Vladimir Putin Triggers Blame Game In Wake Of Moscow Attack

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Sunday a day of national mourning in response to the Moscow attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Sunday a day of national mourning in response to the Moscow attack. via Associated Press

Russia is refusing to blame the so-called Islamic State for Friday’s massacre in Moscow, even though the militant group has already taken responsibility.

Vladimir Putin has instead insinuated that Ukraine could be involved – a claim Kyiv vehemently denies – despite having no evidence.

What happened on Friday?

A mass shooting unfolded in a Moscow venue, Crocus City Hall, on Friday, followed by a large fire across the building. At least 137 people died and 100 others were injured.

It was the worst attack within Russia for two decades.

More than 200 people may have been in the hall when part of the roof fell due to the blaze, too.

Regional officials say rescuers will continue searching through the concert hall rubble for more victims until Tuesday afternoon.

The four men believed to be behind the attack – all from Tajikistan, according to Russia state news – were charged with committing an act of terrorism by Russia on Monday.

Images of them in court suggest they have been beaten or tortured. One of the men was in a wheelchair, and Reuters reported one appeared to have an eye missing.

Two out of the four have pleaded guilty. They will be held in pre-trial detention until at least May 22.

Seven others have been arrested in connection to the incident, too.

<span class="copyright">BERTRAND GUAY via Getty Images</span>
BERTRAND GUAY via Getty Images

Who is responsible?

The Islamic State group, IS, said it was responsible for the attack, and has released a graphic video showing the attackers firing on the crowds. The BBC has since verified the footage.

But, Russian officials are repeatedly blaming Ukraine, despite having no evidence.

Moscow has also refused to acknowledge the statement from IS so far.

How has Russia responded instead?

Putin alleged Ukraine had “prepared a window” for the suspects to cross the border and escape into its territory – although he stopped short of accusing Ukraine of direct involvement.

“They tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border,” he claimed.

Ukraine has vehemently rejected these claims, saying they were “absurd” – especially as the Russia-Ukraine border is occupied by so many Russian soldiers.

There is no evidence to suggest Ukraine was involved in these attacks.

The US’s national security council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson, said IS has “sole responsibility for this attack”, adding: “There was no Ukrainian involvement whatsoever.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov seemed to change tack slightly on Monday, when he said it would inappropriate to comment on who may be behind the attack while investigations are ongoing.

He also sidestepped concerns about Russian security, saying: “No country can be completely immune from the threat of terrorism.”

He added that there was little collaboration between countries right now due to the tense international situation – he failed to mention how Russia is now isolated on the world stage because of its invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russian State Duma Deputy from occupied Crimea, Mikhail Sheremet went further on Sunday and claimed that Western intelligence are even trying to target migrants inside Russia for terrorist attacks.

Why would IS want to target Russia?

Tensions have been growing between Moscow and the group for years.

IS also claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian aircraft over Egypt in 2015, and a bomb attack on the St Petersburg metro in 2017.

It’s thought the Khorasan branch of IS, Isis-K, probably carried out the attack – it operates in Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia, like Tajikistan, and often targets President Putin in its propaganda.

Russia did attack IS in Syria to defend its ally President Bashar al-Assad’s premiership back in 2015.

The US also says it warned Russia of a potential attack on March 7, and issued a public advisory to Americans in the country.

But, Russia ignored it, writing it off as propaganda ahead of its own presidential election.

Putin himself called it “blackmail” just three days before Friday’s massacre actually happened.

Even after the incident, Peskov dismissed claims that Russia needs help from the West, saying: “Our special services are working independently, now there is no question of any help.”