terrorism and face up to life in prison.

The Kremlin has so far pushed back at suggestions the death penalty will be re-introduced after the attack.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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