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Ukraine claims Russia knew terror attack was coming

KYIV, UKRAINE – MARCH 10: Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine, speaks during the farewell ceremony for Dmytro Kotsiubailo on Independence Square on March 10, 2023 in Kyiv, Ukraine. The farewell ceremony for Dmytro Kotsiubailo known as “Da Vinci” was held in St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, and then the procession went to the Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square). 27-year-old “Da Vinci” was the commander of the “Da Vinci Wolves” battalion as part of the 67th Separate Mechanized Brigade. Three days ago, Dmytro Kotsiubailo died in a battle with Russian troops on the front line near Bakhmut. Dmytro became the first volunteer who received the highest national title of Hero of Ukraine during his lifetime with the award of the Order of the Gold Star for personal courage. (Photo by Yurii Stefanyak/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

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Ukraine’s intelligence chief claimed on Wednesday that Russia was aware that a terrorist attack was being planned since at least Feb.15.

Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, told a defense forum that Russia knew of a plot to attack it well ahead of the March 22 attack at the Crocus City Hall concert venue in Moscow, in which 143 died.

“At least, since February 15, 2024, the Russian Federation had been aware about the plot. I will tell you more, this information passed through their intelligence station in Syria. From there it was forwarded to Moscow. So they shouldn’t be telling tales that this all materialized in a strange way out of nowhere,” Budanov said, news agency Ukrinform reported.

The Islamic State militant group claimed it was behind the Moscow attack, but Russia has blamed Ukraine and its allies, saying they orchestrated the attack. They reject the claims as “nonsense” and the White House said it had warned Russia weeks ago that it believed an attack was “imminent.”

Budanov claimed Russia knew where the combat groups would come from, and which countries the attackers would travel through to reach Russia. Discussing why Russia would allow an attack to take place, Budanov said it could be a precursor to the removal of “several high-ranking officials” or that “another option is that they actually underestimated the scale of what would happen.”

“They thought that the incident would be more local, and wanted to blame Ukraine for everything,” the intelligence official said.

Budanov did not present evidence to back up his claims. Similarly, Russia has not produced evidence to back up its claims that Ukraine and the West were behind the terrorist attack.

— Holly Ellyatt

Putin dismisses idea of attacking NATO — but not F-16 fighters

 Russian President Vladimir Putin speeches during an annual expanded Prosecutor General’s Office meeting, March 26, 2024, in Moscow, Russia. 

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Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the idea that Russia could attack NATO, but he warned that any F-16 fighters given to Ukraine by its Western allies would be legitimate targets for Russian forces.

Speaking to air force pilots Wednesday, Putin said U.S. spending on defense exceeded Russia’s and said, “are we, having this ratio, going to fight with NATO, or what? Well, this is just nonsense!” news agency Tass reported.

Asked about the delivery of F-16 jet fighters, which a number of European countries have pledged to deliver to Ukraine, Putin said such combat aircraft would not change the war.

“If they deliver the F-16, they are talking about it, like they are training pilots, it will not change the situation on the battlefield. And we will destroy aircraft the same way we destroy tanks, armored vehicles and other equipment today, including multiple launch rocket systems,” he warned.

Putin accused the military alliance NATO of expanding toward Russia, stating “they came right to our borders! Were we moving towards the borders of those countries that were part of the NATO bloc? We didn’t touch anyone! They were moving towards us.”

NATO’s land border with Russia has more than doubled since Finland joined the bloc in 2023, a move precipitated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While Russia repeatedly accuses NATO of encroaching upon it, NATO notes that “even after Finland’s accession, only 11% of Russia’s land border is shared with NATO countries.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Moscow terror attack death toll rises to 143

A view shows the burnt-out Crocus City Hall concert venue in Krasnogorsk, outside Moscow, on March 26, 2024.

Natalia Kolesnikova | AFP | Getty Images

The number of people killed in the Moscow terrorist attack has risen to 143, Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations said Thursday.

On Wednesday, the death toll rose from 139 to 140, with Health Minister Mikhail Murashko noting that 19 people, including three children, remained in a serious condition after the attack at the Crocus City Hall.

The Investigative Committee’s investigation into the terrorist attack is ongoing.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia may have used new guided bomb to attack Ukraine’s Kharkiv, officials say

Residential buildings are being damaged by the impact, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 27, 2024. On the afternoon of March 27, Russia struck Kharkiv. Apartment buildings were damaged, and at least one person died. 

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Russia may have used a new type of guided bomb in airstrikes on the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv that killed at least one person on Wednesday, local officials said.

The officials said four children including a three-month-old baby were among 19 people wounded in Kharkiv in the latest strikes since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, some of which have caused blackouts, including in Kharkiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the attack as “Russian terror” and Volodymyr Tymoshko, head of the Kharkiv regional police, said Moscow may have used a new type of guided bomb which he described as the UMPB D-30.

“This is something between a guided aerial bomb which they (the Russians) have used recently, and a missile. It’s a flying bomb so to say,” Tymoshko said at the site of the strike.

Regional governor Oleh Synehubov also suggested Moscow may have used a new type of bomb, saying: “It seems that the Russians decided to test their modified bombs on the residents of the houses.”

Russia did not immediately comment on their remarks. It denies targeting civilians although the war has killed thousands of people, uprooted millions and destroyed towns and cities.

Two residential buildings and a medical institution were partially destroyed, and a total of 14 buildings, including an educational facility, were damaged, Synehubov said on the Telegram messenger.

