May 26, 2024


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Police officers photographed from the rear in front of large apartment buildings.
Police officers stood outside several apartment buildings damaged after a drone attack in Moscow on Tuesday. Credit…Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A day after a drone strike on Moscow, Kremlin officials jumped on the refusal of Ukrainian allies to denounce the attack as proof that Russia’s real war was with the West.

The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said Russia “would have preferred to hear at least some words of condemnation” from Western capitals.

“We will calmly and deliberately think how to deal with this,” he said.

While none of Ukraine’s allies went so far as to endorse the drone attack, Britain’s foreign secretary said on Tuesday that Kyiv had “the right to project force beyond its borders.”

The U.S. response was more circumspect, but it stopped short of criticizing the first military strike to hit civilian areas in the Russian capital since the start of the war. Ukraine officials have said they were not “directly involved” in the drone strike.

From the outset of the conflict, Russia has portrayed the invasion of Ukraine as a defensive war provoked by the West, and on Wednesday it seized on the attack.

Dmitri A. Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s national security council and a former president, said Britain “de facto is leading an undeclared war against Russia” by providing Ukraine with military aid and called it “our eternal enemy.”

Known since the war began for staking out extreme positions, Mr. Medvedev argued that now any British official “can be considered as a legitimate military target.”


A man sitting at a desk in front of papers, next to a flag.
Dmitri A. Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s national security council, accused Britain of “leading an undeclared war against Russia.”Credit…Ekaterina Shtukina/Sputnik

The Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, called the U.S. refusal to condemn the attack “an encouragement for Ukrainian terrorists,” his embassy said on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia has repeatedly hit civilian areas of Ukraine over the course of the war, though it has denied targeting nonmilitary sites. And in recent weeks it has turned up the barrage of missiles and attack drones aimed at Kyiv, the capital. Thousands of Ukrainian civilians, including children, have been killed in Russian airstrikes and artillery bombardments, U.N. officials say.

Though the drone strike on Tuesday was unusual, it was not the first one on Russian soil since the war began. Drones have hit military air bases deep inside Russia, as well as an oil facility near an airfield in the province of Kursk. And this month, drones exploded over the Kremlin.

The incursions continued on Wednesday, when, the Russian authorities said, Ukrainian drones attacked two oil refineries in the region of Krasnodar. They also said that four people had been injured by shelling in the border region of Belgorod.

Russia has long accused the West of waging a proxy war against it. Those claims grew louder this month when a group of Ukraine-based Russian paramilitary members staged a multiday raid in Russia’s Belgorod border region — apparently with U.S. armored vehicles.

A New York Times analysis found that at least three of what appeared to be American-made MRAPs had been part of the attack. A leader of one of the groups claimed the weapons had not been provided by the Ukrainian military.


Damaged armored military vehicles stand in mud after a fight.
The aftermath of a cross-border raid in Russia’s Belgorod region last week. The image was released by the Russian military.Credit…Russian Defense Ministry Press Service

Russian officials have said that NATO’s decision to send weapons, which have become increasingly advance as the war has worn on, raises the risk of a direct confrontation and a potential nuclear war.

On Tuesday, President Vladimir V. Putin also made an oblique reference to this threat, calling the drone strike on Moscow an attempt “to create a response reaction from Russia.” He accused unspecified forces of trying to sabotage a Ukrainian nuclear plant occupied by Russia or to use “a type of a dirty bomb related to the nuclear industry.”

Although Western governments initially focused their military support for Ukraine on bolstering its defenses, over time, the desire to hasten an end the war has led to growing deliveries of offensive weapons to Kyiv.

Tensions between Moscow and Western capitals have worsened since the invasion, as have the economic sanctions imposed on Russia as penalty.


The Russian president standing in an office with flags.
President Vladimir V. Putin said the drone strike in Moscow was an attempt “to create a response reaction from Russia.”Credit…Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik

At a security conference on Wednesday in Slovakia, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, said that Western allies must give Ukraine “tangible and credible” security guarantees in its battle against Russia.

“If we want a credible, durable peace, if we want to hold our own against Russia, if we want to be credible with the Ukrainians, we must give Ukraine the means to prevent any new aggression and to include Ukraine in any new security architecture,” he said in a speech.

Mr. Macron was criticized early in the war over his insistence on not antagonizing Russia, but his approach toward Mr. Putin has hardened. He also expressed regret that France and other Western European countries had failed to heed warnings from countries on the European Union’s eastern edge about Russian belligerence.

On Wednesday, Germany said it had ordered four of the five Russian Consulates in the country to close after Moscow limited the number of German diplomatic staff allowed in Russia, the latest in an escalating tit-for-tat diplomatic dispute between the two countries.

The Russian Foreign Ministry was told to start shutting down its consulates in Germany immediately and to finish by the end of the year, said Christofer Burger, a spokesman for Germany’s Foreign Ministry.

One Russian Consulate and the Russian Embassy in Berlin will be allowed to remain open.

