At around 8:30 p.m. local time, panic broke out in the popular Crocus City Hall event center near Moscow. Shortly before the band Piknik’s concert, shots are suddenly heard, then the sounds of explosions. A fire also breaks out. “They’re shooting. They’re shooting from machine guns. Some people are shooting,” a man’s excited voice can be heard in a shaky video circulating on social networks.

The shots don’t stop, they echo loudly in the large hall. The authorities are calling it a terrorist attack, with around 40 dead and 100 injured. People scream in fear and run for their lives. “Shit, shit, shit,” a man shouts in a recording that shows concertgoers running towards the exit in droves. A lifeless body lies in a pool of blood next to an escalator.

Background unclear – IS publishes letter of responsibility

The background to this terrible attack in the city of Krasnogorsk is initially unclear. The number of deaths could also rise significantly. Rescue, firefighting and investigation work continues overnight. Huge flames burst into the night sky from the building, which has several halls and can accommodate several thousand visitors in one concert hall alone. Helicopters pour water from the air onto the fire, which now covers an area of ​​13,000 square meters. The roof is said to have partially collapsed.

Inside, the situation is completely confusing. The media sometimes talks about three armed perpetrators, sometimes more. Photos should show some of them standing on bleachers and shooting into the depths. In other photos, men can be seen in camouflage uniforms. They run through a hall and keep firing shots. It is initially completely unclear who the attackers are.

Moscow blames Kiev

It is also unclear whether there may be any connection to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The authorities in Kiev reject this. In the evening, an alleged letter of responsibility from the terrorist militia Islamic State, which Russia is fighting in Syria, circulated. Russian authorities classify the attack as a terrorist act and, according to the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin is receiving ongoing information. Representatives of many countries, including the USA and the EU, are horrified.

Special National Guard units are deployed on site and there are reports of arrests. However, it is not known whether and how many perpetrators have already been caught or killed. Instead, new images of corpses and people being taken to hospitals continue to emerge. “Jesus Christ,” stammers a man filming lifeless bodies on the street in front of the entrances, completely shaken. Western embassies had recently warned of terrorist attacks in Moscow.

The perpetrators are still on the run

The Crocus City Hall has several event halls that are also used for trade fairs. It is one of the most popular leisure spots for Muscovites and those living in the surrounding areas of the Russian capital. According to authorities, theaters and museums in Moscow will remain closed over the weekend following the attack. Major events have been canceled – and security precautions are also being increased in other cities.

It was unclear how the armed men were able to get into Crocus City Hall despite the strict security measures in Moscow and the extremely strict controls at events. Concert visitors are funneled through metal frames. Your bags will be searched carefully.

Ukraine rejects allegations

The group Piknik around lead singer Edmund Schkljarski, which was supposed to perform, dates back to Soviet times. She has not taken a public position on Russia’s war against Ukraine, but was criticized for a past appearance on the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea after its annexation by Moscow.

Meanwhile, representatives from Kiev clearly deny any involvement in the tragedy. “Ukraine, unlike the Russian Federation, has never used terrorist methods of warfare, terrorism as such,” emphasizes Mykhailo Podoljak, adviser to Presidential Office Chief Andriy Yermak, in a video message.