Advertisement

Russians urge punishment for those who carried out concert attack

Russians urge punishment for those who carried out concert attack

Calls mounted in Russia on Monday to harshly punish those behind the concert hall attack that killed more than 130 people as authorities combed the burned-out ruins of the entertainment complex and an Orthodox priest blessed the site.

Four men, charged with carrying out a terrorist attack, appeared in court Sunday night and showed signs of being severely beaten. Civil liberties groups cited this as sign that Russia’s poor record on human rights under President Vladimir Putin was bound to worsen.

Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said the investigation is still ongoing but vowed that “the perpetrators will be punished, they do not deserve mercy.”

Former President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, urged authorities to “kill them all.”

The attack on Crocus City Hall on the western outskirts of Moscow left 137 people dead and over 180 injured, proving to be the deadliest in Russia in years. A total of 97 people remained hospitalized, officials said.

As they mowed down concertgoers with gunfire, the attackers set fire to the vast concert hall, and the resulting blaze caused the roof to collapse.

The search operation will continue until at least Tuesday afternoon, officials said. A Russian Orthodox priest conducted a service at the site Monday, blessing a makeshift memorial with incense.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, and U.S. intelligence backed up their claims. French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking on a trip to French Guiana, said France has intelligence pointing to “an IS entity” as responsible for the Moscow attack.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to assign blame, urging reporters Monday to wait for the results of the investigation in Russia. He also refused to comment on reports that the U.S. warned authorities in Moscow on March 7 about a possible terrorist attack, saying any such intelligence is confidential.

A suspect in the Crocus City Hall shooting on Friday is escorted by police officers in the Basmanny District Court, in Moscow, Russia
A suspect in the Crocus City Hall shooting on Friday is escorted by police officers in the Basmanny District Court, in Moscow, Russia - Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

The four suspects were identified in the Russian media as Tajik nationals. At least two of the suspects admitted culpability, court officials said, although their conditions raised questions about whether their statements were coerced.

The men were identified as Dalerdzhon Mirzoyev, 32; Saidakrami Rachabalizoda, 30; Shamsidin Fariduni, 25; and Mukhammadsobir Faizov, 19. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Russia's Federal Security Service said seven other suspects have been detained. Three of them appeared in court Monday, with no signs of injuries, and they were placed in pre-trial detention on terrorism charges. The fate of others remained unclear.

Russian media had reported the four were tortured during interrogation. Mirzoyev, Rachabalizoda and Fariduni showed signs of heavy bruising, including swollen faces. Mirzoyev had a plastic bag still hanging over his neck; Rachabalizoda had a heavily bandaged ear. Russian media reported Saturday that one suspect had his ear cut off during interrogation. The Associated Press couldn’t verify the report or videos purporting to show this.

Faizov, wearing a hospital gown, appeared in court in a wheelchair, accompanied by medical personnel, and sat with his eyes closed throughout. He appeared to have multiple cuts.

Peskov refused to comment on the suspects' treatment.

Many on Russian social media questioned how authorities and their vast security apparatus that actively surveils, pressures and prosecutes critics failed to prevent the attack despite the US warning.

Citing the treatment of the suspects, Sergei Davidis of the Memorial Human Rights Group told AP that "we can suppose it was deliberately made public in order to show the severity of response of the state.”

“People are not satisfied with this situation when such a huge number of law enforcement officers didn’t manage to prevent such an attack, and they demonstrate the severe reaction in order to stop these accusations against them,” he said.

The fact that the security forces did not conceal their methods was “a bad sign,” he said.