Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has said the Friday concert attack is a barbaric act of terrorism, vowing to punish the perpetrators.

He also accused Ukraine of preparing a “window” to help the suspects escape. Kyiv has staunchly denied any role in the attack.

He made these known in a public address he delivered on Saturday in Moscow, Russia’s capital.

Several Russian media outlets reported that automatic weapons were used in what many have termed ‘one of the worst such attacks in Russia in years.’

At least five gunmen were shown in unverified videos firing repeatedly at screaming civilians cowering in the concert hall as Soviet-era rock group “Picnic” was about to perform, according to Reuters.

Reacting, Putin, in a five-minute televised address, claimed that someone in Ukraine had tried to help the attackers escape across the border from Russia before they were apprehended by Russian security services.

He did not definitively pin the attack on Ukraine, nor did he refer to the assessment by American officials that a branch of the Islamic State was behind it.

However, he pledged to punish the perpetrators, “whoever they may be, whoever may have sent them.”

 He said, “They were trying to hide and were moving toward Ukraine,” Mr. Putin said, referring to the four men who carried out the attack and who the Kremlin said had been captured in western Russia. “Based on preliminary information, a window for crossing the border was prepared for them by the Ukrainian side.”

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly denied having anything to do with the attack, and American officials have said there is no evidence of Ukrainian involvement.

American officials voiced concern on Friday that Putin could seek to falsely blame Ukraine for the attack, and some analysts and Kremlin critics have said that he could use such an accusation to justify another escalation in Russia’s invasion.

“We are counting here on cooperation with all countries that genuinely share our pain and are ready, in their deeds, to truly unite our efforts in the fight against the common enemy of international terrorism,” he added.

He declared Monday a national day of mourning and said that security measures were being tightened across Russia.

“The main thing now is to prevent those who were behind this bloody massacre from committing new crimes,” Putin added.

Meanwhile, Russia has arrested 11 people, including all four gunmen suspected of carrying out the attack, the head of the country’s Federal Security Service stated in a statement.

133 killed

At least 133 people are now known to have been killed as more bodies were found in the rubble, Russia’s Investigative Committee revealed on Saturday morning.

The Russian Investigative Committee said more bodies were found as emergency responders cleared the rubble from the fiery attack at the Crocus City Hall concert hall. The search operation at the venue is still underway.

At least 107 people, including three children, are currently in Moscow hospitals with injuries, according to the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Government, Tatyana Golikova.

The latest death toll officially marks the attack as one of the worst terrorist acts in Russia’s modern history, surpassing the casualty number of the hostage crisis at Moscow’s theater in Dubrovka in 2002 where 130 people died.

The death toll is expected to rise as many persons are said to be trapped under the rubble.

Also, US embassy officials issued a warning earlier this month urging people to stay away from large gatherings. It has reinforced this warning as it confirmed that no US national was hurt in the attack.

Meanwhile, United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, released a statement Saturday condemning the deadly terrorist attack in Moscow.

Also, Chinese President, Xi Jinping, sent condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday after a deadly shooting at a concert hall near Moscow, saying China opposes all forms of terrorism and strongly condemns terrorist attacks.

Also, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, in a statement personally signed, conveyed Nigeria’s deepest sympathy and condolences to the Russian president.

The statement read, “The government and people of Nigeria commiserate with the victims of this tragic attack and pray for the repose of their souls. We also pray for the quick recovery of those injured.

“At this challenging time, we stand in brotherhood with the government and Russian Federation and send our deepest sympathy and condolences to the Russian president, His Excellency Vladimir Putin.”