Shocked screams and blank stares: horror at Russian concerts

When Efim Fidrya and his wife heard gunshots rang out at Crocus City Hall on Friday night, they ran into the building’s basement and hid in a bathroom with three others.

They listened as gunshots rang out and thousands of people at a packed rock concert on the outskirts of Moscow screamed and tried to flee.

Frightened and frightened, Mr. Fidrya did the only thing that came to mind. He clung to the unlocked bathroom door, trying to protect the group in case the attackers found him.

“I stood there with the bathroom door closed while I heard gunshots and screams,” Fidolya, an academic, said in a telephone interview from Moscow. “Other people were standing in the corner of the room, trying to stay out of the line of fire if someone started firing through the door.”

They didn’t know it at the time, but they evacuated from the terror attack, Russia’s worst terrorist attack in 20 years, after four armed gunmen invaded a popular concert venue and began firing rapid-fire cannons. I was doing it.

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

Fidrya’s small group continued to wait, but the attackers started a fire inside the facility, which spread. Fidlya’s wife Olga taught everyone how to wet her T-shirt and hold it to their faces so they could breathe without inhaling the toxic fumes.

Then a second gunshot rang out.

After about 30 minutes, there was so much smoke that Fidolya, 42, thought the attackers must have left. When she went outside, she saw a dead woman lying next to the escalator. He then saw the body of another woman killed in the massacre and her distraught husband standing over her.

His group descended into the parking lot and eventually made their way onto the street as emergency workers removed the victims from the building.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack through its news agency. U.S. officials said the attackers appeared to be members of ISIS-K, an affiliate of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan. On Saturday, Russia’s Federal Security Service said 11 people were in custody, including four arrested after authorities intercepted a getaway car 330 miles southwest of Moscow.

In interviews, survivors described how what started as a typical Friday night outing devolved into a scene of panic and fear. The 6,200-person venue was packed for a show by a veteran Russian band called Piknik.

Video footage from the scene shows the attackers opening fire at the entrance to the concert venue. The concert venue is part of a vast luxury complex that also includes a shopping mall and multiple exhibition halls. They then moved to a concert hall and opened fire there as well, the video shows.

Russian authorities said the attackers set the building on fire with a combination of explosives and flammable liquid.

Like Fidorius, Tatyana Farafontova initially thought the gunshots were part of the show.

“Five minutes before the show started, I heard a dull applause,” she wrote on the VK social media page. Farafontova, 38, said in her direct message Saturday that she was still in shock and slurred speech after the attack.

Then applause approached and someone shouted that the assailants were firing. She ran onto the stage with the help of her husband.

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

Farafontois said being center stage made her feel exposed and targeted.

“It felt like I was being stabbed in the back with the muzzle of a machine gun,” she wrote, adding, “I felt the breath of death just behind my shoulder.”

She ducked under the curtain and eventually fled as far as she could from the building, following the musicians who had already begun to flee.

Alexander Pyankov and his wife Anna, who were on their balcony, heard the gunshots and lay on the floor for a while before jumping up and joining the others who started running for the exit.

While fleeing, he encountered a woman who had collapsed on the escalator and was blocking his path. Pyankov, a publishing executive, said she was alive but staring blankly in front of her. He told his girlfriend to keep running, but then turned her head to see what she was staring at.

“I started looking,” Pyankov, 51, said in a phone interview. “And first I saw a murdered woman sitting on the sofa and a young man lying next to her. I looked around and there was a group of corpses.”

He said it all happened in a matter of seconds and he tried to keep running away.

“The worst part is that in this situation you’re not running away from gunfire, you’re running towards gunfire,” he said. “It was already clear that there would be a fire there, so we know how it would burn. And you’re just running to find out where else to run.”

Anastasia Volkova lost her parents in the attack. She told state broadcaster 5TV on Friday night that she missed calls from her mother around the time of the assault. Volkova said she called again and she did not answer.

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

Testimonies that have surfaced about others who died in the assault include stories of avid concertgoers who made extra efforts to get to the show.

Irina Okishev and her husband Pavel Okishev traveled hundreds of miles from Kirov, northeast of Moscow. According to Komsomolsaya Pravda newspaper, Okishev received the tickets as an early birthday present for his girlfriend. He didn’t live to see his 35th birthday this week. He and his wife died in the attack.

And 51-year-old Alexander Baklemishev had long dreamed of seeing the traditional rock band Piknik, who were performing the first of two sold-out concerts, accompanied by a symphony orchestra.

Bakremishev’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.

His son Maxim told Russian news agency MSK1 that his father had sent him a video of the concert hall before the attack. That was the last I heard from him.

“We never had a final conversation,” his son said. “All that was left was the video and nothing more.”

Fidrya said he was grateful to be alive and that four of the attackers had been captured.

“We are now confident that the crime will be solved and the non-humans who organized and carried out the crime will be punished,” he said. “This is really, really helpful.”

But the images of the victims are seared into his memory, especially that of the husband whose back was burned in the fire as he stood over his dead wife as doctors tended to the injured outside the building. It’s baked in.

The man spoke to Fidlya’s wife Olga, who said they were from the city of Tver, northwest of Moscow, had been together for 12 years and had three children.

“For us, everything is generally over,” Fidoria said in a message after a phone interview. “But for the man who stood over his wife’s body and his three children, the worst is yet to come. And there are many others like him out there.”

Oleg Matznev Contributed to the report.

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