A terrorist attack in which almost 140 people were killed was carried out near Moscow on Friday. Several attackers broke into the Crocus City Hall event centre, where they gunned down concertgoers and set the building on fire. The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack, and eleven suspects have been detained. President Putin has alleged that Ukrainians had a hand in the massacre, which Kyiv denies.

Putin's regime has shown its weak side

Polityka comments:

“This attack on the centre of the Russian empire highlights a grim truth for many Russians in these times of war with Ukraine: the state is weak and incapable of protecting its citizens. ... The war that was supposed to make Russia stronger has led it astray. Terrorists and rebels are operating on the fringes of the militarising empire and are proving more effective than the Kremlin's security apparatus. So far, Putin has no real solutions and no plan of action that will reassure Russians that he has the situation under control. And that is a very, very good thing.”

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IS playing its own brutal game

For Der Tagesspiegel the attack shows that the danger of Islamist attacks has not been averted:

“Terrorist organisations may have lost some of their power and order thanks to the international fight against terror, but they are still capable of carrying out cruel attacks. ... With this attack, the IS is returning to the international stage - as a player to be taken seriously. It adds another dimension to the complexity of the new multilateral camp formation of China/Russia on the one hand and the West, which is not united on many points, on the other. Because the IS does not fit into this scheme, it's a completely different kettle of fish altogether. It is playing its own brutal, inhumane game.”

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Precisely timed

Jutarnji list writes:

“The bloody terrorist attack in Moscow has occurred just when Russian President Vladimir Putin was feeling safe: after winning the presidential elections and seizing the initiative on the Ukrainian battlefield. There is no such thing as coincidence in such cases. This was a very well-organised attack, reminiscent of the massacre at the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015. The moment of the massacre was undoubtedly planned to shake the entire Russian state structure and at the same time fuel a sense of fear and insecurity in the heart of Russia, from where it will spread in concentric circles right across the country.”

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A fateful choice

Putin has two options, Le Figaro comments:

“To stay in this phantasmagoria or accept the more complex reality in which Moscow finds itself in the same boat as Paris or New York. The choice he makes will have an impact on the outcome of the war, as we can only imagine the level of retaliation that could be justified by an official accusation against Ukraine, even a baseless one. No one could have less interest in sponsoring an Islamist attack than a country that wants to be European and depends on the West for its survival. But if Putin continues to drag Russia further and further into a world that does not exist, we are all one step closer to a general conflagration with an enemy who will no longer listen to reason.”

Frantic attempts to pin the blame on Kyiv

Novaya Gazeta Europe criticises Moscow's attempts to link the terrorist attack with the war against Ukraine:

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“Russian propaganda is now desperately looking for a way to connect the Moscow terrorist attack with Ukraine, insisting that 'the enemies of Russia' live there. ... Even if they can't find a single scrap of evidence - except perhaps a confession made under torture. ... You can't wage war against Ukraine for over two years, kill thousands of people, raze cities to the ground and then officially admit that you should have looked for the enemies elsewhere. Now an attempt will probably be made to bring charges against 'Islamist fundamentalists who received their orders from string-pullers in Kyiv'.”

US warning went unheard

The SonntagsZeitung fears the Russian president will respond to the violence in Moscow with even more violence:

“The sole positive note in this bleak situation is that it was the Americans of all people who warned Moscow of terrorist attacks. And this despite the fact that relations between Russia and the US, between Putin and Joe Biden, are worse than ever before. Perhaps Putin remembers the time at the beginning of the century when Russia and the US tried to make the world a safer place, with considerable success. Alas, there is little hope. And it's to be feared that Putin will take out his anger on the Ukrainians, regardless of whether they are behind the attacks or not.”

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Putin's police state looking in the wrong direction

Exiled politician Maxim Katz says the Moscow security apparatus has been wearing blinders. He writes in Echo:

“The attack took place just hours after Russia's Federal Service for Financial Monitoring added the 'international LGBT movement and its structural subdivisions' to its list of terrorists and extremists. The state has clearly shown who it monitors, who it spends resources on and who it ignores, as it fails to notice real terrorists right under its nose. The upshot: armed gunmen shoot people in the capital and the rapid reaction forces only arrive once it's all over. ... This is happening in a country where the security of the state has been elevated to the status of a religion, and where the regime has organised a tight network of surveillance of its citizens.”

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