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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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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently enjoyed his inaugural ride in a luxury car gifted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, marking a symbolic moment in the strengthening relationship between Pyongyang and Moscow. This gesture underscores the deepening ties since their summit in September, as Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, highlighted the significance of the occasion as evidence of the robust DPRK-Russia friendship. The vehicle, an Aurus Senat limousine, arrived in Pyongyang in February after Putin’s invitation to Kim during their meeting.

Aurus, touted as Russia’s premier luxury car brand, has been a staple in the motorcades of top Russian officials since Putin’s inauguration in 2018. Notably, Kim Jong Un, known for his collection of foreign luxury cars, has previously utilized vehicles like the Maybach limousine during his travels, including his visit to Russia. However, the gift of the Aurus adds another dimension to his collection.

Despite the diplomatic exchange, concerns have been raised, particularly regarding potential violations of UN sanctions. The Ministry of Unification in South Korea condemned North Korea’s public display of the gift, stressing Russia’s responsibility as a UN Security Council member. Additionally, there are concerns about the close ties between North Korea and Russia amid the latter’s conflict with Ukraine and suspicions of military cooperation between the two nations.

Kim’s use of the luxury vehicle was coupled with overseeing military drills, emphasizing his country’s military capabilities. Furthermore, his daughter accompanied him during this event, indicating a potential succession plan within the leadership.

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Russian authorities have reported several incidents of vandalism occurring at polling stations during the initial day of the presidential elections. These acts included pouring green dye into ballot boxes, setting them ablaze, and igniting fireworks within the polling stations. Despite these disturbances, Vladimir Putin is expected to secure another six-year term in office, as there is no significant opposition challenging his candidacy.

The voting process spans three days until Sunday, with turnout reaching 23% in Moscow by late afternoon. Most of the reported incidents took place in Moscow, Voronezh, and the region of Karachay-Cherkessia. BBC Verify has confirmed footage of several incidents, including the throwing of petrol bombs and the pouring of paint into ballot boxes.

Some incidents occurred in occupied areas of Ukraine, resulting in at least eight arrests. While the motives behind these acts remain unclear, some vandals reportedly shouted pro-Ukrainian slogans. The Central Election Committee has confirmed five incidents involving liquids being poured into ballot boxes, with the substance identified as “zelyonka,” commonly used as an antiseptic but also in protests.

Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova strongly condemned the perpetrators, labeling them as “scumbags.” She revealed that some of those detained admitted to committing the acts for financial gain and could face up to five years in jail. Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Putin’s critic Alexei Navalny, has called for opposition protests at polling stations on Sunday. She urged the West not to recognize Putin’s presidency, a sentiment echoed by NATO’s secretary-general, who declared the election not free and fair.

Polling stations opened in Kamchatka at 08:00 local time on Friday and will close in Kaliningrad at 20:00 on Sunday, marking the conclusion of the voting process.

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Moscow is orchestrating a significant effort urging residents in occupied parts of Ukraine to participate in Russia’s presidential election. The election, spanning three days for the first time, is being supplemented with early voting in regions under occupation, including Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk.

Reports indicate coercion tactics, with pro-Russian collaborators and armed soldiers visiting households with ballot boxes to encourage voting. While Vladimir Putin’s victory seems assured, a high turnout would bolster Kremlin’s legitimacy and potentially justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Residents are pressured through various means, including home visits by electoral representatives accompanied by armed individuals, data collection, and filming. Despite resistance and attacks on election organizers, Moscow continues to promote the vote as an endorsement of Putin’s leadership, using symbols associated with the Ukraine conflict.

However, critics denounce the process as undemocratic and farcical, citing intimidation tactics, forced participation, and the absence of genuine opposition. Many residents, fearful of repercussions, reluctantly comply with the orchestrated election process.

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Hundreds of individuals in Russia gathered for the funeral of Alexei Navalny, the outspoken Putin critic who died in prison last month. Despite a substantial police presence and erected barricades, mourners broke into applause as Navalny’s body was brought into a church near Moscow. Attendees knowingly risked arrest for expressing support, while Navalny’s wife squarely pointed the finger at President Putin for his demise, contrary to Moscow’s claim of natural causes.

Navalny’s memorial service commenced at 14:00 Moscow time at the Church of the Icon of Our Lady Quench My Sorrows, with notable foreign diplomats present in solidarity. Following the service, Navalny was laid to rest at Borisovskoye Cemetery. Despite efforts to broadcast the event live, disruptions to mobile signals hindered streaming, leaving many unable to witness the proceedings.

Despite warnings from the Kremlin, mourners seized the opportunity to voice their admiration for Navalny’s bravery and questioned the authorities’ apparent fear. Navalny’s team encountered challenges in organizing the funeral, including difficulties in procuring a hearse. Supporters abroad were urged to participate in memorial services, reminiscent of past public displays of grief for opposition figures.

Concerns about surveillance and the potential for post-funeral detentions were widespread, with social media platforms sharing advice urging attendees to exercise caution. The gathering was marked by a sense of defiance against government crackdowns on dissent.

