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Russia's secret service reports arrests after explosions in Crimea

A day after the explosions on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, annexed by Russia, Moscow announced the arrest of six men.

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Russia's secret service reports arrests after explosions in Crimea

A day after the explosions on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, annexed by Russia, Moscow announced the arrest of six men. All those arrested belonged to the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned as a terrorist organization in Russia, the Russian domestic intelligence service FSB said.

A direct connection to the detonations was not explicitly mentioned. However, some of the arrests are said to have taken place in the town of Dschankoy, not far from which an ammunition depot had exploded the day before. Moscow spoke of an "act of sabotage" on Tuesday. In view of the Russian war of aggression that has been going on for almost six months, Kyiv expressed satisfaction with the incident, but took no responsibility. It was the second explosion in Crimea in about a week.

The FSB did not announce who exactly the men arrested are. Since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, however, Ukrainian Crimean Tatars have been arrested and convicted several times on charges of Hizb ut Tahrir membership. Large parts of the Muslim minority, which was exposed to massive state repression during the Soviet era, clearly reject the current Russian rulers.

The traffic light coalition is divided on the question of whether the federal government should appoint a new commissioner for Russia. The SPD foreign expert Nils Schmid asked Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) in the "Rheinische Post" to fill the vacant post. The coordinator should serve "as a contact point for civil society in exile," he argued. The FDP foreign politician Alexander Graf Lambsdorff contradicted: He thought it was “completely understandable” that something new had to be designed first.

To defend against Russian troops, Ukraine has received six self-propelled howitzers from Latvia. "Together we will win!" Defense Minister Oleksiy Resnikov wrote on Twitter. There are six self-propelled guns of the US type M109.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February, Ukraine has received seven different types of howitzers with the NATO caliber of 155 millimeters. This is intended to replace the existing Soviet-made heavy guns, which are less accurate and for which ammunition is now scarce. Latvia had also delivered four Soviet-designed helicopters to Ukraine.

On Wednesday, explosions shook an ammunition depot belonging to Russian troops on the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia. Crimea's Russian-appointed chief of administration, Sergei Aksyonov, said a helicopter was helping to extinguish the fire from the air. The camp caught fire on Tuesday. Russia spoke of an act of sabotage, but gave no details. Aksjonow only said that the perpetrators were being sought.

The new blasts, along with an incident in which nine Russian military planes were destroyed last week, are likely to worry the Russian side, British intelligence said. "Russian commanders will most likely become increasingly concerned about the apparent deteriorating security in Crimea." The peninsula serves as a base for a planned advance in Ukraine.

The Russian military has again fired on targets in eastern and southern Ukraine. In the Donetsk region in the east, several towns and villages were the target of the attacks on Thursday, which according to the authorities claimed the lives of two civilians. Seven others were injured.

Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bombers fired missiles at the Odessa region in the south of the country overnight, injuring four people, Odessa regional administration spokesman Oleh Brachuk said. In Mykolayiv, also to the south, two Russian rockets damaged a university building early on Wednesday. Nobody got hurt.

The Russian armed forces also shelled the city of Kharkiv and parts of the surrounding region during the night. Homes and infrastructure were damaged, but no one was injured.

A day after new explosions on the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia, the authorities there report the smashing of a suspected Islamist cell. Six people belonging to the banned group "Hizb ut-Tahrir" (roughly "Liberation Party") have been arrested, Russian Crimean Governor Sergey Aksyonov said on Wednesday on the Telegram news service. The Russian secret service FSB succeeded in striking the Islamists. According to Aksyonov, the activities of the group were coordinated from the territory of Ukraine. The government in Kyiv, which wants to regain control of the Black Sea peninsula annexed in 2014, initially made no statement.

A statement by the FSB did not say whether those arrested were linked to the recent explosions at Russian military bases in Crimea. However, in addition to the city of Yalta, Dschankoj was also mentioned as a place where the Islamist cell is said to have been excavated. The Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that a military depot near Dschankoj had been damaged by an act of sabotage.

