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U.S. Warned Of Possible Moscow Attack Before Concert Mass Shooting

The U.S. Embassy in Russia warned of “imminent plans” by extremists to carry out an attack in Moscow two weeks before Friday’s mass shooting and fire at a concert hall, but Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed off the warning as “provocative” fearmongering from the West.

The Embassy advised U.S. citizens to avoid large gatherings over reports that extremists planned to target large events, including concerts. The warning, while issued March 7, was related to Friday night’s attack, The New York Times reported, citing people briefed on the matter.

“The Embassy is monitoring reports that extremists have imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts, and U.S. citizens should be advised to avoid large gatherings over the next 48 hours,” the alert read.

A woman lights candles at the fence next to the Crocus City Hall, on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, on Saturday.
A woman lights candles at the fence next to the Crocus City Hall, on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, on Saturday. via Associated Press

Putin last week dismissed the alert as “outright blackmail,” however, saying it was meant to sow fear in Russian society.

“All these actions resemble outright blackmail and the intention to intimidate and destabilize our society,” he said during a March 19 meeting, according to a Kremlin transcript.

Three days after that public dismissal, at least 137 people were killed and more than 180 others injured after several gunmen opened fire inside of a sold-out concert at Crocus City Hall. An affiliate of the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the massacre.

Russian officials have since tried to point blame for the attack on Ukraine, which it has been at war with since Putin’s invasion in early 2022.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting on measures taken after a massacre in the Crocus City Hall that killed more than 130 people.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting on measures taken after a massacre in the Crocus City Hall that killed more than 130 people. MIKHAIL METZEL via Getty Images

In a televised address over the weekend, Putin said four suspects captured after the attack were attempting to “move towards Ukraine where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them from the Ukrainian side to cross the state border.”

According to the Times’ report, the U.S. Embassy’s earlier warning did not involve anything having to do with Ukrainian sabotage. The Times’ sources also noted that the State Department would not have used the word “extremists” when referring to an action ordered by Kyiv.

The Embassy’s warning also came several hours after Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said that it had thwarted an attack on a Moscow synagogue by a cell of the Islamic State, Reuters reported at the time.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has denied that his country was in any way involved in Friday’s massacre. U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has also said that there is no initial indication that Ukraine was involved in the attack.

The U.S. has advised citizens not to travel to Russia, issuing its highest Level-4 Travel Advisory.

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