Russia finds proof linking massacre gunmen to Ukraine

global times​​​

    Russian investigators announced on Thursday that they had evidence linking the gunmen responsible for the concert massacre to "Ukrainian nationalists." Experts believe that Russia is seeking to capitalize on the solidarity that has strengthened in the wake of the terrorist attack to accelerate progress on the battlefield, and increase leverage for future negotiations.

    "After working with detained terrorists, studying the technical devices seized from them, and analyzing information about financial transactions, evidence was obtained of their connection with Ukrainian nationalists," according to the Russian Investigative Committee, TASS reported.

    The committee said it had confirmed data showing that the terrorists received "significant amounts of money and cryptocurrency from Ukraine," which were used in the preparation of the crime.

    Prior to the new findings, Kiev has denied any connection with the attack, and the militant group Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

    Experts said Moscow is focusing on how to respond to the tragedy in order to capitalize on this fleeting opportunity to serve its agenda. And for them, solving the conflict with Ukraine is priority.

    "Presenting convincing evidence or not is unimportant for Russia, as it aims to make the most of people's unity and cohesion to intensify pressure on Ukraine, and hasten the pace on the battleground," Cui Heng, a scholar from the Shanghai-based China National Institute for SCO International Exchange and Judicial Cooperation, told the Global Times on Friday.

    This comes against a backdrop of Ukraine currently being in a weakened state, with military aid from Europe and the US not fully in place, and combat capabilities severely depleted, Cui said.

    "This timing presents an opportunity to expand gains for Moscow. Moreover, with the upcoming US elections, acquiring more leverage is crucial for negotiations if Trump takes office and mediates the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as having more bargaining chips will increase negotiating space," the expert noted.

    Moscow's claim, however, was immediately denied by the US, with White House national security spokesperson John Kirby calling the Russian allegations "nonsense and propaganda."

    Kirby said the US had previously warned Moscow, through public channels, about "extremists" planning an imminent attack, and that it had also issued a written warning to Russian security services on March 7 at 11:15 am, Reuters reported on Thursday.

    The report said Russia dismissed a warning from the West, three days ahead of the terror attack, as "blackmail."

    The US and the West are trying to distance Ukraine and themselves from the incident, but such defense is meaningless due to their tarnished credibility, Cui said.

    One thing worth noting is that intelligence gathering comes with costs. The US could have negotiated with Russia using an exchange of intelligence, rather than resorting to public announcements. "This could indicate that a timely intelligence exchange mechanism between the US and Russia is no longer in place," the expert noted.

    The Moscow terror investigation uncovered on Friday that the four gunmen responsible for the deaths of 143 individuals at the Crocus City Hall were under the influence of drugs, media reports said.

    It was revealed that the attackers dosed themselves up on Captagon - which ISIS calls "chemical courage" - a form of amphetamine that lowers inhibitions and disables fear, allowing them to kill indiscriminately. This kind of drug was a "favorite" among ISIS fighters, the reports said.

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