Unraveling the Moscow Concert Hall Attack: Ukraine’s Perspective and the Role of Global Politics


NEWSLINE PAPER
,-As the news of the assault on Moscow’s concert hall surfaced on Friday, it was clear to Ukrainians that Kyiv would be held responsible. They braced themselves for an increase in drone and missile attacks.

Accusations started to pour in almost instantly. Initially, they were subtle hints, but soon President Vladimir Putin openly alleged that the assailants who attacked Moscow had attempted to escape to Ukraine with assistance from local contacts.

The sound of explosions in Kyiv echoed just before dawn on Sunday. By the time Putin addressed the Russian nation on Saturday, the Islamic State group (IS) had already claimed responsibility for the attack.

The US had previously confirmed that it had shared intelligence about a potential threat earlier in the month. Now, IS has released a horrifically graphic video of the massacre, captured on bodycams, featuring the attackers shouting “God is Greatest”.

In his Saturday evening statement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed visible anger at his country being implicated. He labeled Putin and others in Moscow as “scum” for associating the attack with Kyiv.

Zelensky suggested that a “miserable” Russian leader seemed more focused on blaming Kyiv for the attack than reassuring his own citizens. He then accused Moscow of deploying “hundreds of thousands of [its own] terrorists” to Ukraine since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

He stated that these troops were now terrorizing Ukraine, rather than safeguarding Russia from the real threat of extremism. “They burn our cities… they torture and rape,” he said.

Since February 2022, Ukrainian police have initiated thousands of criminal cases against Russian soldiers, including one case we investigated where two unarmed civilians were shot in the back.

Earlier on Saturday, Kyiv’s military intelligence directorate dismissed the specific Russian claim that the gunmen were apprehended while trying to escape across the Ukrainian border as “absurd”. This is an active front line swarming with Russian soldiers and security services.

Andriy Yusov argued that anyone attempting to head there after launching a major attack on Moscow would be either “suicidal” or “stupid”. According to Russian officials, the suspects were captured in the Bryansk region while heading west to Ukraine. If that is indeed where their car was intercepted - and we cannot confirm this - they could have been heading for Belarus, a much easier route out of Russia than crossing a minefield to reach Ukraine.

Videos circulating on social media show the detention of the suspected attackers and part of their interrogation. One video shows a Russian agent attempting to force a man to eat a piece of his own severed ear. He spits it out.

In another video, his head is bandaged and his face is covered in blood. Any confessions obtained after such torture could not be considered reliable. These video clips were presumably released to demonstrate a strong response, but they follow an attack that the same security services failed to prevent or predict.

Therefore, in his address, Zelensky suggested that Russians should question their own intelligence agencies, rather than blaming Ukraine. This would include asking whether information from the US was disregarded.

However, Putin’s Russia has been purged of political opposition and independent media, leaving no one to truly hold the authorities accountable. In his address, Ukraine’s president also hinted at a sinister theory previously proposed by his military intelligence agency - that the Russian authorities themselves were connected to the Moscow attack. 

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