Russian President Vladimir Putin and his media echo chamber have been ignoring the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the concert hall shooting that killed at least 137 on Friday, and are seemingly searching for more convenient scapegoats.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his media echo chamber have been ignoring the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the concert hall shooting that killed at least 137 on Friday, and are seemingly searching for more convenient scapegoats.

Why it matters: For a president who emerged from the security services and for whom restoring stability and security to Russia is central to his czar-like image, Putin’s recent record is glaringly weak.

Between the lines: In the aftermath, Putin’s moves — initial silence in which aides were left to take the heat, then a claim a “window” had been opened for the suspects to try to escape to Ukraine — were entirely predictable.

Four suspects arrested in the Moscow concert hall attack that killed more than 130 people appeared in court on terrorism charges Sunday, Russian state media reported.

The big picture: An ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for one of Europe’s deadliest terrorist attacks, which Russian leader Vladimir Putin sought to tie to Ukraine as he declared Sunday a national day of mourning for the Crocus City Hall shooting victims.

The Islamic State says it is responsible for a Friday shooting that killed at least 133 people after gunmen stormed a concert hall in a suburb of Moscow, per The New York Times.

The big picture: Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said it opened a terrorism investigation into the attack at Crocus City Hall. The attack included explosions that started a massive blaze in the concert hall, which could accommodate over 6,000 people.

A New York appeals court on Monday gave former President Trump 10 more days to post a $175 million bond and satisfy the judgment in his New York civil fraud case, a much smaller total than the $454 million initially required.

Why it matters: It’s a huge win for the former president, who was staring down the prospect of a devastating financial and personal blow if he was unable to post the nearly half-billion-dollar bond by the Monday deadline.

As emergency workers waded through the rubble of Moscow’s Crocus City Hall on Sunday, also being picked over was the extent to which the attack might damage Russian President Vladimir Putin — or be used as a pretext to bolster his war in Ukraine.

The terror group ISIS has claimed responsibility after camouflaged men stormed the concert hall Friday night and killed at least 137 people with guns, knives and bombs.

For Putin, who has sold his seemingly lifelong leadership on maintaining order, the massacre will be at least deeply embarrassing. It could even weaken his ironclad rule, particularly after he dismissed American warnings that such an attack might be imminent, some experts say.


“It certainly doesn’t strengthen him,” said John Lough, an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia program at Chatham House, a London think tank. “Within the elite itself, there are going to be questions about where the focus has been: Why has there been all this rhetoric about the war in Ukraine, when in actual fact there are other dangers much closer to home?”

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian former oil tycoon turned arch Putin critic, called security lapses that allowed the attack to proceed “a complete failure of a police state” in a post on X.

It has also not gone unnoticed that Putin waited some 20 hours after the attack to address his country.

When he did give a five-minute speech Saturday, Putin did not mention ISIS, whose Afghan affiliate, ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for the assault, or refer to the likely failure of intelligence services to prevent the assault or the security services to thwart it.

Instead he suggested that Ukraine had aided the attackers by helping plan their failed escape.

“They tried to hide and moved toward Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the state border,” he said.

Though not acknowledged by the Russian president, ISIS has long targeted Russia, partly because of Moscow’s role in Syria’s civil war where it supported President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces were fighting rebels that included ISIS, according to Mark Galeotti, head of the consultancy Mayak Intelligence and an honorary professor at University College London.

“ISIS-K has long actually regarded Russia as being one of the main enemies,” Galeotti said in a snap edition of his podcast, “In Moscow’s Shadows,” on Sunday. “From their point of view, Russia is a lesser Satan, if America is the great Satan.”

On a surprise visit to Syria in 2017, Putin declared “total victory” over ISIS.

Keir Giles, a consulting fellow also at Chatham House, dismissed Putin’s attempt to link the attack to Ukraine and his references to a “window” on the front line, saying that it would require Russian forces to let them through on their side of a heavily fortified and mined war zone.

“It’s a fairy story,” said Giles, who is the author of 2022’s “Russia’s War on Everybody: And What It Means for You.”

