Ukraine war live updates: Russia says U.S. defended Kyiv too quickly after terror attack; Ukraine reshuffles security chiefs

Russian officials continue to accuse the West and Ukraine of involvement in the Crocus City Hall attack last Friday in which 139 people were killed.

Ukraine denies any involvement and the White House said last Sunday that “ISIS bears sole responsibility for this attack,” using an acronym for the Islamic State militant group, which said it was behind the attack. White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson added that there was “no Ukrainian involvement whatsoever.”

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova claimed the U.S.’ initial rejection of any Ukrainian involvement was suspicious and said the Islamic State group was created by the West.

“The fact that the Americans in the first 24 hours [after the attack], before they even had time to put out the fire, started shouting that this is not Ukraine, I think this is evidence. I cannot classify this in any other way, this is evidence in itself,” Zakharova told the Sputnik radio outlet, news agency Tass reported.

“The second point is the U.S.’ cries that this is definitely the banned terrorist organization ISIS,” Zakharova said, adding that “the speed with which they did all this is amazing.”

“The actions of the Ukrainian regime will not go unpunished,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, according to comments published by state news agency Tass.

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“It seems to me that they drove themselves into an absolute dead end, because as soon as they started shouting that it was ISIS, all the people who deal with international relations, who are political scientists and experts, remembered and asked everyone else to remember, what is ISIS?” she said.

“You are behind ‘ISIS’, you – the United States, Britain created them yourself,” Zakharova claimed. Russia has repeatedly accused the West of fostering instability in the Middle East, ignoring its own history of war in the region and against Muslims, most recently with the Soviet war against Afghanistan, and two Chechen wars in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Holly Ellyatt

Russia sees no chance of Switzerland leading efforts to secure peace in Ukraine, a senior Russian diplomat said on Tuesday, after Bern said it planned to host a high-level Ukraine peace conference in the coming months.

Swiss authorities have said that Russia is unlikely to take part, at least not at the outset of the talks.

“As of now, we don’t see any possibility that Switzerland would take the lead and organise something,” said Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago, has said the Swiss initiative is doomed to fail without Moscow’s participation.

Gatilov said that while Moscow was not against negotiations to end the war, it would not take part in talks in Switzerland, a country he said had relinquished its neutrality with its stance on the conflict.

Switzerland has adopted the European Union’s sanctions against Russia over the invasion and frozen some 7.7 billion Swiss francs ($8.53 billion) in financial assets belonging to Russians, which Gatilov described as “stolen money.

“That’s why we believe that Bern unfortunately devaluated its status as a neutral state,” he said.

— Reuters

Ukrainian politician who has been the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov attends the ‘Ukraine. Year 2024’ forum in Kyiv. 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday dismissed the secretary of the country’s security council, Oleksiy Danilov, according to a Google-translated decree published on the government website.

Danilov has held the position since October 2019. His position will now be held by Oleksandr Lytvynenko, who served as the head of the Ukrainian foreign intelligence service.

No reason was given for the decision, which comes shortly after Zelenskyy replaced the head of the armed forces in a key military shake up.

— Sophie Kiderlin

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. 

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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

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with the BRICS countries’ senior officials in charge of security matters at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 26, 2015.

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One of the most powerful and influential men in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle claimed unequivocally on Tuesday that Ukraine was responsible for the Moscow terrorist attack carried out last Friday.

Nikolai Patrushev — the secretary of Russia’s Security Council and in charge of issuing guidance and policy proposals on national security issues — was asked by Russian reporters whether Ukraine or the Islamic State militant group was behind the attack that killed 139 people. The Islamic State group said it had carried out the attack.

“Of course Ukraine,” Patrushev answered reporters, according to a Google-translated article from news agency RIA Novosti.

A former intelligence officer and an ideological Kremlin figurehead who is extremely close to Putin, Patrushev joins the ranks of several high-profile Russian officials pointing the finger of blame at Ukraine without presenting any evidence of Kyiv’s involvement.

Ukraine itself denies any role in the attack. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said it was “absolutely predictable” that Moscow would try to pin the blame on Ukraine.

Patrushev’s comments could signal that Moscow is ready to double down on its allegations of a link between Kyiv and the terror perpetrators. Analysts say the Kremlin is likely to use the attack to its advantage, politically, in any case, perhaps to put Russian citizens on a firmer war footing and ahead of possible further mobilization.

So far, the Kremlin has been cautious about giving further details or evidence to back up its claims of a connection. Putin’s press secretary refused to be drawn on the matter earlier on Tuesday.

On Monday, Putin conceded that the attack had been carried out by “radical Islamists,” but once again claimed there was a link with Ukraine, again without presenting proof.

— Holly Ellyatt

A man walks in Zaryadye park in front of the Kremlin’s Spasskaya tower and St Basil’s cathedral during the sunset in downtown Moscow on April 19, 2022. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

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The Kremlin refused to comment Tuesday on whether it believed there was a link between the Ukrainian government and the gunmen who killed 139 people in a terrorist attack on a Moscow concert hall last Friday.

Asked during a call with reporters whether there was a direct link between Ukraine and the “radical Islamists” that were behind the attack, as President Vladimir Putin described the suspects on Monday, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said he had “nothing to add to what has already been said on this topic.”

“As for whether it is possible to say ‘one way or another’: you can say it any way you want. And observers and analysts can probably afford this. But (…) while the investigation is underway, the official authorities cannot afford to do any statements on this matter,” Peskov told reporters, news agency Interfax reported.

“Although I recommend that you very carefully reread President Putin’s statements that he made over the last two days. In this context, they are very important,” Peskov said.

During a conference call with Kremlin officials on Monday, President Putin said the attack was carried out by “radical Islamists” but again claimed that there was a link to Ukraine, or a “Kyiv trace,” as Moscow has described it and that U.S. intelligence dismissing any link was unconvincing.

Russia has presented no evidence that there was any involvement by Ukraine and Kyiv itself vehemently denies any role in the deadly attack on concertgoers.

Eight suspects, nationals of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, have been remanded in custody and charged with terrorism offenses ahead of trial.

—  Holly Ellyatt

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