Putin announces that Islamic militants carried out the attack on a concert and hints at a Ukrainian role

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Friday’s attack on a concert outside Moscow was carried out by Islamic militants, but suggested that it was in Ukraine’s interests and that Kiev may have played a role.

Putin’s comments came during a meeting in the Kremlin devoted to measures taken in response to the attack, while France agreed with the United States in saying that intelligence information indicates that the extremist Islamic State group is responsible for the attack.

In the deadliest attack inside Russia in twenty years, four men stormed Crocus City Hall on Friday evening and opened fire during a concert by the Soviet-era rock band Piknik.

Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Russian Investigative Committee, told the Kremlin meeting that the death toll had risen to 139 people, with 182 injured.

Russia is holding four men of Tajik origin on terrorism charges in the Basmanny District Court in Moscow on suspicion of carrying out the attack.

Three others, also of Tajik origin, were detained on suspicion of complicity.

The extremist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack and published what it said was footage of the massacre.

Putin said in statements published on Telegram, “We know that the crime was carried out by extremist Islamists with an ideology that the Islamic world has fought for centuries”.

The Russian president didn’t mention ISIS directly, and repeated his previous assertion that the attackers were trying to flee to Ukraine, saying there were many questions to be examined.

He said, “The question that arises is who benefits from this? These atrocities may be just a link in a whole series of attempts carried out by those who have been waging war with our country since 2014 at the hands of the neo-Nazi regime in Kiev”.

He added, “We know by whom the crime was committed against Russia and its people, but what matters to us is who ordered it”.

Putin said the purpose of the attack was to spread panic, but as Russian forces advance into the war zone in Ukraine, it may also be “to show their citizens that the Kiev regime hasn’t lost everything”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky mocked Putin’s comments in his video evening speech, saying that for the Kremlin leader, “everyone is terrorists, except for himself, even though he has been benefiting from terrorism for two decades”.

His comments refer to allegations that Putin has been behind many acts of violence in Russia since he took power in 2000.

“When he leaves, the need for terrorism and violence will disappear with him,” Zelensky said.

Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 after eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian Ukrainians.

Ukraine denied any role in Friday’s shooting, and Zelensky accused Putin of seeking to shift responsibility to others, and Washington said it believed ISIS’s claims.

US officials said they warned Russia this month of intelligence indicating an imminent attack and that the information indicated that an Afghan branch of the Islamic State called Islamic State-Khorasan Province was responsible for carrying out the attack.

John Kirby, White House national security spokesman, told reporters in Washington that the United States is very vigilant in tracking ISIS activities.

“Because of the aggressive way in which we were monitoring ISIS, we were able to warn the Russians that they were, in fact, moving toward a potential terrorist attack in the very near future,” Kirby said.

French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that available information “does indicate that an entity affiliated with ISIS instigated this attack”.

He added, “This group also attempted to commit several acts on our lands”.

Macron said that France had offered to help find the perpetrators, adding, “I think it would be ridiculous and counterproductive for Russia itself and the security of its citizens to use this context to try to turn it against Ukraine”.

Hundreds of Russians laid flowers outside Crocus City Hall in memory of the victims.

The city’s Oktyabrsky Concert Hall announced that the Piknik Band, which was scheduled to perform at Crocus Hall on Friday, will hold a memorial concert in St. Petersburg on Wednesday with a symphony orchestra to help the victims.

Putin said that 11 people were arrested, including four people suspected of being the gunmen who carried out the attack, who he said made their way to the Bryansk region, about 340 kilometers southwest of Moscow, to try to infiltrate Ukraine.

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