The Moscow terror attack could drive a wedge between Russia and one of its longtime allies

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  • Russia says suspects in the Moscow terror attack came from Tajikistan, something the country denies.

  • Tajikistan and Russia are allies, but tensions have been growing between them.

  • Tensions have also been growing between Russia and other former Soviet republics.

Russia's response to the terror attack on Friday in Moscow could drive a wedge between the country and one of its historical allies.

Gunmen opened fire inside the Crocus City Hall music venue, killing 137 people and injuring at least 145 more, Russian officials said.

ISIS-K, a branch of the Islamic State group, claimed responsibility for the attack. The US also said that the group was behind the attack, citing intelligence.

Russian state media said four suspects were identified as citizens of Tajikistan.

Tajikistan, a country in Central Asia, has deep historical ties with Russia and was once part of the Soviet Union. It's now part of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has long hoped would amount to the member countries' version of NATO.

The suggestion that the attackers were from Tajikistan could create new tensions between the country and Russia.

Moscow attack
A makeshift memorial in front of Moscow's Crocus City Hall a day after the terrorist attack.STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

Tajikistan has already tried to distance itself from the attack.

Its foreign ministry said Saturday reports that its citizens were involved were "fake," The Moscow Times reported.

The country's interior ministry also said that two of the suspects initially named by Russian media were in Tajikistan at the time of the attack, per The Moscow Times.

Meanwhile, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon told Putin on Sunday that "terrorists have no nationality, no homeland and no religion," his office said.

While its ties with China and North Korea have perhaps grown, Russia has become more isolated on the world stage since it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Even long-term allies with close cultural and economic ties, including Tajikistan, have revealed their frustrations.

In October 2022, Rahmon appeared to scold Putin to his face, demanding respect for his country.

According to Mail Online, Rahmon said Tajikistan had to "beg" Russia to attend a forum in Tajikistan. "We are never being treated like strategic partners! No offense, but we want to be respected!" he said.

Russia's relationships with other CSTO members are also increasingly strained, and experts on Russia and post-Soviet states previously told Business Insider that the alliance was crumbling.

Some of these experts said CSTO members looked at the invasion of Ukraine and believed that Russia was now unlikely to be able to protect them, and may even decide to attack them.

Earlier this year, Armenia's president said the country had suspended its participation with the CSTO after frequently criticizing it and Russia.

yrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev enter the hall during the Summit of Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) at the Grand Kremlin Palace, May, 16, 2022, in Moscow, Russia.
Regional leaders at a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow in 2022.Contributor/Getty Images

The suspects in the attack being citizens of Tajikistan would not disprove ISIS involvement. Neither ISIS nor the US has commented on the nationality of the attackers, and ISIS has been recruiting in the country, The Guardian reported.

Russia is also going out of its way to point the finger at Ukrainian involvement. Putin said over the weekend that the assailants were fleeing to Ukraine after the attack and that Kyiv was helping them escape.

Ukraine denies any involvement in the attack.

Russia watchers predicted when the attack started that Putin would try to blame Ukraine so he could avoid responsibility and use it to galvanize support for his war.

Experts also said that ISIS likely took advantage of Russia's distraction with the conflict in Ukraine. Vera Mironova, an associate fellow at the Davis Center at Harvard University, told the Financial Times that ISIS saw it as relatively easy to hit Moscow as a result.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested that Russia could have stopped the attack if it weren't attacking Ukraine.

"Those hundreds of thousands of Russians who are now killing on Ukrainian land would surely be enough to stop any terrorists," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider