Russia blames US, UK and Ukraine for concert attack, state media reports

ITV News correspondent Rageh Omar explains why Russia is pushing that Ukraine and the West are behind the concert hall terrorist attack despite ISIS claiming responsibility

The chief of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) has said the United States, Britain and Ukraine are behind the concert hall terrorist attack, according to Russian state media outlet TASS.

At least 133 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in the mass shooting at a concert hall in Russia's capital, which saw several gunmen storm and set fire to the Crocus City Hall.

"We believe that this is true," Alexander Bortnikov said when asked whether the US, Britain and Ukraine were behind the terrorist attack.

"In any case, we are now talking about the factual information we have. This is general information, but they have a long record of this sort," he said after participating in an enlarged meeting of the Prosecutor General's Office board.

The UK government has said the claims made by the Kremlin are "ridiculous".

Russian President Vladimir Putin first linked the attack to Ukraine on Saturday. Kyiv fiercely denied the allegation and described it as "absurd".

Mr Bortnikov reportedly said that Ukraine has been trying to prove it is "capable" of carrying out such an attack.

"What is it expected to do to demonstrate its capability? It is expected to carry out sabotage and terrorist acts in the rear. This is what both the chiefs of Ukraine's special services and the British special services are aiming at. US special services have repeatedly mentioned this, too," he said.

He repeated Mr Putin's claim that the four gunmen were trying to escape to Ukraine when they were arrested, saying it served as proof of alleged involvement by Kyiv.

A massive blaze was seen over the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 22, 2024. Credit: AP

The assertion was undercut slightly by Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who said on Tuesday that the suspects were headed for Ukraine, but because they feared tight controls on the Belarus border.

The US government has yet to formally respond to the accusations, but is expected to firmly deny any involvement.

The US warned Russia "several weeks ago" of intelligence which indicated that Islamic State was planning to carry out attacks in Russia, officials told ITV News at the time of the incident.

UK and US residents were told not to travel to Russia two weeks beforehand, following a warning that "extremists" were planning a terror attack against Moscow.

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A Russian court charged four men on terrorism charges following the incident, while a branch of so-called Islamic State, ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for the attack.

US Vice President Kamala Harris said on Sunday that “what we know to be the case is that ISIS-K is actually, by all accounts responsible for what happened.” A US intelligence official said their colleagues had confirmed the claim by the terrorist organisation's Afghanistan-based branch.

French President Emmanuel Macron said France also has intelligence pointing to “an IS entity” as having been responsible for the attack.

Russian officials have not confirmed whether they believe ISIS-K were behind the attack.

The men, who appeared before a court on Sunday, showed signs of severe beatings as they faced the formal charges, with one appearing to be barely conscious during the hearing.

A court statement said two of the suspects accepted their guilt in the assault after being charged in the preliminary hearing, though the men’s condition raised questions about whether they were speaking freely.

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