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Putin blames ‘radical Islamists’ for Moscow attack while suggesting Ukraine link

Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time on Monday called the gunmen who killed more than 130 people at a Moscow concert hall “radical Islamists,” while suggesting the attack could be linked to Ukraine.

Putin said the shooting was committed by “radical Islamists” whose “ideology the world has been fighting for centuries,” according to a translation from The Associated Press (AP).

His remarks come days after multiple gunmen opened fire at Crocus City Hall in Moscow, killing at least 137 people and wounding more than 180 others. The assailants also threw explosives in the venue, causing a large fire and the roof to eventually collapse, The Associated Press reported.

Four men were charged Sunday with committing a terrorist attack resulting in the death of others and appeared in court Sunday night. Two of the suspects accepted responsibility for the attack, though concerns were raised about whether they were speaking freely, the AP reported.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the shooting, and the White House National Security Council has said its own intelligence confirms they carried out the attack.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, and Putin has sought to draw a connection between the attack and Kyiv, though there is no evidence of Ukraine’s involvement. Ukraine’s government has denied any connection to the incident.

On Monday, while saying Islamic terrorists carried out the attack, Putin appeared to try to draw a connection to Kyiv.

“We know who carried out the attack and we are interested in knowing who ordered this attack,” Putin said Monday, per a translation from RT.com.

He did not specify who ordered the attack or if he meant the four detained men, but said the Russian government must determine “why the terrorists committing their crime tried to flee [to] Ukraine and who was waiting for them there,” per the news wire.

“This crime can only be a link in a chain of attempts by those who are at war with our country since 2014,” Putin later added.

Putin’s attempts to link Ukraine to the attack began over the weekend.

“All four direct perpetrators of the terrorist attack, all those who shot and killed people, were found and detained,” Putin said during a public address last Saturday. “They tried to hide and were moving towards Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a passage was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declined to assign blame and told reporters Monday to wait for the results of Russia’s investigation, the AP reported.

“Our investigative and law enforcement authorities need to have answers to many questions such as: Is it true radical Islamic organizations are willing to make strikes against Russia and [are] blaming it for the exacerbation of the conflict in the Middle East?” Putin said Monday. “And how the radical Islamists — who are being positioned as true Muslims — commit such heinous atrocities during the sacred month of Ramadan? “

The four suspects were identified as Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, 32; Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, 30; Shamsidin Fariduni, 25; and Mukhammadsobir Faizov, 19, per the AP.

Shortly after the attack, reports circulated that Putin had brushed off U.S. warnings of extremist attacks in Moscow days ahead of the incident.

The U.S. Embassy in Russia issued a security alert warning on March 7 that “extremists” were planning an attack in Moscow and advised individuals to avoid large gatherings over the following two days.

Three days before the attack, Putin called the embassy’s alerts “provocative” and “outright blackmail” intended to damage Russian society.

Peskov refused to comment on the reported U.S. warnings when speaking to reporters Monday, the AP added.

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