In Russia, Fingers Point Anywhere but at ISIS for Concert Hall Attack

Bodies were recovered, flowers were laid and fingers were pointed on Sunday as competing narratives took shape over who was behind the terrorist attack on a Russian concert hall where at least 137 people out to enjoy an evening of music were killed.

President Vladimir V. Putin has hinted that Ukraine was behind the Friday night attack. He stopped short of accusing Kyiv directly, but on Sunday, some of his allies showed no such compunction.

American officials have said that the attack appeared to be the work of an offshoot of the Islamic State, and that there is no evidence connecting Kyiv to it. But many Russian nationalist commentators and ultraconservative hawks are pushing the idea that Ukraine is the obvious culprit.

A pro-Kremlin analyst who is a regular on Russian state television, Sergei A. Markov, wrote in a post on Telegram that the Kremlin must work at isolating the Ukrainian leadership by “connecting the terrorist act not with ISIS but with the Ukrainian government as much as possible.”

Russian state news outlets barely mentioned that ISIS itself claimed that it was responsible for the attack at Crocus City Hall, a concert venue in the outskirts of Moscow. The ISIS offshoot U.S. officials believe was tied to the attack, the Islamic State Khorasan, which is known as ISIS-K, has been active in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

Russian were stunned by the attack. People lined up to leave flowers at Crocus City Hall, in the Moscow suburbs, on Sunday.Credit…Nanna Heitmann for The New York Times
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