Russia mourns victims of concert hall attack as families of missing face anxious wait


Russia is holding a day of national mourning following Friday’s concert hall massacre near Moscow, as relatives of the missing face an anxious wait to see if their loved ones survived the gun rampage.

Public events have been cancelled and flags are being flown at half-mast following the deadliest attack on the country’s soil in two decades.

Across the capital, billboards carried a picture of a single candle, the date of the attack and the words “We mourn”.

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Thousands of flowers have also been left at a makeshift memorial near the Crocus City Hall music venue where 133 people were killed, including three children, and more than 150 were injured by heavily-armed gunmen.

Emergency crews comb the debris. Pic: Reuters

As emergency crews continue to search the fire-ravaged building, some families still do not know if their relatives who went to the rock concert are alive.

Igor Pogadaev has been trying to find his wife after she stopped responding to his messages after going to the gig.

He said: “I went around, searched, I asked everyone, I showed photographs. No one saw anything, no one could say anything.”

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to tie Ukraine to the “bloody, barbaric terrorist act”, despite Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate – IS-K – claiming responsibility.

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Putin vows to ‘punish’ terrorists

The four suspected attackers are among 11 people arrested in connection with the atrocity by Russian authorities.

Making no mention of the Islamist terror group, Mr Putin claimed they were captured while trying to escape to Ukraine through a “window” prepared for them across the border.

The war in Ukraine, which began with Russia’s invasion of the country, recently entered its third year.

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Zelenskyy: Russia blaming Ukraine ‘predictable’

Russian media broadcast videos that appeared to show the detention and violent interrogation of the suspects.

The men were from Tajikistan, according to reports. The predominantly Muslim former Soviet country is in central Asia and borders Afghanistan.

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The suspects have been brought to Moscow and although no legal hearing has been officially announced, there was a heavy police presence around the capital’s Basmanny District Court on Sunday.

Ukraine has strongly denied any involvement in the attack, with president Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying it was typical of the Russian leader and “other thugs” to seek to divert blame.

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IS has released on its Telegram channels what it said was footage of the attack.

The White House said the US government had shared information with Russia early this month about a planned attack in Moscow, and issued a public advisory to Americans in the country on 7 March.

US intelligence officials said they had confirmed the IS affiliate’s claim.

“There was no Ukrainian involvement whatsoever,” US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

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Hunt: ‘Little confidence’ in Kremlin claims

Speaking to Sky News’ Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips, UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “We have very little confidence in anything the Russian government says.

“We know that they are creating a smokescreen of propaganda to defend an utterly evil invasion of Ukraine.

“But that doesn’t mean it’s not a tragedy when innocent people lose their lives… But I take what the Russian government says with an enormous pinch of salt.”

The attack happened just days after Mr Putin secured his grip on power for another six years in a vote that followed the harshest crackdown on dissent since the Soviet era.

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