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Four men have been charged by Russian authorities for their alleged involvement in a terrorist attack at a concert hall in Moscow, resulting in the tragic deaths of at least 137 individuals. These suspects, marched into a Moscow court, faced charges related to committing an act of terrorism. However, their appearance in court raised concerns as they exhibited signs of physical abuse, with reports suggesting mistreatment during their arrest.

The attack, which occurred at the Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk, involved gunmen storming the venue during a rock concert attended by approximately 6,000 people. The assailants unleashed gunfire and set fires within the hall, leading to chaos and widespread devastation. Russian officials reported over a hundred injuries in addition to the significant loss of life.

Despite the Islamic State group claiming responsibility for the attack, Russian authorities have insinuated, without evidence, Ukrainian involvement. This assertion has been vehemently denied by Ukrainian officials, who have dismissed it as unfounded and absurd. Meanwhile, the suspects, identified as citizens of Tajikistan, have been detained pending further investigation, with their detention extended until May 22.

The incident underscores the ongoing threat posed by extremist groups like IS, particularly in regions like Central Asia. Security analysts point to various factors driving such attacks, including geopolitical tensions and historical conflicts. The rise of IS-K, a branch of IS operating in Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia, highlights the organization’s adaptability and continued efforts to target regions beyond its traditional strongholds.

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Gunmen launched a devastating assault on a concert hall near Moscow, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 60 lives and leaving around 100 people injured, as confirmed by Russian security services. The attackers, numbering at least four and clad in camouflage attire, stormed the Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk, igniting chaos and terror.

The concert hall, moments away from hosting a rock concert, witnessed the assailants infiltrating both the foyer and the theatre, setting parts of the building ablaze, which eventually led to a portion of the roof collapsing. Shockingly, children were among the casualties, prompting swift condemnation from the Russian foreign ministry, which labeled the incident a “terrorist attack.”

Although an online statement attributed to the Islamic State claimed responsibility, the assertion remains unverified. Nevertheless, US officials disclosed intelligence suggesting IS harbored intentions to target Russia, a warning conveyed to Russian authorities earlier. Subsequently, Russia’s National Guard mobilized special units to apprehend the attackers, while top officials rushed to the scene.

The harrowing assault unfolded just as thousands gathered for a rock concert by the band Picnic, narrowly sparing the musicians themselves from harm. Witnesses recounted scenes of horror as gunfire erupted, prompting frantic attempts to seek refuge or escape. Fire engulfed the premises, likely initiated by incendiary devices hurled by the assailants.

Emergency responders swarmed the area, tending to the wounded and facilitating evacuations. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin responded by canceling all public events in the capital, with other regions following suit. Amid the grief and shock, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called for international condemnation of what she described as “a monstrous crime.”

While Ukrainian officials swiftly disavowed any involvement, tensions heightened as Ukrainian military intelligence insinuated possible Russian involvement, an allegation dismissed by Russian authorities. The attack bore eerie parallels to the 2002 theatre siege in Moscow, evoking memories of past tragedies.

In response to the atrocity, security measures were reinforced at key transport hubs, reflecting a nation on edge in the wake of this appalling act of violence. The White House expressed profound sympathy for the victims, denouncing the attack as an unfathomable act of brutality.

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According to reports, at least 60 Russian soldiers were killed in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region when two missiles struck a training area where troops had gathered for the arrival of a senior commander, Maj-Gen Oleg Moiseyev. The incident occurred just before a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, during which Shoigu claimed Russian successes in various areas of the front line. The soldiers, members of the 36th motorised rifle brigade, were allegedly instructed by their commanders to stand in an open field, where they were hit by missiles fired from a US-made HIMARS launch system. Video footage and images from the scene showed numerous dead soldiers.

Separately, reports emerged about the death of military blogger Andrey Morozov, known as Murz, who allegedly took his own life after being pressured by the military to remove a report detailing Russian losses in recent battles. Morozov claimed that about 16,000 troops had been killed or seriously injured, and 300 armored vehicles destroyed. The exact circumstances of Morozov’s death could not be independently verified.

Russia’s military seldom reports casualties, but some pro-Russian military bloggers have regularly provided such information. Ukraine has also spoken about significant casualties among Russian troops. A collaborative effort between BBC Russian and the Mediazona website has updated figures for confirmed deaths in the Russian military over the two years since the invasion of Ukraine, with a total of 45,123 confirmed dead, including 6,614 since October of the previous year.

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A tragic incident occurred in northeastern Ukraine as a Russian missile struck a hotel, resulting in the death of a two-month-old baby and injuring his mother. The governor of Kharkiv region, Oleh Synehubov, reported the retrieval of the baby’s body from the collapsed building in Zolochiv. This attack, carried out with two S-300 missiles, also wounded two other women. The village’s proximity to the Russian border renders it vulnerable, as Ukrainian air defenses cannot adequately cover such areas.

