Putin refuses to blame ISIS for Moscow shooting and insinuates Ukrainian link

Moscow, Russia - Russian President Vladimir Putin is refusing to blame the Islamic State (IS) for the recent Moscow attack despite a claim by the extremist group, instead insinuating a link to Ukraine in a possible bid to limit the responsibility of the Russian security services.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting addressing measures taken after the Friday Moscow attack via a video conference on Monday.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a meeting addressing measures taken after the Friday Moscow attack via a video conference on Monday.  © Mikhail Metzel / POOL / AFP

IS claimed the attack Friday evening on the Crocus City Hall concert venue on the outskirts of Moscow that left at least 137 people dead, with Western governments also saying the extremist group appeared to be responsible.

In his latest comments on the attack Monday, Putin acknowledged that "radical Islamists" had carried out the attack but made a link with Ukraine over two years into Moscow's invasion of its neighbor.

"The US... is trying to convince its satellites that there is not a Kyiv trace in the act of terror and that members of ISIS carried out the attack," Putin said in a security meeting.

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"We know who carried out the attack. We want to know who the mastermind was," said Putin, repeating the allegation that the perpetrators tried to flee to Ukraine after the attack.

Ukraine has already vehemently denied any involvement in the attack, with President Volodymyr Zelensky saying Putin was always seeking to blame "someone else."

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday warned Moscow against any "exploitation" of the attack, saying it would be "cynical and counterproductive for Russia to use this context to try and turn it against Ukraine."

He said it was a branch of Islamic State that "planned the attack and carried it out," adding this outfit had also plotted attacks in France.

In early March, the US reportedly warned Russia of a risk of an attack, a message Moscow appears to have batted away.

Experts weigh in on Putin's political strategy

Moscow attack suspect Dilovar Islomov (pictured) inside the defendant's cage as he waits for his pre-trial detention hearing at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow on Monday.
Moscow attack suspect Dilovar Islomov (pictured) inside the defendant's cage as he waits for his pre-trial detention hearing at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow on Monday.  © TATYANA MAKEYEVA / AFP

"There is an exploitation [of the attack] because Vladimir Putin is obsessed with Ukraine," said Sylvie Bermann, former ambassador of France to Russia.

"It is in his logic of the war in Ukraine, and the Ukrainians are responsible for everything," she told AFP.

The attack came as Russia sensed it had the upper hand on the battlefield over two years into the war but with the Kremlin still wary of ordering a new military mobilization.

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Tatiana Stanovaya, the founder of R.Politik consultancy, described Putin's link to Ukraine as "cautious," arguing that if there had been any evidence of such a role, reactions would have been even more explicit.

"The IS is testing a new tactic that involves newcomers who had not been flagged as extremists in police databases, and that implies a much shorter period of preparation," she told AFP.

After Putin's latest comments, Stanovaya wrote on Telegram that it appeared Putin was carefully using the conditional in his language and "does not yet have evidence of the involvement of either the US or Ukraine."

"But he is convinced they would benefit from such an act of terror."

Cover photo: Mikhail Metzel / POOL / AFP

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