Thursday, April 25

Moscow concert hall shooting updates: Russia marks day of mourning for victims

After hearing the shots ring out Friday evening at Crocus City Hall, Efim Fidrya and his wife ran to the basement of the building and hid with three other people in a bathroom.

They listened as gunfire spread and thousands of people attending a sold-out rock concert in a Moscow suburb began screaming and trying to flee.

Horrified and scared, Mr. Fidrya did the only thing he could think of: he held on tightly to the bathroom door, which would not close, trying to protect the group in case the attackers came. find them.

“While we could hear shots and screams, I stood the whole time keeping the toilet door closed,” Mr. Fidrya, an academic, said in a telephone interview from Moscow. “The others stood in the corner so that if someone started shooting through the door, they wouldn’t be in the line of fire.”

They didn’t know it at the time, but they were sheltering from what became Russia’s deadliest terrorist attack in two decades, after four gunmen entered the popular concert hall and started shooting with rapid fire weapons.

Their story is one of many harrowing stories that have emerged in the days following the attack, which killed at least 137 people. More than 100 injured people are hospitalized, some in critical condition, health authorities said.

Mr. Fidrya’s small group waited and waited, but the attackers had started a fire in the compound and it was spreading. Mr. Fidrya’s wife, Olga, showed everyone how to wet their T-shirts and hold them close to their faces so they could breathe without inhaling toxic smoke.

And then a second series of shots rings out.

On Friday, some survivors covered themselves with blankets in front of the burning concert hall.Credit…Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

After about half an hour, there was so much smoke that Mr. Fidrya, 42, thought even the attackers must have left. As he ventured outside, he saw the body of a dead woman lying near the escalator. Later, he saw the body of another woman who had been killed in the carnage, her distracted husband standing over her.

His group descended into the parking lot and eventually emerged onto the street as rescue workers carried the victims out of the building.

The Islamic State, through its news agency, claimed responsibility for the attack. U.S. officials said the attackers were believed to be part of ISIS-K, an affiliate of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. On Saturday, Russia’s federal security service announced that 11 people had been arrested, four of them after the car they were fleeing in was intercepted by authorities 230 miles southwest of Moscow.

In interviews, survivors described how what began as a typical Friday night out turned into a scene of panic and terror. The venue, which could accommodate 6,200 people, was sold out for a show by a seasoned Russian band called Piknik.

Video footage from the scene shows the attackers shooting at the entrance to the concert hall, which is part of a large complex of high-end buildings that also includes a shopping center and several exhibition halls. They then went to the concert hall, where they fired shots as well as broadcast videos.

The scene moments after Friday’s attack.Credit…Vasily Prudnikov/EPA, via Shutterstock

The attackers also set the building on fire using a combination of explosives and flammable liquid, Russian authorities said.

Like the Fidryas, Tatiana Farafontova initially thought the sound of the shooting was part of the show.

“Five minutes before the start of the show we heard dull applause,” she wrote on her VK social network page. Ms Farafontova, 38, said in a direct message on Saturday that she was still in shock and struggling to express herself after the attack.

Then the applause grew closer and someone shouted that attackers were shooting. She went on stage with the help of her husband.

“The moment we went on stage, three people entered the hall with machine guns,” she wrote on her VK account. “They were shooting at everything that moved. “My husband, from the stage, saw bluish smoke filling the room.”

Ms Farafontova said being center stage made her feel exposed and targeted.

“It felt like they were hitting me in the back with the barrel of a machine gun,” she wrote, adding, “I could feel the breath of death right behind my shoulders.”

She slipped under the curtain and ended up following the musicians, who had already started to flee, and ran as far away from the building as possible.

On the balcony, Alexander Piankov and his wife Anna heard the shots and lay on the ground for a while before joining others who jumped up and started running towards the exit.

As they fled, they encountered a woman who had collapsed on a climber and was blocking their path. She was alive but stared blankly ahead, said Mr. Pyankov, the publishing director. He told her to keep running, but then he turned his head and saw what she was looking at.

The concert hall outside Moscow on Saturday, following the attack the day before.Credit…Nanna Heitmann for the New York Times

“I started looking,” Mr. Pyankov, 51, said in a telephone interview. “And first I saw a murdered woman sitting on the couch, and there was a young man lying next to her. “I looked around and there were groups of bodies.”

It all happened in seconds, he said, and he tried to continue fleeing.

“The worst thing is that in this situation, we are not running away from the shooting, but we are moving towards it,” he said. “Because it was already clear there would be a fire there, we know how it would burn. And you just run to know where to run.

Anastasiya Volkova lost both her parents in the attack. She told 5 TV, a state channel, that she missed a call from her mother on Friday evening, around the time of the attack. When she called again, there was no answer, Ms. Volkova said.

“I couldn’t answer the phone. I didn’t hear the call,” Ms. Volkova told the TV channel, adding that her mother was “really looking forward to this concert.”

Accounts of others who died in the assault also told stories of enthusiastic spectators who had made special efforts to get to the show.

Irina Okisheva and her husband, Pavel Okishev, traveled hundreds of thousands from Kirov, northeast of Moscow. Mr Okishev had received the tickets as an early birthday present, the Komsomolsaya Pravda newspaper reported. He didn’t live long enough to celebrate his 35th birthday, which was this week. He and his wife died in the attack.

And 51-year-old Alexander Baklemyshev had long dreamed of seeing Picnika heritage rock band playing the first of two sold-out concerts accompanied by a symphony orchestra.

Mr. Baklemyshev’s son told local media that his father had traveled alone from his hometown of Satka, about 1,000 miles east of Moscow, for the concert.

Medical personnel removed the bodies from the scene on Saturday.Credit…Maxim Shipenkov/EPA, via Shutterstock

His son, Maksim, told Russian media outlet MSK1 that his father had sent him a video of the concert hall before the attack. That was the last time I heard from him.

“There was no last conversation,” his son said. “All that’s left is the video, and nothing more.”

Mr Fidrya said he felt happy to be alive and that four of the attackers had been captured.

“Now we are confident that the crime will be solved and the non-humans who organized and carried it out will be punished,” he said. “It really helps a lot.”

But the images of the victims remain etched in his memory, especially that of the husband, his back burned by the fire, standing in front of his deceased wife outside the building while doctors treated the injured.

The man was speaking to Mr Fidrya’s wife, Olga, saying they were from the town of Tver, northwest of Moscow, had been together for 12 years and had three children.

“For us, it’s basically over,” Mr. Fidrya wrote in a message after the telephone interview. “But for this man who stood next to the body of his wife and for their three children, the worst is yet to come. And there are so many people like him out there.

Oleg Matsnev reports contributed.