In Sweden, the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken met with European officials on Wednesday to discuss trade and technology issues, cracking down on exports that could aid Russia.

On Thursday, Mr. Blinken is scheduled to meet with NATO foreign ministers to discuss the alliance summit planned for July, as well as the war in Ukraine and the prospects for Swedish membership in the alliance.

A search of a reservoir in Portugal that came more than 16 years after the British girl went missing resulted in the collection of some material but did not solve the mystery of her disappearance.

Portuguese police have said material unearthed from a reservoir in Algarve will be sent to Germany for analysis after the first major search for Madeleine McCann in a decade came to a close.

After three days of excavation on a spit of land jutting into the Barragem do Arade reservoir in south Portugal, officers were stood down and a spokesperson for the Polícia Judiciária said the collected material would be delivered to the German authorities.

German prosecutor Christian Wolters said: “Of course we are still looking for the body. We’re not just looking for that, of course. There are other things too. Any discovery of clothing could help our investigation.”

The search had been requested by the German authorities who are seeking to prove the case that Christian Brückner, 45, a convicted rapist, killed Madeleine, who was three years old when she went missing from her parents’ holiday apartment in the Portuguese town of Praia da Luz in 2007.

The operation, completed by the Portuguese and German officers but with Metropolitan police officers in attendance, had involved clearing a number of areas on a bank on the reservoir.

One 10-metre squared patch of land appeared to have been the focus of the investigation. The slope of the bank had been cleared of wood and cut into. A series of deep pot holes had been scoured into the ground and soil samples had evidently been removed.

There were signs of past human habitation including a rusting chair and a blue suitcase. have only said that “indications” and “tips” led them to seek the search but it has been suggested that photographs found in 2016 had provided evidence that Brückner had regularly visited the reservoir which he is said to have described as “my little paradise”.

Kate and Gerry McCann, who had been eating a tapas meal within eyesight of their holiday apartment when their daughter disappeared on 4 May 2007, now face a tense wait for the results.

Wolters, whose force requested the operation, said there would be a period of silence.

Wolters said that as the accused had not yet had access to the files, the authorities would not yet publish any new evidence that might implicate Brückner, a German national who was the prime suspect in Madeleine’s disappearance.

Holes dug for soil samples in the area where authorities have searched for Madeleine McCann.
Holes dug for soil samples in the area where authorities have searched for Madeleine McCann. Photograph: Daniel Boffey/The Guardian

A spokesperson for the Polícia Judiciária said: “The steps requested by the German authorities, through a request for international cooperation, have been fulfilled, which resulted in the collection of some material that will be subject to the competent expertise.

“The operation was coordinated by the judiciary police, which involved investigators, criminal experts and security personnel. Safeguarding the interests of the investigation still under way in Portugal, the collected material will be delivered to the German authorities.”

The operation was the biggest search for a decade into the then three-year-old’s disappearance. It had been due to end on Tuesday but it had taken an additional day to complete the planned work.

Wolters said they had a search warrant for a specific area, which had to be searched in its entirety. He said: “If we don’t find anything, we will certainly tell you quickly.”

There was no further statement on Thursday. The site of the search was 30 miles from where Madeleine went missing 16 years ago.

The former Portuguese detective Gonçalo Amaral, who led the botched Portuguese investigation in 2007, claimed it was a waste of resources and a sham.

Amaral, who successfully fought a defamation case in 2016 after claiming Madeleine died in her parents’ holiday apartment, predicted it would come to nothing.

“In a simple analysis I see there is no new investigation and what is occurring is more a case of constructing a profile and a scapegoat,” he said. Amaral lost a libel battle with lawyers representing Kate and Gerry McCann after publication of his book but he subsequently had the result overturned on appeal.

German police have been keen to emphasise that their chief suspect had not confessed nor offered any help as they swept the area.

Brückner, who was jailed in 2019 for the rape of a 72-year-old American tourist a mile from the McCanns’ holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, was officially named by the Portuguese police as a suspect, or arguido, last year in the disappearance of the British child.

His mobile phone’s signal had been located in the immediate area of the Mark Warner Oceans resort where the McCanns had been staying on the day of Madeleine’s disappearance. He has not been charged with any offence in relation to Madeleine’s case, and has denied any involvement.

Last month, a German court said it was cancelling a sexual offences trial against Brückner on charges unrelated to McCann’s disappearance but which were also said to have taken place in Portugal, on the grounds that the region where it is located is not the last place he lived in Germany.

He had been facing prosecution in Braunschweig over three offences of aggravated rape of women and two offences of sexual abuse of children. The alleged offences took place in Portugal between December 2000 and July 2017. The force in Braunschweig is challenging the ruling.

Mark Hofmann, a criminal profiler in Germany, said Brückner, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence, had a history of keeping “trophies” from his crimes. He said: “From chat histories with like-minded people and from other crimes it is known that Christian B tends to do exactly this: documenting his crimes.”

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