Putin vows to punish those behind Russia concert massacre - GulfToday

Putin declares day of mourning after Moscow attack


President Vladimir Putin lights a candle in memory of the victims of the Crocus City Hall attack during his visit to a church in Moscow on Sunday. AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Sunday to be a day of national mourning and weekend events have been cancelled across Russia after a massacre in a Moscow concert hall killed 137 people.

In a televised address, Putin condemned the massacre — the deadliest in Russia for nearly 20 years — as a "barbaric terrorist act.”

He said that all four gunmen who carried out the deadly attack at a packed concert venue in Moscow have been arrested.

At least 137 people were killed and more than 140 injured, according to the Russian Investigative Committee who added that the attackers used flammable liquid to set fire to sections of the concert hall and that the deaths of the victims were caused by gunshot wounds and poisoning by combustion products.

Kyiv has strongly denied any connection, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accusing Putin of trying to shift the blame onto them.

Moscowshooting-mourners People lay flowers at a spontaneous memorial in memory of the victims of Moscow attack in St. Petersburg. AP

"The whole country is in mourning with those who lost their loved ones in this inhumane tragedy," public television channel Russia 24 said on Sunday morning. Putin, in his only public remarks on the attack, made no reference to Daesh's claims of responsibility.

'Machine guns, knives, firebombs'

Daesh group on Saturday wrote on Telegram that the attack was "carried out by four fighters armed with machine guns, a pistol, knives and firebombs."

 A video lasting about a minute and half apparently shot by the gunmen has been posted on social media accounts typically used by Daesh, according to the SITE intelligence group.

The video appears to have been filmed from the lobby of the concert venue and shows several individuals with blurred faces and garbled voices, firing assault rifles with inert bodies strewn on the floor and a fire starting in the background.

Mourners-Moscow-Shooting Couples embrace next to a screen with displayed mournful message that read: "St. Petersburg mourns with the whole country 03.22.2024", in St. Petersburg

The attack was the deadliest in Russia since the Beslan school siege in 2004. Russian officials expect the death toll to rise further, with 110 still in hospital.

Rescue workers were still pulling bodies from the burnt-out building on Sunday as the nation mourned. The emergency situations ministry has so far named 29 of the victims, the blaze having complicated the process of identification. The ministry on Sunday posted a video of heavy equipment arriving at the venue to dismantle damaged structures and clear debris.

'Morally crushed'

On the streets of the capital on Sunday, there was shock and grief. "It is a tragedy. I was morally crushed," Ruslana Baranovskaya, 35, told AFP.

"People don't smile ... everybody feels the loss," said 73-year-old Valentina Karenina, a pensioner, standing on a street off Red Square, next to the Kremlin in the centre of Moscow.

Museums, theatres and cinemas around the country closed, and billboards were replaced with memorial posters. Mourners continued to stream to the concert hall in northwest Moscow to lay flowers at a tribute to the victims. More than 5,000 people donated blood following the attack, officials said, with many standing in long queues outside clinics.

Russia-Shooting-March24-main2-750 People lay flowers and light candles standing next to the Crocus City Hall near Moscow. AP

Putin on Saturday had vowed "retribution and oblivion" to the "terrorists, murderers and non-humans" who carried out the "barbaric, terrorist attack."

Several of his allies have called for the country to lift a moratorium on the death penalty — demands that have sparked concern among Kremlin critics.

Russia says it has arrested 11 in connection with the attack, including all four assailants. It has not named the shooters, but said they were all foreign nationals.

In Moscow, some doubted his claims that Ukraine was involved.

"I'm not inclined to the version about Ukraine's involvement ... this (attack) is more like those committed by Islamist extremists," said Vomik Aliyev, a 22-year-old Muslim who often went to the concert hall.

Russia's Investigative Committee said the death toll had reached 133 and the governor of the Moscow region said rescuers would continue to scour the site for "several days."

Health authorities said on Sunday that 110 people were still in hospital, with more than 40 in a "critical" or "extremely critical" condition.

WAM / Agence France-Presse


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