Originally designed for Russia’s air defense, the S-300 missiles have been repurposed to target Ukrainian ground installations, deemed a cost-effective alternative to more precise cruise missiles. Recent months have seen increased assaults on the Kharkiv region, with another hotel targeted in Kharkiv city previously, resulting in numerous injuries, including journalists covering the conflict.

In response to Russia’s aggression, Ukrainian forces launched a lethal strike on Belgorod, near the border. Additionally, Ukraine’s SBU security service apprehended five individuals suspected of involvement in a Russian espionage ring, allegedly providing sensitive information to Russia’s FSB, including details on military assets and infrastructure.

As Ukraine braces itself amidst the ongoing conflict, President Volodymyr Zelensky contemplates strategic shifts, including potential changes in leadership within the armed forces. Despite challenges and setbacks, Zelensky emphasizes the importance of perseverance and unity in achieving victory.

While US military assistance to Ukraine faces delays due to political wrangling in Congress, the European Union has approved a substantial aid package for Ukraine, highlighting its steadfast support amid the approaching third year of conflict.

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A Russian Ilyushin-76 military transport plane crashed in the southern Belgorod region near the Ukrainian border. The Russian Ministry of Defence claimed that the plane was carrying 65 captured Ukrainian military personnel for a prisoner exchange, but these details could not be independently verified. Reports initially suggested that the plane may have been downed by Ukrainian forces, but these were later deleted. Ukrainian authorities stated they did not have accurate information and were investigating.

Video footage showed the plane crashing and exploding near the village of Yablonovo. The regional governor confirmed all on board had died. Some Ukrainian media suggested the plane was transporting missiles for Russia’s S-300 air defense systems. The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence confirmed a planned prisoner exchange had been canceled.

The Russian defence ministry alleged that Ukraine fired anti-aircraft missiles from the Lyptsi area, claiming two Ukrainian missiles targeted the plane. A prisoner exchange was scheduled at a border checkpoint near Belgorod. Russian officials mentioned a second plane carrying 80 Ukrainian prisoners, but it changed course.

Ukraine and Russia have engaged in several prisoner exchanges during the war. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, with ongoing conflict. The war’s toll includes casualties and intensified air attacks. Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov highlighted a shortage of ammunition for Ukrainian forces, while Russia reportedly used over 600 missiles and 1,000 drones in the past two months. Ukraine relies on drones in its defense strategy, and recent attacks caused explosions, including at a gas export terminal near St Petersburg.

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An explosion at a significant gas export terminal near St Petersburg in Russia has reportedly been orchestrated by Ukrainian drones, as informed by sources to BBC News. The incident, which caused a large fire at the Ust-Luga terminal, resulted in no injuries according to Russian officials. Ukrainian sources from Kyiv claim that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) conducted a “special operation” using targeted drones. Both Russia and Ukraine have utilized drones in the ongoing conflict.

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia began nearly two years ago, with limited progress reported in recent months. The explosion near St Petersburg occurred at the Ust-Luga terminal of gas producer Novatek, prompting a “high alert regime” in the region. Novatek suspended operations at the terminal, attributing the fire to “external influence” without providing specific details.

According to Ukrainian sources, the fuel processed at the attacked plant supplied Russian troops in the ongoing conflict, and this strike is said to significantly complicate military logistics. The attack is also characterized as an economic blow to Russia, a major fuel exporter from the terminal.

Reports from Russia’s include video footage of tankers near the fire, revealing that two drones were observed heading towards St Petersburg before altering their course towards the Ust-Luga port. Witnesses reported feeling the ground shake with explosions, and about 150 staff were evacuated from the terminal.

The Russian defence ministry stated it shot down three Ukrainian drones in the Smolensk Region near the Ukrainian border on Saturday night, following earlier reports of downed drones in Tula and Oryol in western Russia. No casualties were reported.

Additionally, on the same day, a shelling incident in the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine resulted in at least 25 deaths and 20 injuries at a busy market. Russia and Ukraine have been targeting each other’s energy infrastructure, with a recent fire at an oil depot in Bryansk, southwest Russia, blamed on a Ukrainian drone strike. This follows an attack on a major oil loading terminal in St Petersburg and Russia’s claim of capturing a village near Bakhmut, which Kyiv has not confirmed. Ukraine, facing ammunition shortages, has expressed intentions to domestically produce a million drones this year.

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Russian authorities claim to have thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to attack a border city as the ongoing aerial conflict between the two nations escalates. They reported intercepting a dozen missiles targeting Belgorod, where 25 people lost their lives on Saturday. Ukraine has not provided a response.

This development follows Russia’s largest aerial bombardment on Ukraine, with President Volodymyr Zelensky stating that Russia deployed around 300 missiles and 200 drones over five days. The renewed attacks began last week, prompting a Ukrainian counterattack on Belgorod that resulted in over 100 injuries.

Zelensky revealed in a broadcast that Russia fired nearly 100 strategically chosen missiles on Tuesday, and Ukrainian forces successfully shot down 10 hypersonic ballistic missiles on that day alone. Ukrainian officials reported over 130 casualties from Tuesday’s attacks, including major cities like Kharkiv and Kyiv.

