Vladimir Putin tries to link Ukraine to ‘barbaric’ Moscow attack that killed 133

Russian authorities detained 11 suspects, including four purported gunmen involved in Friday’s terror attack at a concert hall in suburban Moscow as the death toll from the rampage rose to 133, officials said Saturday.

More than 120 were injured, and the numbers are expected to increase as emergency responders combed through the remains of the venue, which was left a smoldering ruin.

Russian President Vladmir Putin denounced bloodshed at Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk as “barbaric” in a five-minute televised address, while claiming that four of the suspects were taken into custody as they tried to escape following the savage onslaught had assistance from Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin speaks to Russian citizens during a televised national address Saturday following a terrorist attack near Moscow that killed at least 133 people. AP

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin speaks to a wounded person after an attack at the Crocus City Hall, in the hospital in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, March 23, 2024. AP

“They were trying to hide and were moving toward Ukraine,” Putin said Saturday. “Based on preliminary information, a window for crossing the border was prepared for them by the Ukrainian side.”

He offered no proof of the accusation, which came despite the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the attack, which came just days after the Russian strongman’s highly orchestrated re-election.

The deadliest terror attack in nearly a decade to rock Russia came the nation’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine grinds on in its third year.

Putin did not refer to the Islamic State during his remarks Saturday, but the terror group’s affiliate in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-Khorasan or ISIS-K, said in a statement posted online it had attacked a large gathering of “Christians” in Krasnogorsk.

Ukrainian officials vehemently shot down accusations of any links to the slaughter. “Ukraine was of course not involved in this terror attack,” said military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov. “Ukraine is defending its sovereignty from Russian invaders, liberating its own territory and is fighting with the occupiers’ army and military targets, not civilians.”

US authorities earlier this month warned Russia of an “imminent” attack following a thwarted massacre planned by an ISIS cell in Russia.

Medical staffers carry the body of a victim in Friday’s terrorist attack in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow. MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The US Embassy in Russia released the warning on March 7, citing reports that extremists had plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, including concerts.

The warning from the US Embassy in Moscow pointed to a derailed plot by ISIS-K, which operates in Russia’s Kaluga region southwest of Moscow, to kill Jewish worshippers at a synagogue in Moscow.

Firearms, ammunition and components to build bombs were seized during the raid by Russian special forces, US authorities said.

The Islamic State affiliate, which is also active in Pakistan and Iran, operates primarily in Syria, while recruiting militants from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union.

The group previously claimed responsibility for attacks in Russia’s volatile Caucasus region, as well as the October 2015 bombing of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai as the flight returned from Egypt, killing all 224 people on board.

In a statement released Saturday, the US State Department strongly condemned Friday’s attack.

“We send our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed and all affected by this heinous crime,” officials said. “We condemn terrorism in all its forms and stand in solidarity with the people of Russia in grieving the loss of life from this horrific event.”

Efforts to connect Ukraine to the mass killing have extended into Russian television, where stations reportedly used fake video of a Ukrainian defense official to try to convince viewers Kyiv was somehow connected.

The altered footage purports to feature Oleksii Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, as trying to make the case that Ukraine was “involved” in Friday’s terror attack, according to Ukraine’s Center for Countering Disinformation.

Mourners place flowers at Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, on Saturday. MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Firefighters work in the burned concert hall after an attack on the building of the Crocus City Hall on the western edge of Moscow, Russia. AP

In the doctored deepfake, the face of Kyrylo Budanov, chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, was replaced with Danilov’s, using footage from a March 16 newscast, the group said.

With Post wires

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