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Chinese Students Recount Horrifying Experience During Concert Hall Shooting in Moscow

Darren Maung
Darren is an aspiring writer who wishes to share or create stories to the world and bring humanity together as one. A massive Star Wars nerd and history buff, he finds enjoyable, heart-warming or interesting subjects in any written media.
Published: March 28, 2024
The Crocus City Hall concert in flames following an attack by gunmen, in which ISIS claims responsibility. (Image: STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

On March 23, several gunmen attacked the Crocus City Hall near Moscow; the deadliest attack in Russia since the Beslan school siege in 2004. Two Chinese students were there amidst the chaos. 

One of the students, a pianist identified only as He who hails from the northern province of Hebei, told Chongqing-based media outlet Shangyou News that he barely escaped the gunfire by hiding underneath a seat in the concert hall.

“I was seated on the last row and crouched under the seat when I realized something was wrong,” He said. “The gunmen were outside and had not yet entered the concert hall. Many audience members wanted to run for their lives. It was very chaotic.”

“Some people were yelling, some wanted to run out, and some were swearing. I was very scared and did not dare to move. So I stayed under the seat.”

Soon, the gunmen fired their weapons in the concert hall. He said that It was the first time that he had heard actual gunshots in his life.

“Later, some people in the audience calmed down and asked everyone to lock the doors to protect themselves. After around ten minutes, the police took control of the scene [and] began to evacuate the crowd and escorted us out,” he said.

He later returned to his school in Moscow. Tragically, his fellow student, a Russian girl, was not as lucky.

“In the early morning of 23 [March], I was sent back to school,” he said. “But I am heartbroken that my companion, a Russian girl, did not return. She was killed.”

Another student in Russia, Chen Yiming, told Chinese state broadcaster CGTN that he was near a shopping mall in the concert hall area when the guns started firing.

“I heard sounds similar to firecrackers. But I had no idea what was happening,” he said. “I saw a lot of people running. They told me in Russian about a shooting. I was baffled. So I followed the first batch of people and retreated to the west slope of the mall.”


Attack on the concert hall

According to Reuters, four armed men in a minivan attacked the Crocus City Hall near Moscow on the evening of March 23, claiming the lives of more than 130 people. The men wore camouflage uniforms and wielded Kalashnikov rifles.

Though Russian media reported five attackers, the Kremlin reported that Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Alexander Bortnikov told President Vladimir Putin that there were only four.

Regardless, the gunmen fired upon civilians up close, shooting into the glass doors of the concert hall before they moved into the building itself, witnesses said.

“Picnic”, a Soviet-era rock group, planned to feature their newest song “Afraid of Nothing” at the concert hall that day, only for the attackers to shoot down attendees of the event. The gunmen then set the hall ablaze by burning the curtains and chairs. In addition to the deceased, at least 360 were reportedly injured, some critically.

The terrorist group, Islamic State (ISIS), claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Islamic State fighters attacked a large gathering of Christians in the city of Krasnogorsk on the outskirts of the Russian capital, Moscow, killing and wounding hundreds and causing great destruction to the place before they withdrew to their bases safely,” a statement by ISIS’s Amaq agency said on Telegram.

Russian authorities were able to arrest 11 people, including the four gunmen. The men are believed to have had contacts in Ukraine, allegedly planning to head to the war-torn country. Kyiv’s military spy agency has since denied these claims of Ukrainian involvement.

After the attacks, Putin addressed the nation, saying, “All the perpetrators, organizers and those who ordered this crime will be justly and inevitably punished. We will identify and punish everyone who stands behind the terrorists who prepared this atrocity, this strike against Russia, against our people.”

In a message to Putin, Chinese premier Xi Jinping claimed that Moscow should “expect Beijing to ‘stand in solidarity’” with Russia on security,  the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.