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It's believed ISIS-K carried out the deadly attack on a Moscow concert hall

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Four suspected shooters in Friday's attack on a Russian concert hall in Moscow have been charged with terrorism.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The death toll from this attack has been going up all through the weekend, and authorities say it killed nearly 140 people, injuring many more. A part of the Islamic State known as ISIS-K claimed responsibility. Russian authorities have ignored that, instead suggesting the involvement of Ukraine.

FADEL: Joining us with the latest is NPR's Charles Maynes in Moscow. Hi, Charles.

CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: Morning.

FADEL: So, Charles, you were out at the site of the tragedy last night. Tell me what you saw.

MAYNES: Yeah. You know, this was the second time I was out there over the weekend. There was a small memorial I saw on Saturday, and it had grown into this massive display of flowers and tributes by Sunday, with even Orthodox priests on hand to give a church liturgy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in Russian).

MAYNES: And among Russians I met who came to pay their respects was a university student named Nicholas (ph), who declined to give his last name, saying he was still in shock over events.

NICHOLAS: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: "I came to express condolences to those who lost loved ones and family in the attack," he tells me, adding he wouldn't wish this tragedy on anyone.

FADEL: And so you were at this site, but this must have shaken people across Russia well beyond the Capitol and this concert hall, right?

MAYNES: Yeah. You know, we've seen people donating blood across the country, impromptu memorials to the victims in other towns and cities. But it also seems like the government is intent on channeling this grief. Over the weekend, an image of a candle and the phrase we mourn popped up on billboards across the country. Pro-Kremlin pop stars have recorded tributes in solidarity. And even back at the scene last night at the concert hall, clearly this was an organized event. You know, pro-Kremlin youth groups were marching in line to bring flowers. There was a sound system, even a projected light show on the side of the concert hall building that showed white birds flying skyward to honor the victims. And all this was filmed by camera drones from above. And so all of this has been circulating on social media and, of course, state TV.

FADEL: Meanwhile, four suspects have now been charged in court with acts of terrorism. What's happening there?

MAYNES: Yeah, that's right. These are the alleged shooters detained on Saturday, all citizens of the former Soviet Republic of Tajikistan. In court, all four pleaded guilty, but it must be said all showed signs of torture and duress. One of the accused was brought in a wheelchair, not even conscious.

FADEL: Wow.

MAYNES: Another showed up with a bandage on his ear after his interrogator cut off a portion of it with a knife. We know because the authorities released a video. Meanwhile, others had swollen faces with bruises and cuts. So taking all of that into account, there certainly will be those who question the confessions they gave.

FADEL: So with questions around this trial, what do we expect going forward?

MAYNES: Well, the trial is likely to start in late May. These men face life in prison if convicted. Russia currently does not have the death penalty, although that's increasingly a matter of debate here. Meanwhile, there's the larger question of who ordered the attack. You know, ISIS claimed responsibility and the U.S. has come to that conclusion, as well, but President Vladimir Putin, his only comments on the attacks so far insisted these attackers were trying to escape to Ukraine. And even though Kyiv denies any involvement vehemently, we're all bracing to see what happens next, not only in the courtroom or the court of public opinion, but most of all on the battlefields of Ukraine.

FADEL: NPR's Charles Maynes in Moscow. Thank you, Charles.

MAYNES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.

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