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MOSCOW: Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that it was “extremely hard to believe” that Islamic State would have had the capacity to launch an attack on a Moscow concert hall last Friday that killed at least 140 people.

At a briefing with reporters, Zakharova instead doubled down on Moscow’s assertions, for which it has not yet provided evidence, that Ukraine was behind the attack on the Crocus City Hall, the deadliest Russia has suffered in 20 years.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the massacre and US officials say they have intelligence showing it was carried out by the network’s Afghan branch, Islamic State Khorasan. Ukraine has repeatedly denied it had anything to do with the attack.

But Zakharova said the West had rushed to pin responsibility on Islamic State, also known as ISIS, as a way of deflecting blame from Ukraine and the Western governments that support it.

“In order to ward off suspicions from the collective West, they urgently needed to come up with something, so they resorted to ISIS, pulled an ace out of their sleeve, and literally a few hours after the terrorist attack, the Anglo-Saxon media began disseminating precisely these versions,” she said.

President Vladimir Putin has said the attack was carried out by Islamist militants but has suggested it was to Ukraine’s benefit and that Kyiv may have played a role.

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