Despite signs of IS involvement, Putin implies Kyiv is behind deadly terror attack

Posted on : 2024-03-25 17:11 KST Modified on : 2024-03-25 17:11 KST
The Islamic State took credit for the attack on a concert hall that killed over 130 people, but Putin has yet to acknowledge that the group may be behind the attack
Emergency workers clear rubble after a terror attack and explosion at Crocus City Hall on the outskirts of Moscow on March 22, 2024 (local time). (TASS/Yonhap)
Emergency workers clear rubble after a terror attack and explosion at Crocus City Hall on the outskirts of Moscow on March 22, 2024 (local time). (TASS/Yonhap)

A terrorist attack that produced at least 280 casualties in a Moscow concert hall is likely going to go down as one of the greatest tragedies to occur on Russian soil under Putin’s watch, which started in 1999. Soon after the attack, the Islamic State-Khorasan Province, a regional branch of the militant Sunni Islamic group, took credit for the attack. The Kremlin, however, insists that the attack is linked to Ukraine. Moscow’s official response to the attack is likely an indication of its intention to further dig in its heels against Kyiv on the battlefield. 

On Friday, over 6,200 concertgoers rushed into the Crocus City Hall music venue to see a performance by the rock band Piknik. Suddenly, camouflaged gunmen indiscriminately opened fire on the crowd. According to Russian state news agency TASS, the attackers killed at least 133 people while injuring over 150. 

Russian security forces apprehended four suspects in the Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine and Belarus. Reports say authorities have apprehended a total of 11 suspects so far. The four suspects arrested in Bryansk were in a car containing Saiga hunting rifles, Makarov pistols, AK rifles and ammunition, and Tajikistan passports. 

RT, a state-run television network, released footage of the interrogation of the four suspects. 

One of the suspects claims he was commissioned to carry out the attack, that he had received 500,000 rubles (US$5,400) and was promised an additional million (US$10,900) upon completing the assignment. Russian authorities have confirmed that the suspects are not Russian, but have yet to reveal the suspects’ nationalities.

After the attack, the Islamic State’s Amaq news agency posted a statement on its Telegram channel to take credit, claiming it had “attacked the large crowd on the outskirts of Moscow.” Russia was heavily involved in the 2015 Syrian civil war, sending troops to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad in its fight against ISIS. 

Yet in a public address given 19 hours after the attack, on Saturday, Putin did not even mention the Islamic State.

“They were trying to hide and were moving toward Ukraine,” Putin said, adding that investigators had discovered that “a window for crossing the border was prepared for them by the Ukrainian side.”

The Russian security service, FSB, also announced that the suspects had been attempting to cross the Ukrainian border, and had a contact in Ukraine.

Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, has stated that there is reason to believe that the Kyiv regime hired the terrorists. 

Kyiv has denied involvement, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying, “Putin and the other scum are just trying to blame it on someone else.” 

US intelligence officers at the American Embassy in Moscow had reportedly warned Russia about the possibility of an attack by an extremist group. Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, drew the line by stating, “There was no Ukrainian involvement whatsoever.”

Embroiled in its third year of war with Ukraine, Moscow certainly has an incentive to exploit the situation to attack Ukraine. On Sunday, Russia fired dozens of missiles toward Kyiv and Lviv, a city in western Ukraine.

There is the possibility that Putin is directing blame toward Ukraine to avoid scrutiny of the failures of his administration’s anti-terrorist efforts.

The New York Times pointed out that the terrorist attack, which occurred less than a week after the recent presidential election (March 15-17) that secured Putin 30 years of rule, was likely going to make Putin look bad.

"Suddenly, against the backdrop of a confident victory in the election, there’s this demonstrative humiliation," said Russian political scientist Alexander Kynev.

Because “restoring order has always been Vladimir Putin’s calling card,” Kynev said, this attack is likely to leave many Russians in “shock.”

However, since 2000, Putin has successfully exploited anti-terrorism as a weapon to increase his control over domestic politics. He is likely to do the same this time around.

The international community has been offering its condolences while condemning terrorism. 

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on March 23, stating, “We mourn with the people of Russia,” and expressing “hope for a speedy investigation that will reveal the responsible parties behind the act of terror.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reportedly sent a personal message of condolence to Putin.

By Kim Mi-na, staff reporter

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