Putin says gunmen in Moscow attack tried to escape to Ukraine, Kyiv denies involvement

Update Putin says gunmen in Moscow attack tried to escape to Ukraine, Kyiv denies involvement
Camouflage-clad gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons at concertgoers near Moscow on Friday, killing at least 60 people and injuring 145. (AFP)
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Updated 23 March 2024
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Putin says gunmen in Moscow attack tried to escape to Ukraine, Kyiv denies involvement

Putin says gunmen in Moscow attack tried to escape to Ukraine, Kyiv denies involvement
  • Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack, deadliest in Russia since Beslan school siege in 2004
  • Authorities detain total of 11 people after the attack, which killed 133

MOSCOW: Russian authorities arrested the four people suspected of taking part in the attack on a suburban Moscow concert hall that killed at least 133 people and believe they were headed to Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said Saturday during an address to the nation.
Kyiv, meanwhile, strongly denied any involvement in Friday’s attack on the Crocus City Hall music venue in Krasnogorsk, which the Daesh group’s affiliate in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for in a statement posted on social media channels linked to the group. Kyiv accused Putin and other Russian politicians of falsely linking Ukraine to the assault in order to stoke fervor in Russia’s war in Ukraine, which recently entered its third year.
A US intelligence official told The Associated Press that US agencies had confirmed that IS was responsible for the attack.
Putin said authorities have detained a total of 11 people in the attack, which also injured scores of concertgoers and left the venue a smoldering ruin. He called it “a bloody, barbaric terrorist act” and said Russian authorities captured the four suspected gunmen as they were trying to escape to Ukraine through a “window” prepared for them on the Ukrainian side of the border.
Putin also said that additional security measures have been imposed throughout Russia, and he declared Sunday to be a day of mourning.
Investigators on Saturday were combing through the charred wreckage of the hall for more victims, and the authorities said the death toll could still rise. Hundreds of people stood in line in Moscow early Saturday to donate blood and plasma, Russia’s health ministry said.
“We faced not just a thoroughly and cynically prepared terror attack, but a well-prepared and organized mass murder of peaceful innocent people,” Putin said.
The attack, which was the deadliest in Russia in years, came just days after Putin cemented his grip on power in a highly orchestrated electoral landslide and as the war in Ukraine drags on.
Some Russian lawmakers pointed the finger at Ukraine immediately after the attack. But Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, denied any involvement.
“Ukraine has never resorted to the use of terrorist methods,” he posted on X. “Everything in this war will be decided only on the battlefield.”
Ukraine’s foreign ministry accused Moscow of using the attack to try to stoke fervor for its war efforts.
“We consider such accusations to be a planned provocation by the Kremlin to further fuel anti-Ukrainian hysteria in Russian society, create conditions for increased mobilization of Russian citizens to participate in the criminal aggression against our country and discredit Ukraine in the eyes of the international community,” the ministry said in a statement.
Images shared by Russian state media Saturday showed a fleet of emergency vehicles still gathered outside the ruins of Crocus City Hall, which could hold more than 6,000 people and has hosted many big events, including the 2013 Miss Universe beauty pageant that featured Donald Trump and other VIPs.
Videos posted online showed gunmen in the venue shooting civilians at point-blank range. Russian news reports cited authorities and witnesses as saying the attackers threw explosive devices that started the fire. The roof of the theater, where crowds had gathered for a performance by the Russian rock band Picnic, collapsed early Saturday as firefighters spent hours fighting the blaze.
In a statement posted by its Aamaq news agency, the IS’s Afghanistan affiliate said it had attacked a large gathering of “Christians” in Krasnogorsk.
A US intelligence official told the AP that American intelligence agencies had gathered information in recent weeks that the IS branch was planning an attack in Moscow, and that US officials had privately shared the intelligence earlier this month with Russian officials.
The official was briefed on the matter but was not authorized to publicly discuss the intelligence information and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Messages of outrage, shock and support for the victims and their families have streamed in from around the world.
On Friday, the UN Security Council condemned “the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack” and underlined the need for the perpetrators to be held accountable. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the terrorist attack “in the strongest possible terms,” his spokesman said.
Putin, who extended his grip on Russia for another six years in this week’s presidential vote after a sweeping crackdown on dissent, had publicly denounced the Western warnings of a potential terrorist attack as an attempt to intimidate Russians. “All that resembles open blackmail and an attempt to frighten and destabilize our society,” he said earlier this week.
In October 2015, a bomb planted by IS downed a Russian passenger plane over Sinai, killing all 224 people on board, most of them Russian vacation-goers returning from Egypt. The group, which operates mainly in Syria and Iraq but also in Afghanistan and Africa, also has claimed several attacks in Russia’s volatile Caucasus and other regions in the past years. It recruited fighters from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union.


