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‘The crowd ran and they opened fire’ Meduza shares eyewitness accounts of the deadly concert hall shooting outside Moscow

Source: Meduza
Evgeny Razumny / Kommersant / SIPA USA / Vida Press

At least 62 people are dead and 145 injured following a terrorist attack at a concert venue outside Moscow. Several gunmen dressed in combat fatigues opened fire on audience members just before the start of a performance at Crocus City Hall on the evening of March 22. According to eyewitnesses, the attackers also set fire to auditorium and the blaze spread quickly, destroying the building’s top floor. In the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting, Meduza spoke to eyewitnesses and their loved ones. The following accounts have been lightly edited and abridged for length and clarity.


My mom works at Crocus [City Hall] and was on shift today. [First she] heard gunshots and once everyone was brought outside and people crossed to the other side of the Moscow Ring Road, she heard an explosion and saw smoke rising [from the building]. She had to walk home because the Moscow Ring Road was at a standstill and the subway wasn’t working. 

I live at the next station over from [the concert hall] and outside my window, the howl of ambulance sirens hasn’t stopped for more than an hour, and helicopters are flying towards Crocus. It’s unbearable and scary, and I’m very sorry for everyone who couldn’t escape. 


I was already in my seat inside the hall when everything started, and I didn’t understand what was happening right away. About five minutes before the start of the concert there was a strange noise. Then there were noises that sounded like firecrackers and I didn’t realize immediately that it was gunshots. Judging by the sound the gunshots were quite far from me — in the lobby, apparently.

Then Crocus employees ran through the hall and drove everyone towards the stage, and managed to make their way to an exit. While I was running I heard the screams of people who had lost someone in the crowd. I didn’t see any wounded.

I was very lucky that I got a ticket near the end of the sixth row — no one was blocking the [nearest] exit and I managed to get outside quickly and leave in a taxi before the fire [started]. By that point police were already approaching [the building].

I remember that there were people of all ages in the hall — both elderly people and even those with small children. I hope that they managed to get out. 


My mom was literally inside the building at the time of the terrorist attack. She went to the concert with her friends. 

I was sitting [at home] playing [video games] and I got a message. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something about gunshots and called my mom right away. She said that she heard the gunshots and somehow escaped the concert hall, but got separated from her friends. They left [the building] but she was locked in some basement. 

Smoke started to pour into the basement — and then riot police broke down the doors and brought them outside. [My mom] was in the front and there were clearly fewer people [who came out] behind her than there were inside [the basement]; she thinks they were suffocating or had already suffocated inside.

She arrived [at my house] in a taxi, charred and hysterical. [She was covered] in soot and ashes, and had bitten her lips until they bled. She’s in shock right now, sitting on the balcony trying to catch her breath. She’s scared to death. 

I thought I was going to be an orphan. I don’t know by what miracle she didn’t get hurt or suffocate. I hope those responsible are found, preferably by locals before the police. Otherwise, they’ll simply be imprisoned and that’s too soft [a punishment] for such horror. 

Mikhail Golikov 

Chief conductor of the Leningrad Region State Symphony Orchestra and the City Philharmonic for Children and Youth

Some monstrous event happened. At first, I only heard gunshots in the foyer and then they [could be] heard in the concert hall. After that, I led the orchestra off the stage. Thank god the curtain was closed and we were behind it. We left the stage quickly, literally within a minute. 

We have no wounded or casualties [among the musicians], everyone is fine. I myself am still in a state of shock. Most importantly, I got my orchestra out — we’re all in one piece, all alive and well. And, most importantly, we’re safe now. 


I was in a VIP box. Just after eight o’clock, I heard machine gun fire and screams coming from the concert hall. There’s a camera in the VIP box that shows the stage, and you could see that people were rushing from the hall onto the stage, apparently to exit [through the wings] on either side of it. A stampede started and none of the security guards were managing [the crowd]. 

We started to barricade ourselves in our box. We also checked the neighboring one [to see] if people [needed] help. The smoke began to appear very quickly, literally within 10 minutes. [Then] there was more and more of it. As far as I understood, something was thrown into the hall and everything went up in flames. 

We weren’t able to leave the box through the VIP exit because we could hear shooting there. Everyone went to the other exit that leads to the foyer. We walked [out] last, with a stewardess — the only [staff member] who helped us.