Washington agrees. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said that “ISIS bears sole responsibility for this attack. There was no Ukrainian involvement whatsoever.”

Russian news reports identified the four alleged gunmen detained as citizens of Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia that is predominantly Muslim and borders Afghanistan. Up to 1.5 million Tajiks have worked in Russia and many have Russian citizenship.

On Sunday, four men — Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, Shamsidin Fariduni and Mukhammadsobir Faizov — appeared on terrorism charges in the Moscow Court, according to court information.

Two had admitted guilt, the court said. All four were ordered held through at least May 22, according to the court.

It was not yet clear whether Putin’s oblique comments were merely an attempt to bolster domestic support for his war in Ukraine, or if he seeks to use the terror attack as a pretext for some other action related to the conflict.

Giles believes it could be used to support another round of mobilization.

Putin announced a “partial mobilization” of reservists in September 2022, which resulted in 300,000 more soldiers being drafted, but military analysts believe another round may be necessary because of the war’s unknown but certainly colossal death toll on both sides.

“This gives an excuse for stepping up conscription mobilization, rounding up the manpower that they need,” Giles said, adding that it allows the Kremlin to enact policies “that would not otherwise be popular.”

Hours after the Moscow attack, Russia launched a wave of strikes on Ukraine, with one long-range missile briefly entering Polish airspace, the country’s military said. But most experts — including Lough, who is currently in Kyiv — said this was likely not a direct retaliation.

“I arrived here on Thursday morning and there was a pretty heavy barrage that night,” he said. “It’s the ongoing effort to try and weaken the will of Ukrainians,” he added. “There’s a lot of psychological warfare here.”


Russia’s response to the terror attack on Friday in Moscow could drive a wedge between the country and one of its historical allies.

Gunmen opened fire inside the Crocus City Hall music venue, killing 137 people and injuring at least 145 more, Russian officials said.

ISIS-K, a branch of the Islamic State group, claimed responsibility for the attack. The US also said that the group was behind the attack, citing intelligence.

Russian state media said four suspects were identified as citizens of Tajikistan.

Tajikistan, a country in Central Asia, has deep historical ties with Russia and was once part of the Soviet Union. It’s now part of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has long hoped would amount to the member countries’ version of NATO.

The suggestion that the attackers were from Tajikistan could create new tensions between the country and Russia.

Tajikistan has already tried to distance itself from the attack.

Its foreign ministry said Saturday reports that its citizens were involved were “fake,” The Moscow Times reported.

The country’s interior ministry also said that two of the suspects initially named by Russian media were in Tajikistan at the time of the attack, per The Moscow Times.

Meanwhile, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon told Putin on Sunday that “terrorists have no nationality, no homeland and no religion,” his office said.

While its ties with China and North Korea have perhaps grown, Russia has become more isolated on the world stage since it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Even long-term allies with close cultural and economic ties, including Tajikistan, have revealed their frustrations.

In October 2022, Rahmon appeared to scold Putin to his face, demanding respect for his country.

According to Mail Online, Rahmon said Tajikistan had to “beg” Russia to attend a forum in Tajikistan. “We are never being treated like strategic partners! No offense, but we want to be respected!” he said.

Russia’s relationships with other CSTO members are also increasingly strained, and experts on Russia and post-Soviet states previously told Business Insider that the alliance was crumbling.

Some of these experts said CSTO members looked at the invasion of Ukraine and believed that Russia was now unlikely to be able to protect them, and may even decide to attack them.

Earlier this year, Armenia’s president said the country had suspended its participation with the CSTO after frequently criticizing it and Russia.

The suspects in the attack being citizens of Tajikistan would not disprove ISIS involvement. Neither ISIS nor the US has commented on the nationality of the attackers, and ISIS has been recruiting in the country, The Guardian reported.

Russia is also going out of its way to point the finger at Ukrainian involvement. Putin said over the weekend that the assailants were fleeing to Ukraine after the attack and that Kyiv was helping them escape.