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Putin’s spy chief scolds Macron for extremely dangerous remark on Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign intelligence chief has said French President Emmanuel Macron’s refusal to rule out sending European troops to fight Russian soldiers in Ukraine was extremely dangerous and irresponsible.

Macron said last month that there was no consensus on sending European troops to fight in Ukraine but that nothing should be excluded, though the United States and other European members of the alliance have said there were no plans to do so.

Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR RF) Director Sergei Naryshkin seen while visiting the Victory Day Red Square Parade on May 9, 2023 in Moscow, Russia.

Contributor | Getty Images

Asked about Macron’s remarks, Sergei Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the main successor to the KGB’s First Directorate foreign spying section, said they were deeply irresponsible.

“This shows the high degree of political irresponsibility of Europe’s leaders today, in this case, the president of France,” Naryshkin told state television in remarks on Tuesday. “These statements are extremely dangerous.”

“It is sad to see this, sad to observe and sad to understand that the ability of current elites in Europe and the North Atlantic to negotiate is at a very low level,” he said. “They more and more rarely demonstrate any common sense at all.”

— Reuters

Missile alert in Russia’s Kursk region after Ukrainian drone reportedly strikes fuel warehouse

The governor of Russia’s Kursk region said on Wednesday that a fuel warehouse was on fire after it was attacked by a Ukrainian drone.

Local governor Roman Starovoit said on messaging site Telegram that a fire had broken out at a fuel and lubricants warehouse “as a result of an attack by a Ukrainian drone in the Zheleznogorsky district” in Kursk, a region that borders Ukraine.

“The fuel tank is on fire, no one was injured. Emergency services arrived at the scene,” he said, according to a Google translation.

Shortly after, Starovoit posted another message warning the city of Zheleznogorsk of “missile danger,” telling its residents to take shelter in windowless rooms with solid walls.

A sign reading as “Kursk for you!” with the Z letter, a tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, is pictured the outside the village of Bolshoe Zhirovo, Kursk region, which borders Ukraine, on May 26, 2023. 

Olga Maltseva | Afp | Getty Images

CNBC was unable to immediately verify the claim and Ukraine has not publicly commented on the incident. It previously launched numerous drone attacks against Russian oil infrastructure, such as oil refineries, in other border regions including Rostov, Bryansk, Belgorod and Voronezh.

Zelenskyy says he welcomes ICC arrest warrants for Russian military officials

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday said he welcomed the International Criminal Court’s decision to issue arrest warrants for two senior Russian military officials.

“International justice requires time, but it is unavoidable. We continue to make every effort to ensure that no Russian beast responsible for the murder of Ukrainian children, women, and men goes unpunished. And no number of stars on shoulder straps or cabinet doors will keep them from being held accountable,” Zelenskyy wrote in a post on social media platform X.

Earlier on Tuesday, the ICC said that there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that the two Russian military officials were responsible for strikes that could be classed as war crimes.

— Sophie Kiderlin

International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for senior Russian military officials

The International Criminal Court on Tuesday said it had issued arrest warrants for two senior Russian military officials: Lieutenant General Sergei Ivanovich Kobylash and Admiral Viktor Kinolayevich Sokolov.

“Pre-Trial Chamber II considered that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the two suspects bear responsibility for missile strikes carried out by the forces under their command against the Ukrainian electric infrastructure from at least 10 October 2022 until at least 9 March 2023,” the ICC said in a statement.

It added that there was reason to believe the strikes were aimed at civilian targets and caused “excessive incidental harm.” They could be classed as actions taken against a civilian population, which falls under the category of “crimes against humanity or inhumane acts,” the ICC said.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Moldova spy chief warns on new destabilization attempts by Russia

Moldova’s spy chief said on Tuesday that Russia was planning fresh attempts to meddle in the country’s internal affairs by provoking protests, interfering in upcoming presidential elections, and disrupting plans to join the European Union.

Alexandru Musteata, head of the Information and Security Service, said his agency had intercepted a record level of activities by the Russian security services since 2023 and expected more destabilizing actions this year and next.

