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Paris warns Kremlin against terror instrumentalization – Night at a glance

France's government has appealed to Russia not to exploit the Islamist-motivated terrorist attack near Moscow. Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu announced on Wednesday evening after a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu that his country had no information on a connection between the attack and Ukraine. The two chief diplomats had previously spoken on the phone for the first time in around a year and a half. Lecornu condemned the attack near Moscow and reminded France of its willingness to intensify exchanges in the fight against terrorism, according to reports from Paris.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack two weeks ago in several letters of confession. Western security authorities and experts consider these messages to be credible and assume that the attack was carried out by the IS offshoot Islamic State Province of Khorasan (ISPK). The Russian leadership is trying to portray Ukraine as the actual mastermind.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lecornu tried to convince the Russian side in a telephone conversation with Shoigu that neither Ukraine nor Western countries were involved in the terrorist attack. The Frenchman had blamed IS. Shoigu emphasized that the investigation would be brought to a conclusion and all those responsible would be punished.

On March 22, four men stormed an event center occupied by thousands of people on the outskirts of Moscow, shot around and set fire to the building. More than 140 people were killed in the worst terrorist attack in Russia for years. Several suspected terrorists and those behind the attack are in custody.

Russia insists on suspicion of terrorism against Ukraine

According to Moscow, the Russian side has evidence of Ukrainian involvement in the organization of the terrorist attack. "The Kiev regime does nothing without the approval of Western curators. We trust that the French secret services are not behind this case," said Shoigu. With regard to the possible deployment of French troops in Ukraine, the Russian minister explained that this would cause problems for France. According to Russian information, a number of French mercenaries have already lost their lives in Ukraine.

According to Paris, Lecornu condemned the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. France would support Ukraine for as long and as intensively as necessary in its fight for freedom and sovereignty in order to restore peace and security on the European continent.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Shoigu had signaled a willingness for dialogue on the future of Ukraine. The basis for this could be the Istanbul peace initiative shortly after the start of the war in spring 2022. At that time, Ukraine was reportedly prepared to renounce its NATO membership. Shoigu described a peace summit planned by Kiev in Switzerland as pointless because Moscow would not be represented there.

Zelensky asks allies for help against Russia

Meanwhile in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky warned of new Russian operations and mobilization. In view of fears of new Russian offensives, he once again asked the Western allies for help. "We must win this war. This is a historic opportunity for Ukraine to thwart Russian revanchism and we must seize it," said Zelensky in his evening video message broadcast in Kiev on Wednesday. Ukraine is aware of Russia's intentions and what the country is recruiting soldiers for, the president said. He did not give any details.

Experts assume that Russia could be planning a new large-scale attack in order to take complete control of further areas beyond the partially occupied Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson. The Russian army could also attempt to annex the Kharkiv and Odessa regions. The power apparatus in Moscow has recently repeatedly referred to these regions as historical Russian territories.

According to Selenskyj, Russia wants to mobilize 300,000 reservists for new military operations by 1 June. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected this. "That is not the truth," he said. Russia has repeatedly stated that it has enough volunteers for military service. A new mobilization like in autumn 2022 is therefore not planned. At that time, there were protests against the forced conscription of 300,000 reservists for war, which was ordered by Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, and hundreds of thousands of men fled abroad.

Ukraine, which has been defending itself against the Russian war of aggression for more than two years, is dependent on broad Western support to defend its territory. Selenskyj is therefore constantly calling for more weapons and ammunition. "And we, all of us, our partners, must have a strong response to the Russian operations," said Selenskyj. It is important to strengthen the defense of the Ukrainian positions and continue to exert pressure on the Russian positions.

Selensky once again pleaded for NATO to invite Ukraine to join the alliance. "We must not lose any time," he said. It was "about our common security, about protecting millions of people from Russian murderers".

This Thursday, NATO is celebrating its founding 75 years ago with a ceremony at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels. Working meetings are planned after the ceremony, including with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Head of government: Ukraine needs help with air defense and ammunition

According to Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, the Ukrainian armed forces currently need weapons assistance above all to fend off Russian airstrikes. "What do we need most? In my opinion, air defense systems and missiles are the top priority," he said on Wednesday during a visit to Estonia. According to him, Ukraine lacks equipment to protect cities and energy facilities. "The second priority is ammunition for artillery," said Shmyhal after a meeting with his counterpart Kaja Kallas in Tallinn.

Kallas assured Ukraine of Estonia's continued military support and also called on other countries to increase their military aid. "We must support Ukraine for as long as necessary and - just as importantly - to the extent required. We must act now, there is no time to lose," she emphasized. "Ukraine needs supplies urgently and quickly." Estonia is one of the most determined supporters of Ukraine.

©Keystone/SDA

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