In response, Russia’s air defense system intercepted 12 missiles targeting Belgorod overnight, causing one fatality and five injuries in the region. Explosions were also heard in Sevastopol, the largest city in Russian-occupied Crimea, where a missile was shot down over the port with no reported casualties or damage.

Ukrainian Ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, expressed that Ukraine anticipated Russia’s recent bombardment but stressed the need for more weapons to effectively respond and send a clear message to Russia to halt its actions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to increase strikes in retaliation for Ukraine’s recent attacks on Belgorod.

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A Ukrainian airstrike targeted a Russian warship, the Novocherkassk, at the Black Sea port of Feodosiya in Russian-occupied Crimea, causing damage and casualties. The attack occurred early on a Tuesday morning, with the Ukrainian Air Force claiming responsibility and stating that their warplanes had successfully destroyed the ship using guided missiles. According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, the large landing ship was hit, resulting in one fatality and several injuries. Six buildings were damaged, and some people had to be relocated to temporary accommodation centers. The port’s transport operations were reportedly functioning normally after the area was cordoned off, and the fire caused by the attack was contained.

Footage depicting a substantial explosion at the port was shared by Ukrainian Air Force Commander Lt Gen Mykola Oleshchuk, though independent verification of the images is lacking. Satellite imagery from December 24 showed a ship at the port matching the length of the Novocherkassk. This landing ship is designed for transporting troops, weapons, and cargo to shore.

There have been previous instances of Ukrainian forces targeting the Novocherkassk. In March 2022, the ship was reportedly damaged in an attack on the occupied Ukrainian port of Berdyansk, where another amphibious assault ship, the Saratov, was sunk. Lt Gen Oleshchuk mentioned on Telegram that the Novocherkassk had met a fate similar to the Moskva, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet flagship, which sank in the Black Sea the previous year.

Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky expressed gratitude to the Ukrainian Air Force, joking about the “impressive replenishment” of the Russian Black Sea fleet. He emphasized that occupiers would find no peaceful place in Ukraine. The ongoing conflict stems from Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, with Russian forces based in Crimea playing a significant role in the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Ukrainian forces have repeatedly targeted Russian forces in Crimea, destroying and damaging multiple navy ships in the Black Sea. Last September, a missile strike on the Black Sea fleet’s headquarters in Sevastopol led to the relocation of much of the Russian Black Sea fleet to Novorossiysk.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, during his first major news conference since launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, stated that peace with Ukraine would only happen when Russia achieves its objectives.

He combined the event with his annual “direct line” phone-in and discussed the “special military operation in Ukraine,” emphasizing Russian sovereignty and a strong economy despite the war. Putin listed the objectives as “denazification, demilitarization, and its neutral status” for Ukraine. He revealed that Russia has 617,000 troops in Ukraine, with additional voluntary recruits, and mentioned losses without providing specific numbers.

Putin addressed Ukraine’s recent military success near the Dnipro River, attributing it to a last-ditch attempt to reach Crimea. He suggested Russian forces withdrew to wooded areas to protect soldiers and claimed Ukraine’s motives were politically driven to seek more military funding from the West. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, further aggression might follow.

Putin asserted that Russian forces have the upper hand on the front line in Ukraine, despite economic sanctions and political isolation. He expressed confidence in Russia’s ability to “move forward” despite these challenges.

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Dozens of people were injured in a series of missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, overnight, with 53 people, including six children, harmed, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko. The attacks occurred after President Volodymyr Zelensky’s plea for increased military aid in the US yielded little progress. Ten Russian ballistic missiles were reportedly shot down, damaging kindergarten and hospital buildings. Zelensky, who left the US prior to the strikes, vowed a response and criticized Russia for targeting residential areas. The EU is set to discuss further aid for Ukraine, and Zelensky arrived in Norway for additional support talks.

The attack on Kyiv followed the use of cruise missiles by Russia, ending a 79-day hiatus in missile attacks. Ukraine’s air force claimed to have intercepted all 10 incoming missiles. The projectiles were identified as Iskander-M ballistic missiles and S-400s, designed for air defense but also used against ground targets. A major cyberattack on Ukraine’s largest mobile network operator, Kyivstar, disrupted operations, impacting millions of people relying on air raid alerts. Additionally, the port city of Odesa faced drone attacks, causing injuries and damage.

Zelensky’s efforts to secure more military aid in the US faced challenges, with President Joe Biden warning Republicans about giving Russia a “Christmas gift” if aid was not increased. Zelensky and Biden agreed to enhance air defense systems for Ukraine. Meanwhile, a summit of European leaders discussed Ukraine’s potential accession to the EU, but Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban opposed opening accession talks, emphasizing the need for support without full membership.

Hungary has previously clashed with EU partners over its stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed Ukraine’s fight as crucial for Europe and urged support for its inclusion in the European family.

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