“Russian intelligence services intend to interfere in the election processes this year as well,” Musteata told media.

“We have information that attempts are being made to compromise a referendum on the European integration, interfere in the presidential elections, as well as discredit government institutions and politicians who support Moldova’s accession to the European Union.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his meeting with drivers and road industry representatives, on February 22, 2024 in Kazan, Russia. 

Contributor | Getty Images

Relations between Moldova and Russia have disintegrated as the government has steered a pro-European course and accused Moscow of trying to destabilize it. The ex-Soviet state’s pro-Western president Maia Sandu has denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as she leads Moldova on a path to join the EU and defence alliance NATO.

Moscow denies the allegations of interference and accuses Sandu of stoking anti-Russian sentiment in the country, which lies between Ukraine and Romania.

Musteata said Moscow tried to meddle in the local elections last November in Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries. Moscow has denied such interference. Musteata said Moscow was also planning to interfere in an upcoming presidential vote by supporting pro-Russian politicians and parties.

Russia would likely provoke protests in Moldova in March and April and stir up separatist sentiments, especially in the east and south of Moldova, he said. Last month, the pro-Moscow head of Moldova’s Gagauzia region asked Russia for its support and to maintain close ties. Also in February, Moldova’s breakaway Transdniestria region asked Russia to help its economy withstand Moldovan “pressure”.

— Reuters

How could Moscow stir up trouble in Moldova?

Moscow has continued its saber-rattling over the pro-Russian region of Transnistria in Moldova this week, with the guesswork continuing over what it could do next.

Analysts note that Russian authorities would find it hard to physically reach the breakaway region to reinforce troops there, or to even annex it, but there are still ways it can stir up pro-Russian unrest and trouble for Moldova.

Since the separatist self-proclaimed authorities in Transnistria asked for Moscow’s “protection” against the Moldovan authorities last week — a move that was widely seen as coordinated with the Kremlin and a possible precursor to Russia beefing up its military presence there, or even annexing the region — the West has been closely watching the rhetoric coming from Moscow.

In this pool photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin meets with residents of the town of Tsivilsk in the Republic of Chuvashia on February 22, 2024.

Alexander Kazakov | AFP | Getty Images

Problematically for Russia, Moldova and Transnistria are landlocked, sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. That would mean that reinforcing its troops in the region would be challenging.

But Russia could still cause trouble, especially as a presidential election in Moldova is set to be held later this year — a vote that could be held alongside a referendum on EU membership.

Read more on the story here: Russia can’t reach a pro-Russian region in Moldova easily — but there are ways it can cause trouble

Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine’s military says it has attacked Russian ship off Crimea

Six years on from the day Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty of accession to absorb Crimea in the Russian Federation on March 18, 2020 in Sevastopol, Ukraine.

Pierre Crom | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Ukraine military intelligence said Tuesday that it used naval drones to attack a Russian ship off the coast of Crimea.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Directorate of Intelligence said special unit Group 13 had damaged the Russian Black Sea Fleet patrol ship, the “Sergey Kotov,” near Russian-occupied Crimea.

“The ‘Kotov’ was damaged by fire in the territorial waters of Ukraine, near the Kerch Strait,” the agency said on Telegram in comments translated by NBC. It said the cost of the sunken ship “is about 65 million dollars.”

“As a result of the strike by Magura V5 naval drones, the Russian ship of project 22160 “Sergei Kotov” suffered damage to the stern, right and left sides,” it added.

Apparently referencing the attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak said on Telegram on Tuesday that “the Russian Black Sea Fleet is a symbol of occupation. It cannot be in the Ukrainian Crimea.”

CNBC was unable to immediately verify the reports.

Ukraine’s operations to attack Russia’s Black Sea Fleet were among its key successes in 2023, with drone and missile attacks on the Crimean port of Sevastopol forcing Russia to withdraw a number of its ships from its main base there.

— Holly Ellyatt

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