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Moscow attack: Jeremy Hunt cautious of Putin's 'smokescreen of propaganda' after Russian attack

Jeremy Hunt called the attack on Moscow on Friday night a “tragedy” but said he does not have confidence in Kremlin statements.

Four gunmen were among the 11 arrrested after suspected terrorists killed at least 133 people at the Picnic concert in the Russian capital.

The chancellor said the loss of life was "horrific" but has warned of the need to stay clear from what he called a “smokescreen of propaganda” from the Kremlin.

During an address to the nation on Saturday, president Putin said the people responsible for the massacre would be “justly and inevitably punished”. He said authorities had arrested four of those detained, adding that he believes they were headed to Ukraine.

Kyiv, meanwhile, strongly denied any involvement in Friday's attack, which the Islamic State group's affiliate in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for in a statement posted on social media channels linked to the group.

Ukraine leaders accused Mr Putin and other Russian politicians of falsely linking Ukraine to the assault in order to stoke fervor in Russia's war in Ukraine, which recently entered its third year.

Mr Hunt told Sky News on Sunday: “We have very little confidence in anything the Russian government says.

“[Russia is] creating a smokescreen of propaganda to defend an utterly evil invasion of Ukraine.

 (PA)
(PA)

“That doesn’t mean it is not a tragedy when innocent people die.

“[I take] everything the Russian government says with a pinch of salt after what we have seen.”

A US intelligence official told news agency The Associated Press that US agencies had confirmed that IS was responsible for the attack.

Mr Putin cast the enemy as "international terrorism" and said that he was ready to work with any state that wanted to defeat it.

"All the perpetrators, organisers and those who ordered this crime will be justly and inevitably punished. Whoever they are, whoever is guiding them," Putin said.

"We will identify and punish everyone who stands behind the terrorists, who prepared this atrocity, this strike against Russia, against our people."

The shooters are believed to have also set fire to the building with explosives during Friday’s attack, leaving the sprawling shopping mall and music venue smoldering with a collapsed roof.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Russia's National Guard and more than 50 ambulance crews arrived at the scene shortly after the first reports of the attack at around 6pm.

But the blaze raged for more than one hour while firemen were unable to approach the building during the shooting. By 8pm, emergency services had begun to tackle the blaze with the assistance of a helicopter.

Crowds had gathered for a concert of Russian rock band Picnic, at the hall which can hold more than 6,000 people. The attack began simultaneously in the auditorium and the foyer, where people were still queueing to enter.

“They acted like trained fighters,” a witness told the Mash Telegram channel. 'At the moment of entering the building, the guards and people standing at the door were killed. Then they blocked the main entrance.

“At least two of the attackers are carrying backpacks, possibly with Molotov cocktails.'

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Telegram channel Baza carried a report from a security guard at the central entrance to the hall: 'When the shooting began I was standing at the central entrance on the ground floor.

“They started shooting from outside and the windows shattered. Next to the entrance there were three other security guards and they hid behind an advertising board. And those attackers walked past us 10m away.

“They started shooting randomly at people on the ground floor and went towards the concert hall.”

Another witness said: “Everyone started running, there was panic, there was a terrible crush. Everyone was lying down on the ground, crushing each other.”

Chilling footage purportedly filmed within the concert hall, posted on social media last night, appeared to show the heavilyarmed gunmen shooting people at point-blank range as they moved through the hall.

The apparent terror attack comes days after president Vladmir Putin was re-elected for another six years.

At least five people died in the early hours of Friday when Russian troops fired on Ukraine’s biggest hydroelectric plant

It also followed a statement earlier this month by the US embassy in Moscow urging Americans to avoid crowded places in the Russian capital in view of an imminent attack, a warning repeated by the UK Foreign Office.

In a statement posted by its Aamaq news agency, the Islamic State's affiliate in Afghanistan said it had attacked a large gathering of "Christians" in Krasnogorsk. It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the claim.