The Russian president points to radical Islamists as the perpetrators. However, Putin still does not give up on the narrative of a Ukrainian lead.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lights a candle

Mourning in the Moscow Concert Hall: Vladimir Putin Photo: Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

MOSCOW rtr/taz | Three days after the attack on a concert near Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin named radical Islamists as perpetrators. Putin said late Monday that the attack was part of a series of Ukrainian intimidation attempts. “This atrocity may be just one link in a series of attempts by those who have been at war with our country since 2014 through the actions of the neo-Nazi regime in kyiv.”

The planners of the attack hoped to sow panic and discord in Russian society. “But they were met with unity and determination to resist this evil.” Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and followed up with a major invasion in February 2022. On Friday, four gunmen burst into a town hall during a rock concert and opened fire on visitors. Then a fire broke out. At least 137 people were killed and more than 180 injured.

The extremist militia Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the crime. This also released video footage said to have been taken during the attack. The United States called the confession credible. French President Emmanuel Macron also said Monday that available intelligence pointed to an IS attack. “The group has also attempted to carry out several attacks in our territory,” he said in French Guiana.

The United States rejects ties with Ukraine

Putin, on the other hand, had established a connection with Ukraine over the weekend. He did not address ISIS. According to Russian authorities, the perpetrators tried to escape to Ukraine, where they allegedly had contacts. After the US statement on ISIS, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova wrote in the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that the US was spreading the specter of ISIS to distract attention from its “wards” in Kiev.

US Presidential Office spokesman John Kirby on Monday rejected the possibility of ties with Ukraine raised by Russia. “This is just more Kremlin propaganda,” he said. The kyiv government has denied any involvement.

According to Russian information, the four alleged perpetrators were arrested. They are said to be of Tajik descent. A Moscow court ordered preventive detention. When they appeared in court, one of the alleged perpetrators had a bandage over his ear and another had injuries to his face. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not respond to a journalist's question about whether the men had been tortured.