— Reuters

Russia sentences Pussy Riot activist to six years in absentia for Ukraine “war fakes”

A Russian court sentenced Lyusya Shtein, a member of Pussy Riot and a former municipal deputy in Moscow, to six years in prison in absentia for anti-war social media posts, the court’s press service said on Wednesday.

Shtein, 27, was found guilty of spreading “war fakes” in connection with a March 2022 post on X, in which she accused Russian soldiers captured by Ukraine of “bombing foreign cities and killing people”, Russian independent news outlet Mediazona reported.

At least 19,855 people have been detained in Russia for expressing anti-war views since President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, according to OVD-Info, a group that monitors crackdowns on dissent.

Those found guilty of spreading “false information” about Russia’s army risk 10 years in prison.

The Moscow court said Shtein, who served as a Moscow municipal deputy until 2022, would begin her sentence once she could be extradited to Russia.

— Reuters

‘Extremely hard to believe’ IS carried out Moscow attack, Russia says

Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday that it’s “extremely hard to believe” that the Islamic State (IS) militant group would be able to launch an attack like the one that occurred in Moscow last Friday, in which 140 died.

Zakharova is among senior Russian officials claiming that Western countries and Ukraine were behind the Crocus City Hall attack, despite Islamic State saying it had carried out the massacre.

Zakharova’s comments, reported by Reuters, were less cautious than those from the Kremlin, with Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov telling CNBC Wednesday that “an investigation is underway” and that “the final version [of the investigation] has not yet been announced.”

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – JANUARY 8: (RUSSIA OUT) A woman eats hot corn while walking along the Red Square near the Kremlin, as air temperatures dropped to -18 degrees Celcius, January,8 2024, in Moscow, Russia. Since the beginning of the year, abnormally cold weather has settled in Moscow region, causing problems with heating in apartments. (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images)

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Aside from Russian political hawks, pro-Kremlin Russian media commentators have also claimed the attack was not typical of IS, citing the fact the attackers were not wearing suicide belts and did not appear to be religious fanatics.

Russian media personalities have also parroted the line that the attackers tried to flee toward Ukraine, a line disputed, unusually, by Putin’s close ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who said the attackers originally fled toward Belarus but had been forced to change direction, toward Ukraine, because of Belarus’ enhanced security measures.

— Holly Ellyatt

At least one dead, 12 wounded in strikes on Ukraine’s Kharkiv, mayor says

At least one person has died and 12 have been injured, including children, in the latest Russian strikes on Ukraine’s Kharkiv, its mayor Ihor Terekhov, said on Telegram on Wednesday. Some of those injured are in serious condition, he added.

Apartment buildings and a emergency medical facility were struck and the search for those in need of help is still ongoing, Terekhov said.

CNBC could not independently verify the reports.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Russian investigators to study request to probe Western involvement in ‘terrorism’

A police officer patrols in front of the Russian State Duma and the building of the Hall of Columns, April 8, 2022.

Natalia Kolesnikova | Afp | Getty Images

Russian state investigators said on Wednesday they would study a request from parliamentarians to investigate what they called the “organisation, financing, and conduct of terrorist acts” against Russia by the United States and other Western countries.

The director of Russia’s FSB security agency said on Tuesday that he believed Ukraine, along with the United States and Britain, were involved in an attack on a concert hall just outside Moscow that killed at least 139 people.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron posted on X: “Russia’s claims about the West and Ukraine on the Crocus City Hall attack are utter nonsense.”

Islamic State took responsibility for the Moscow shooting. Washington and Paris have said they have intelligence confirming the Islamist militant group was behind the attack.

— Reuters

Russian intelligence chief claims U.S., U.K. and Ukraine behind Moscow attacks

The head of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on Tuesday said that the U.S., U.K. and Ukraine were behind a deadly terrorist attack in Moscow last week.

FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov told pro-Kremlin journalist Pavel Zarubin claimed that the U.S., U.K. and Ukraine were responsible for the attack, claiming that the attack was beneficial to Western intelligence services and Ukraine to destabilize Russia.

“We believe that the action was prepared by the radical Islamists themselves, and naturally the Western intelligence services contributed to this, and the Ukrainian intelligence services themselves are directly related to this,” Bortnikov said, RIA Novosti reported.

Ukraine has already vehemently denied any involvement in the attack and the White House has said Russian claims to the contrary are “Kremlin propaganda.” The U.K., U.S. and Ukraine have not commented on Bortnikov’s latest claims.

Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Alexander Bortnikov waits to watch the Victory Day military parade at Red Square in central Moscow on May 9, 2022. 

Kirill Kudryavtsev | Afp | Getty Images

Almost 140 people were killed in the Crocus City Hall concert hall, when gunmen entered the venue and opened fire, as well as set fire to the venue. The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility, but Russia was quick to connect Ukraine to the outrage, without presenting evidence.

Since then, Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted that the attack was carried out by so-called “radical Islamists,” but continued to claim Ukraine was linked to the attack.

Bortnikov reiterated Russia’s claim that the attackers were caught, as they tried to flee toward Ukraine, where, he said, they were expected and were going to be greeted “as heroes.”

“The bandits intended to go abroad. Precisely to the territory of Ukraine. According to our preliminary operational information, they were expected there,” he told Zarubin, in an interview posted in Russian on his Telegram channel.

— Holly Ellyatt

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