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Mar 25, 2024, 7:17am EDT
Europe
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Semafor Signals

Russia charges four men over Moscow terror attack

Insights from Meduza, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian

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Saidakrami Murodali Rachabalizoda, a suspect in the shooting attack at the Crocus City Hall concert venue, is escorted after a court hearing at the Basmanny district court in Moscow, Russia March 24, 2024. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov
Shamil Zhumatov/REUTERS
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The News

Russia charged four men with committing an act of terrorism after an attack at a Moscow concert venue last week that killed at least 137 people.

The men were identified in court as citizens of Tajikistan, independent Russian outlet Novaya Gazeta reported.

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The Islamic State group (IS) said it had carried out Friday’s attack, days after Russian President Vladimir Putin secured a fifth term in office. France and the U.S. have said they believe the IS claims but Russia has cast doubt on IS involvement, instead diverting attention onto Ukraine.

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SIGNALS

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State media told to focus on Ukrainian involvement

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Meduza

The Kremlin has suggested that Ukraine was behind the attack, a claim that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has denied. State-affiliated news agencies in Russia have been told to to focus on “traces” of Ukrainian involvement, independent news outlet Meduza reported. Russia’s Federal Security Service has also claimed that the four suspects were set to flee to Ukraine after the mass shooting. France on Monday said an IS branch was behind the attack and warned Russia against exploiting the violence for its war efforts in Ukraine. It would be “cynical and counterproductive for Russia to use this context to try and turn it against Ukraine,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.

Be skeptical of Kremlin’s version of events, activist warns

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The Wall Street Journal

Moscow is one of the most heavily surveilled cities in the world — meaning that the suspects’ hour-long rampage through a crowded concert venue and subsequent escape by car is nearly unthinkable, a political activist wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “Mr. Putin believes he needs perpetual war to hold on to power. He is creating the conditions to radicalize the Russian population further and to fulfill his new mobilization orders,” Garry Kasparov wrote. It’s a situation Russia has seen play out before: Ahead of the Second Chechen War, a series of apartment buildings were bombed, giving then-Prime Minister Putin a platform for his coming election campaign. Putin “has no allergy to blood, Russian or any other kind, if spilling it furthers his goals,” Kasparov said.

There are reasons that IS would target Russia

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The Guardian

The attack in Moscow is one of the largest ever carried out in Europe, and targeting distant locations is a key tactic used by IS leaders to drum up support. “Russia has been in the cross-hairs of IS for many years,” Jason Burke and Jonathan Yerushalmy wrote in The Guardian. A major part of IS propaganda is that “Moscow is part of the broader coalition of Christian or western forces engaged in an existential, 1,400-year-old battle against Islam,” they noted. Meanwhile, Russia has long supported Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, and IS views Moscow as supportive of the Taliban, both factors that could push IS to plan an attack in Moscow.

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