‘Alarm bells ringing’: Dembele calls on France stars to vote in key elections

‘Alarm bells ringing’: Dembele calls on France stars to vote in key elections
Updated 57 min 19 sec ago
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‘Alarm bells ringing’: Dembele calls on France stars to vote in key elections

‘Alarm bells ringing’: Dembele calls on France stars to vote in key elections
  • Ousmane Dembele: ‘We need to mobilize to get out and vote’
  • FFF planning player proxy vote if still involved in Euro 2024

PADERBORN, Germany: France star Ousmane Dembele admitted on Thursday the political situation in the country had “set alarm bells ringing” and said he and his teammates intended to vote in upcoming legislative elections even if they are still involved at Euro 2024 in Germany.
“We need to mobilize to get out and vote,” Dembele told reporters at the French team’s training base in western Germany where they are preparing for their opening European Championship game against Austria on Monday.
“I think the situation in France has set alarm bells ringing. Everyone needs to rally round and come together to vote.”
President Emmanuel Macron has called elections for the lower house National Assembly with the first round set for June 30 and the second round on July 7.
He announced the snap poll last Sunday in response to the results of the EU elections, in which far-right parties — including the top-scoring National Rally (RN) — managed to take almost 40 percent of the vote in France.
“I was watching the news not long ago and I saw that one in every two people in France doesn’t vote, so everyone needs to vote in the legislative elections,” added Dembele, the former Barcelona winger now playing back in France for Paris Saint-Germain.
The French squad will still be in Germany at the time of the election, provided they make it beyond the group stage.
The first round of the election is set to take place the same weekend as the last 16 of Euro 2024, while the second round comes just after the quarter-finals.
However, Dembele said the French Football Federation was planning to help players set up a proxy vote if they remained in Germany at the time.


Pope Francis to meet at G7 summit with Biden, Zelensky, Macron, Modi

Pope Francis to meet at G7 summit with Biden, Zelensky, Macron, Modi
Updated 13 June 2024
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Pope Francis to meet at G7 summit with Biden, Zelensky, Macron, Modi

Pope Francis to meet at G7 summit with Biden, Zelensky, Macron, Modi
  • Pope Francis is the first pope to participate in G7 discussions
  • Pope will have a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will meet with the leaders of the United States, Ukraine, France and India, among others, on the sidelines of the Group of 7 (G7) summit in Italy, the Vatican said on Thursday.

Francis, who in January warned against the “perverse” dangers of artificial intelligence, is due to take part in leaders’ talks on the new technology on Friday.

He is the first pope to participate in G7 discussions.

Issuing a program for his one-day appearance, the Vatican said Francis would have a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden, a fellow Catholic.

The Vatican said he would also have one-on-one meetings with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, France’s Emmanuel Macron, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kenya’s William Ruto,

Algeria’s Abdelmadjid Tebboune, and the head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva.

Francis and Biden met at the Vatican in 2021 and the president said the pope told him he was a “good Catholic” who can receive communion even as conservative US bishops wanted to deny it because of Biden’s support for abortion rights.

The two men also spoke in October last year about the crisis in the Middle East after Hamas’ attack on Israel.

Biden has spoken movingly of his respect for the pope, praising his empathy and calling him a “decent man.” They stay in touch, Biden has said.


Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti

Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti
Updated 13 June 2024
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Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti

Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Cal State LA building, leaving damage and graffiti
  • Pro-Palestinian demonstrators barricaded the multistory Student Services Building
  • The university posted a “protest action alert” on its website

LOS ANGELES: A takeover of a building at California State University, Los Angeles, by demonstrators protesting Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, leaving the facility trashed and covered with graffiti, TV news reports showed.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators barricaded the multistory Student Services Building on Wednesday and workers inside were told to shelter in place, but it was empty by Thursday morning, said university spokesperson Erik Frost Hollins.
“What I can tell you, at the moment, is that the building is clear of employees and protesters and the building is secure,” said Frost Hollins, who did not immediately offer details on what occurred overnight.
The university posted a “protest action alert” on its website announcing that all main campus classes and operations would be remote until further notice and asking people to stay away.
Images from the scene showed graffiti on the building, furniture blocking doorways and overturned golf carts, picnic tables and umbrellas barricading the plaza out front.
The CSULA Gaza Solidarity Encampment, a group that has camped near the campus gym for about 40 days, sent an email indicating that members were staging a sit-in in the building, Hollins said.


Russia slowing down in Kharkiv area after lifting of arms restrictions, says Austin

Russia slowing down in Kharkiv area after lifting of arms restrictions, says Austin
Updated 13 June 2024
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Russia slowing down in Kharkiv area after lifting of arms restrictions, says Austin

Russia slowing down in Kharkiv area after lifting of arms restrictions, says Austin
  • “What I see is a slowing of the Russians’ advance and a stabilizing of that particular piece of the front,” said Austin

BRUSSELS: Russia’s advance in the Kharkiv area is slowing and the frontline is stabilizing after some allies lifted restrictions on Kyiv’s use of donated weapons on Russian territory, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday.
“What I see is a slowing of the Russians’ advance and a stabilizing of that particular piece of the front. Now, I think we’ll see incremental gains — and we’ll see puts and takes — going forward,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels.
“But again, a couple of weeks ago, there was concern that we would see a significant breakthrough on the part of the Russians. I don’t think we’ll see that going forward.”


Unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan will affect 200,000 people, a top UN official warns

Unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan will affect 200,000 people, a top UN official warns
Updated 13 June 2024
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Unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan will affect 200,000 people, a top UN official warns

Unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan will affect 200,000 people, a top UN official warns
  • The UN has prepared a contingency plan, with $40 million set aside to respond to any emergencies, said Mohamed Yahya
  • The weather forecasters in Pakistan are projecting above-normal rainfall in the coming weeks

ISLAMABAD: An estimated 200,000 people in Pakistan could be affected by the upcoming monsoon season, which is expected to bring heavier rains than usual, a top UN official warned on Thursday.
The United Nations, with help from local authorities, has prepared a contingency plan, with $40 million set aside to respond to any emergencies, said Mohamed Yahya, the newly appointed Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan.
Yahya told journalists in Islamabad that the weather forecasters in Pakistan are projecting above-normal rainfall in the coming weeks. However, the rains would not be as heavy as in 2022 when devastating floods killed 1,739 people, destroyed 2 million homes, and covered as much as one-third of the country at one point.
Pakistan is one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change, in part because of its immense northern glaciers, which are now melting as air temperatures rise. Warmer air can also hold more moisture, intensifying the rains of the monsoon.
Until recently, public opinion and even some government officials took little account of the possible negative impact from climate change on daily life. Pakistan’s weather patterns have changed in recent years, forcing cities to strengthen their infrastructure and farmers to adapt their practices.
The 2022 floods caused more than $30 billion in damage to Pakistan’s already cash-strapped economy.
Analysts and government officials say Pakistan in recent years failed to achieve goals for economic growth because of man-made disasters, which have repeatedly hit the country in the form of droughts, heatwaves and heavy rains, which badly damaged the road network, bridges, power system and other infrastructure.
Pakistan says despite contributing less than 1 percent to carbon emissions worldwide, it is bearing the brunt of global climate disasters. This year, Pakistan recorded its wettest April since 1961, with more than double the usual monthly rainfall.
Yahya said he was in contact with officials at Pakistan’s ministry of climate change, who were preparing their contingency own plans for monsoon season, which in Pakistan runs from July to October.
Earlier this week, weather forecasters in Pakistan urged people to stay indoors as the third heatwave in a month began. A recent study by the United Nations children’s agency said that Pakistan could avert 175,000 deaths by 2030 by developing resilient energy systems to power its health facilities.
On Thursday, temperatures in various parts of Pakistan soared as high as 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit), forcing many people to stay indoors. Authorities are asking people to hydrate and avoid unnecessary travel.