Politics

US warned of possible attack in Moscow before concert hall shooting

The American Embassy in Moscow issued a security alert on March 7, warning that its staff was “monitoring reports that extremists were planning to target large gatherings in Moscow, including concerts.” The statement warns Americans that an attack could occur within the next 48 hours.

The warning was related to Friday's attack, according to people briefed on the matter. But it was not related to possible Ukrainian sabotage, U.S. officials said, adding that the State Department would not have used the word “extremists” to warn of actions ordered in kyiv.

Pro-Kremlin voices immediately seized on the US embassy's warning to portray America as trying to scare the Russians.

U.S. officials fear that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin may seek to wrongly blame Ukraine for the attack, putting pressure on Western governments to identify those responsible. Mr. Putin frequently distorts events, even the most tragic, to fit his public discourse. And he was quick to accuse Ukraine of acts of terrorism to justify his invasion of the country.

U.S. officials said Mr. Putin could do it again after Friday's attack, seeking to use the loss of life to undermine support for Ukraine, both domestically and globally.

On March 19, the Russian leader called the US embassy's statement “obvious blackmail” carried out with “the intention to intimidate and destabilize our society.” But he has yet to comment directly on Friday's attack.

John Kirby, President Biden's National Security Council spokesman, told reporters Friday that the White House has “no indication at this time that Ukraine or the Ukrainians were involved.” He added: “We are looking into it. But I would like to disabuse you at this early hour of any connection with Ukraine. »

“Our thoughts are obviously with the victims of this terrible, terrible shooting,” he also said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, however, said, according to Reuters: “On what basis do officials in Washington draw conclusions about someone's innocence in the middle of a tragedy? She added that if Washington has information, it should be shared.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Ukraine's presidential office, said in a video statement that “Ukraine had absolutely nothing to do” with the attack.

Aishvarya Kavi reports contributed.

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