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On Sunday, after a terrorist attack at a Russian concert hall killed at least 137 people, rival narratives emerged regarding the identity of the perpetrators. While President Vladimir V. Putin hinted that Ukraine may have been involved, American officials believe it was the work of an offshoot of the Islamic State, with no evidence connecting Kyiv to the attack. However, Russian nationalist commentators are pushing the idea that Ukraine was behind the tragedy. A pro-Kremlin analyst suggested isolating the Ukrainian leadership by linking the attack to them rather than ISIS.

Four men, believed to be from Tajikistan, appeared in a Russian courtroom charged with committing the terrorist act. The suspects had visible injuries, with videos circulating on social media showing them being brutalized during interrogation. Despite ISIS claiming responsibility for the attack, Russian state news outlets largely ignored this, focusing instead on linking the attack to Ukraine. The West has dismissed allegations of Ukrainian involvement, with Vice President Kamala Harris stating that ISIS-K is responsible for the attack.

As Russia observed a day of mourning for the victims, citizens laid flowers and lit candles at a memorial outside the concert hall. The names of the four main suspects were released, and the Investigative Committee reported recovering 137 bodies, including three children, with many victims still in critical condition. Questions were raised about Russian security services’ failure to prevent the attack, and some speculated that Russia may have orchestrated it to shift blame or increase repression. Lawmakers called for tougher measures against migrants and discussed the introduction of capital punishment.

In the aftermath of the attack, some commentators criticized Russian security services and questioned whether warnings from the United States were adequately followed up on. Conspiracy theories emerged, with anti-Kremlin activists suggesting Russian involvement in the attack. Nationalist commentators expressed concern that the tragedy could lead to social division in Russia. Meanwhile, as Russia mourned, the conflict in Ukraine continued, with the Ukrainian air force claiming to have shot down Russian missiles and drones, and striking naval vessels belonging to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

The attack has led to a tense atmosphere in Russia, with competing narratives about the perpetrators and growing speculation about the motives behind the tragedy. While some blame Ukraine, others question the effectiveness of Russian security services and ponder the potential for increased repression. The aftermath of the attack has shown how fragile the situation is in Russia and highlighted the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, underscoring the challenges faced by both countries in maintaining stability and security in the region.

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