Macron: it would be cynical, counterproductive for Russia to pin Moscow attack on Ukraine

By Thomson Reuters Mar 25, 2024 | 6:03 AM

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron said all signs indicated that an attack on a concert hall near Moscow in which 137 were killed was carried out by Islamic State, telling Russia on Monday it would be “cynical and counterproductive” to try to blame Ukraine.

Russia challenged assertions by the United States and other countries that the Islamic State militant group orchestrated the gun attack, accusing Washington of covering for Ukraine.

“This attack was claimed by Islamic State and the information available to us, to our (intelligence) services as well as to our main partners, indicates indeed that it was an entity of the Islamic State which instigated this attack,” Macron said.

“I think that it would be both cynical and counterproductive for Russia itself and the security of its citizens to use this context to try and turn it against Ukraine.”

President Vladimir Putin has not publicly mentioned the Islamist militant group in connection with the attackers, who he said had been trying to escape to Ukraine.

Putin said some people on “the Ukrainian side” had been prepared to spirit the gunmen across the border. Ukraine has denied any role in the attack and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has accused Putin of seeking to divert blame for the attack by mentioning Ukraine.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, called into question U.S. assertions that Islamic State, which once sought control over swathes of Iraq and Syria, was behind the attack.

Macron said the Islamic State group that claimed responsibility for the Moscow attack had also tried to commit attacks in France.

Macron was speaking as he arrived for a visit in French Guiana, after the French government on Sunday raised its terror alert warning to its highest level following the Moscow attack.

“We have offered to increase cooperation with the Russian (intelligence) services and our partners in the region, so that the culprits can be found as quickly as possible and so that we continue to fight effectively against these groups which are targeting several countries.”

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Ingrid Melander, Tassilo Hummel; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alex Richardson)