We didn’t understand where to go and ran at random, in short sprints. The foyer was already full of smoke. Everyone happened very quickly. Soon after we got outside two fire trucks and the first ambulance appeared; they took away a woman who was lying down. I don’t know if she was injured [by the attackers] or in the crush.

The roof quickly burst into flames. We tried to go around [the building] from the other side to get to our car. The first people we saw with weapons were police officers — they were standing around smoking. We asked if we could go through and they said: “Go if you want, or don’t.” 


My mom and I were running late and at eight o’clock we were only at the entrance to the concert hall. There were three long lines of people who had to pass through the [metal] detectors. We joined the end of one of the lines and literally two minutes later I heard a crash, like something heavy had fallen upstairs, on the second floor. I thought the building was collapsing and [when] I looked up, [through the glass], I saw people running. 

At that moment, on our floor, several people with machine guns came in through the entrance next to us. I think there were four of them. There was a short distance between us, but if I were asked to identify them, I wouldn’t recognize them. I can’t describe their faces. It was quite obvious that these were men of medium and heavy build. They were either wearing camouflage clothing or cargo pants and sweaters; gray or brown clothes. They also had on hats. I couldn’t tell you anything else. 

The crowd ran and they opened fire. For the most part people didn’t run towards the entrance, they ran deeper into the building. We did the same. It wasn’t clear where to go and we ended up in the mechanical rooms, including ones that weren’t lit at all. I tried to find a door with a green “Exit” sign but [they] didn’t always work. We moved along with the crowd. I can’t say for sure that there were just a lot of people because they were scattered, running in different directions. 

I was running with my elderly mother. And to be honest the scariest thing for me was that she’d simply get tired and wouldn’t be able to run any further. This happened at one point and I was dragging her along behind me. We ran around the building for about 15 minutes. Finally, we ran towards an exit. The glass doors were already shattered. People were very afraid to go outside and did so carefully, telling each other: “Don’t rush, we don’t know what’s out there.” When the first group went out and it became clear there was nothing scary outside, the crowd moved faster. The passage was quite narrow; we fell and so did several other people. I was afraid that we’d simply be trampled. I tried to crawl to the side and pull my mom out of the way. [Some] men saw us and ran over and helped us get up. Big thanks to them. 

We met a group of people who were inside the hall when everything happened. One man said several people in masks came into the hall and threw something that was burning; people caught fire, they shot at them, and then they opened fire on the other people in the hall. The man who told us this was with his wife and daughter — they crawled between the rows [of seats] and managed to get out of the hall eventually. 

Now my mother and I are watching the news non-stop. It feels as though this didn’t happen to us. We’re very sorry for the people who — God forbid — are still in there. I’d really like to hope that they’ll be able to save as many people as possible. 


I went to the concert with a friend and her mother. We were sitting in the last row waiting for the performance to start. At some point, I [heard] loud pops, like fireworks, and thought it was part of the concert. But [then] people started to stand up and crowd around the exit, and the popping noise started to sound closer. And we realized this wasn’t part of the concert. 

People in bulletproof vests were shooting at point-blank range, it didn’t matter at whom. They shot at elderly people and into the crowd that had gathered near the exits. We lay down on the floor and I lay down on top of my friend’s mother, because she had started to panic and stood there in a stupor. Two men helped us out, seeing that I couldn’t lift my friend’s mother, and that my friend was crying from fear and choking on the smoke. 

We stood up [together], in a group, with our hands behind our heads. The only exit we could reach was the main one. There was a crowd there. We started pushing our way in when suddenly I heard shooting from behind and people started pushing harder. It was scary. I covered my friend’s mom [with my body]. We got out. I saw corpses. 

We received first aid. I was on a rush of adrenaline and wanted to run back into the building, because I saw people who didn’t know where to run, wounded and crowded in a corner. I saw the people with machine guns approach and start shooting into this corner at point-blank range. 

It was very scary and I sincerely hope [the perpetrators] are found.

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Terrorist attack at concert hall outside Moscow Latest updates


Terrorist attack at concert hall outside Moscow Latest updates

Interviews by Kristina Safonova and Lilia Yapprova

Translated and abridged by Eilish Hart 

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