Navalny’s immediate family, excluding his children residing abroad, attended the ceremony. However, his widow, Yulia, faced potential arrest upon her return to Russia, further underscoring the risks associated with opposition activism in the country.

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Alexei Navalny’s burial is confirmed to take place at Borisovskoye Cemetery in Moscow on Friday, following a farewell ceremony at a local church. Yulia Navalnaya, his widow, expressed uncertainty about the funeral’s peacefulness and the potential for police interference.

Navalny, a prominent critic of Vladimir Putin, died unexpectedly in a Siberian prison earlier this month, sparking accusations against the Russian president from his widow and many world leaders. Details surrounding Navalny’s death remain scant, with Russian authorities initially resisting releasing his body to his family.

Funeral arrangements faced obstacles, with some funeral homes refusing service due to the deceased’s identity. Yulia Navalnaya addressed the European Parliament, criticizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine and advocating for a more effective strategy against Putin.

The funeral date was adjusted due to logistical challenges, with Navalny’s team urging attendees to arrive early. Security concerns loom over the event, given recent arrests of those paying tribute to Navalny across Russia. Allegations surfaced of a potential prisoner swap involving Navalny, but the Kremlin denies any knowledge of such arrangements.

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Alexei Navalny, the prominent opposition figure in Russia, has tragically passed away in a jail located in the Arctic Circle, according to the prison service. Navalny, who had been a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism that many believed to be politically motivated. His death has sparked outrage and accusations of foul play from his allies and supporters.

Navalny’s wife, Yulia, has called on the international community to hold the Russian regime accountable for his death. His close ally, Ivan Zhdanov, has suggested that Navalny may have been murdered, a sentiment echoed by many who oppose Putin’s government.

Navalny’s sudden decline in health occurred shortly after a walk, according to the prison service. Despite efforts to resuscitate him, Navalny could not be revived.

In response to Navalny’s death, there have been calls for protests in Russia, although authorities have warned against participating in such demonstrations. Several individuals have already been detained in various cities.

Navalny’s death has drawn condemnation from leaders around the world, with many pointing fingers at Putin’s government for its alleged role in his demise. US President Joe Biden, among others, has held Putin responsible for what he called “proof of Putin’s brutality.”

Navalny’s journey as an opposition figure in Russia has been marked by challenges and dangers, including a poisoning incident in August 2020 with a nerve agent. Despite facing multiple obstacles, Navalny remained determined to challenge Putin’s rule, even as his health deteriorated and he endured harsh conditions in prison.

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In a Moscow function room, a group of women, known as The Way Home, publicly criticizes the Russian authorities for keeping their husbands, part of the 300,000 reservists mobilized for the war in Ukraine, away from home. The women, who met through social media, have different views on the war but share the belief that their husbands have fulfilled their military duty and should return.

The women express frustration with the government and its lack of consideration for the soldiers’ well-being. They meet with local councillor Boris Nadezhdin, a rare government critic who has been allowed on national television. Nadezhdin, critical of the military operation, believes the war has damaged Putin’s domestic popularity.

Critics of the war blame the mobilized men, while Kremlin supporters label the women as Western puppets. Russian MP Andrei Kartapolov suggests that calls for demobilization are orchestrated by Russia’s enemies, linking it to World War Two. The women find such comparisons insulting, emphasizing that the current conflict is different.

Maria Andreeva, a member of The Way Home, not only advocates for her family’s return but also aims to prevent further call-ups. The group stages peaceful protests by laying flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Despite their efforts, the women feel a lack of support from society. Antonina, whose partner was drafted, shares her disappointment in the changing perception of her husband among friends. She emphasizes the desire for the return of husbands who did not volunteer for the front line, questioning Putin’s attitude towards citizens who once supported him. The women fear the possibility of a second wave of mobilization, despite Putin’s earlier assurances.

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A devastating fire has ravaged the majority of Abkhazia’s art collection in the National Art Gallery in Sukhumi, the capital of the breakaway region controlled by Russia. The blaze, which destroyed over 4,000 paintings, is suspected to have originated from an electrical short circuit in the early 20th-century wooden building that housed the valuable collection. Among the lost artworks were 300 pieces by the renowned artist and stage designer Alexander Chachba-Shervashidze. The gallery’s director, Suram Sakanya, lamented the irreparable loss, emphasizing that the collection had withstood Abkhazia’s civil war with Georgia in the 1990s.

Local artists had long advocated for a more suitable storage location, and a video before the fire revealed cramped rooms with insufficient protection for the paintings. Abkhazia, receiving support from Moscow, is situated in the north-western corner of Georgia and shares a border with Russia. Despite the region’s declaration of independence in 1999 after a war of secession with Georgia, it lacks widespread international recognition. Following the Georgian-Russian war in 2008, Moscow recognized Abkhazia as an independent state, while Georgia contends that Russia occupies the region.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili expressed sorrow over the tragedy, attributing it to the neglect of cultural identity by both the de facto leadership and Russian occupants. Russia has pledged to dispatch specialists to Sukhumi to aid in the restoration of the surviving 150 paintings rescued from the fire.

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