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It's been a week since gunmen stormed a concert hall in Moscow

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Russia's government isn't even trying to hide the fact that the four suspects on trial for last week's Moscow terrorist attack have been tortured.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

Gunmen stormed a concert hall and then set the venue on fire. The attack killed more than 140 people. ISIS has claimed responsibility, and the U.S. has deemed that assessment credible. But Russian officials have suggested Ukraine carried out the assault, despite vehement denials from Kyiv.

FADEL: NPR's Charles Maynes in Moscow is here with the latest. Good morning, Charles.

CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So where does the Kremlin's investigation stand at this point?

MAYNES: Well, yesterday, Russian authorities arrested what they say was the suspected financier of the attack. Eight others are already in custody, including four of the alleged shooters. Most of these men - and they're all men - are from the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan. Yet, earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin said he was primarily interested in who ultimately hired these people and again blamed Ukraine. And we've since seen his top officials, including the head of the Federal Security Services, the FSB - this is Alexander Bortnikov - double down on this theory. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALEXANDER BORTNIKOV: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: So here, Bortnikov says, of course, the gunmen didn't do this on their own and that he sees a Ukrainian trace, one that he says was confirmed by initial information received from the detained suspects.

FADEL: OK. Presumably he's referring to the suspected shooters, right? But as you reported to us earlier this week, these men showed clear signs of torture when they appeared in court.

MAYNES: Yeah, there's really no question. And I say that based not only on how they looked in court, where they were battered and bruised - one wearing a bandage over a mutilated ear, another semi-conscious in a wheelchair with a gouged eye. But also because - and this is what's really news here - what these men went through was leaked in graphic videos on social media that could have only come from the security services.

FADEL: Wow.

MAYNES: Now, Olga Sadovskaya - Russia's Crew Against Torture, a group that's lobbied against abuse in Russia's justice system for decades - says this, of course, was intentional.

OLGA SADOVSKAYA: One objective of sharing it so widely is to send the message to those who are maybe planning something else that - look what will happen to you. Another is a message to the general public like, see, on your behalf, state brings a revenge to the perpetrators. We are paying them back.

MAYNES: Now, Sadovskaya notes there's a problem here that's not unique to Russia, and it's this - that torture doesn't work the way you want it to, she says. It's not an instrument for getting the truth from a suspect. You know, and needless to say, this approach also won't do much to instill confidence in Russia's version of events, particularly in the West, where there are already suspicions the Kremlin, you know, is more interested in manufacturing a Ukrainian connection than pursuing the facts of the case.

FADEL: Charles, you noted the suspects are from Central Asia. Most are from Tajikistan. Is it creating tension for immigrant and minority populations?

MAYNES: Well, Central Asian migrants have never had it easy in Russia. But in the wake of these attacks, we've seen nativist instincts kick in. A journalist friend just happened to cross into Russia yesterday and saw long lines of Central Asian migrants stopped at the border for extra security checks. Meanwhile, there are growing calls for a change in Russia's open-door migrant work policies with its Eurasia zone neighbors. You know, but the truth is Russia is dependent on Central Asian labor now more than ever, given that traditional labor shortages here have only been exacerbated by Russians going off to fight in 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.

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