Lukashenko: Moscow concert hall attackers initially tried to flee to Belarus

The suspected perpetrators of Friday’s attack on Moscow’s Crocus City Hall concert venue initially attempted to flee from Russia to Belarus, the country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko told journalists on Tuesday.

In comments that appeared to contradict Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that the attackers had been attempting to flee to Ukraine, Lukashenko said instead that the suspects had first driven to Russia’s border with Belarus, where they were met with “heightened security measures” after which they “turned around and went to the Russian-Ukrainian border”.

Lukashenko said that Russia’s security services had contacted their Belarusian counterparts in the immediate aftermath of the attack and that Putin had called him to request his help in preventing the perpetrators from entering Belarus. The suspects were arrested on Saturday morning in Russia’s western Bryansk region, which borders both Ukraine and Belarus.

Addressing criticism levelled at the Russian president for making no public statement until around 20 hours after the attack, Lukashenko said that he and Putin “didn’t sleep for 24 hours” and that they had been in “constant contact”.

“When he had to say something, he came out and said it”, Lukashenko said, referring to Putin’s televised address in response to the attack on Saturday. He added that he intended to call Putin again to share his “suspicions” about who may have been behind the attack, in which at least 137 people were killed and scores more were injured.

Despite jihadist group Islamic State taking responsibility for Friday’s attack, top Kremlin officials continued to suggest the involvement of both Ukraine and the West, with Putin describing it on Monday as the latest in a “series of attempts by those who have been waging war against our country since 2014”.

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