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Attack in Moscow: Putin claims four terrorists were arrested as 'they were traveling to Ukraine'

Kiev and Washington denied the accusations targeting Ukraine. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

Agentes de la unidad especial de policía OMON delante del Crocus City Hall.

(Cordon Press)

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Russian authorities announced this Saturday that they had arrested 11 suspects in the attack committed on Friday in Moscow, which left at least 133 dead and hundreds injured. Four of them were "directly involved" in the attack. This was reported by Russian security services to President Vladimir Putin, according to an official statement collected by AFP.

Putin replied to this version during a televised speech and promised to "punish" those who were involved in the "savage terrorist attack":

The four perpetrators of the terrorist act in which people were shot dead have been arrested. They were traveling to Ukraine ... We will identify and punish all those who were behind the terrorists, who prepared the attack.

The Russian Investigative Committee assured on its official Telegram channel that the arrests took place in the Bryansk region, "near the border with Ukraine." The Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed that the attackers intended to cross the border, and that they even had Ukrainian contacts, according to statements collected by Russian state-owned TASS news agency.

Despite the fact that these official statements target Kiev, the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the shooting and fire at Crocus City Hall a few hours after it occurred. Through social media, the jihadist group assured that some of its members had "attacked a large meeting... on the outskirts of Moscow, the Russian capital." They also claimed that the terrorists had "withdrawn safely to their bases."

As Putin addressed the population, ISIS took responsibility for the attack. In another statement, picked up by AFP, it claimed that four of its fighters, armed with "machine guns, a pistol, knives and firebombs" carried out the attack. It also added that it was part of "the war" against "the countries that fight Islam.” It is not the first time that ISIS has attacked targets on Russian soil.

The Islamic State also reportedly released a photograph that allegedly shows the terrorists before Friday's attacks. This was reported by independent Russian outlet Novaya Gazeta, which also shared a comparison by intelligence channel BRIEF of that image and the image of the detainees:

The United States had warned about a possible extremist attack. Earlier this month, the American embassy in Russia said it was studying information about "imminent plans to target large gatherings in Moscow, to include concerts" and asked American citizens to avoid large crowds. American authorities assure that they shared that information with their Russian counterparts:

Ukraine refutes accusations

Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, came out to refute the accusations against Ukraine. In addition to pointing out irregularities in the security apparatus that allowed "a group of armed men" to pass unnoticed through a busy area, he assured that the evidence, including eye-witness testimonies, "clearly" describes the attackers as "Islamic radicals."

Regarding claims that terrorists intended to cross the border into Ukraine, he noted that the area was a combat zone, so it was "saturated" with Russian security forces. Therefore, attempting an escape there would be pointless. "The conclusion is obvious: any attempts to connect [Ukraine] to the terrorist attack are absolutely untenable," Podolyak stated, and then assured that the "problem" between both countries would be solved on the battlefield.

John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said Friday that there were no signs that "Ukraine or Ukrainians were involved in the shooting." Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova cast doubt on these claims about Ukraine:

On what basis do officials in Washington draw any conclusions in the midst of the tragedy about anyone's involvement? If the United States has or had reliable information on this matter, it must be immediately handed over to the Russian side.