China announces participation in military maneuvers in Russia. Chinese soldiers will be sent to Russia for exercises scheduled jointly with Russia, India, Belarus and Tajikistan, the Chinese Defense Ministry has announced. The participation is not related to the current international and regional situation. Rather, the exercises are part of a bilateral agreement that has been in place for years.

The German security authorities are expecting increasing attempts by Russia to split society in Germany in view of the gas crisis. "Russian propaganda is likely to increase in the extremist milieu and fuel conspiracy theories with the aim of driving a wedge into our society," said the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. In addition to disinformation campaigns, Russia will continue to intensify and adapt its political and military reconnaissance attempts. BfV President Thomas Haldenwang said it was observed that a mixture of right-wing extremists, Reich citizens and conspiracy believers tried to mobilize on issues such as the war in Ukraine, inflation and the corona pandemic.

Russia is trying to use cyber attacks and disinformation as "hybrid levers to divide society in Germany," added Haldenwang. Attempts are being made "with the targeted dissemination of false information" to create fears of an existence-threatening energy or food shortage. So far, however, there have been no signs of widespread anti-state protests or even violent mass riots. Chancellor Olaf Scholz had previously said that he did not expect a "hot autumn" and unrest in Germany, despite rising energy prices.

The chairman of the Bundestag Committee for Climate Protection and Energy, Klaus Ernst (left), is calling on the federal government to make greater efforts to secure gas supplies for the coming winter, and talks with Russia should not be taboo. "You have to talk to Russia now to get a stable gas supply, I think they would be willing to do that," said Ernst at phoenix. It is true that one must position oneself clearly on the war in Ukraine, but at the same time the measures taken should not "weaken us more than they harm Putin," said Ernst, but that is the case at the moment.

In view of the government's energy policy, which is unjust from the point of view of the left, Ernst once again emphasized the need for a "hot autumn" of social protests. "What's happening here is a drain on the citizens, while at the same time others are making massive profits from this crisis," says Ernst. In addition, Ernst gave a clear rejection of a possible lifetime extension for nuclear power plants.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned his compatriots in Russian-occupied areas to exercise caution. You should avoid areas around Russian military installations and warehouses with ammunition and equipment, Zelenskyj advised in his regular video message on Tuesday evening. He made the comments after heavy explosions and fires at a military camp on the Moscow-annexed Crimea peninsula on Tuesday. Russia attributed the incidents in the village of Maiskoye to an "act of sabotage", but did not name those responsible.

Selenskyj also claimed no Ukrainian authorship for the latest explosions. Just last week, several Russian warplanes were destroyed by a detonation at an air force base in Crimea. This has fueled speculation that Ukrainian forces may have launched an attack on the peninsula, which has been under Russian control since 2014. Should this be the case, it would amount to a significant escalation in the war.

The SPD has called on Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) to fill the post of so-called Russia representative, which has been vacant for months, despite the Ukraine war. The SPD foreign expert Nils Schmid told the "Rheinische Post" on Wednesday that the coordinator should serve "as a contact point for civil society in exile". It is advisable "to take this position seriously in all its importance and to fill it accordingly". Because of the Ukraine war, the post at the Federal Foreign Office has so far remained vacant. According to the newspaper, according to an internal coalition agreement, the Greens have access to it.

Schmid added that the sphere of activity of the coordinator for intersocietal cooperation with Russia, Central Asia and the countries of the Eastern Partnership goes far beyond Russia. He could be very helpful as a central political contact. "Especially since these are also states such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, which are pursuing a clear EU orientation."

The SPD foreign policy expert Ralf Stegner told the newspaper that times are of course difficult to fill such positions. Nevertheless, it is not too much to ask "that nine months after the formation of the government and before the anniversary of the federal elections, all personnel decisions should have been made". Otherwise, “the probably unintentional impression would arise that one considers this task to be dispensable”.

Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) is convinced that the only way to end the war in Ukraine is through negotiations. "Sanctions are right and so is the support for Ukraine," said Kretschmer on Tuesday evening at a discussion in Dresden. But the war had to “be brought to a standstill as quickly as possible through negotiations”.

"I'm not counting on a military victory, that's not my way," said the Saxon head of government. Germany is a country that has to mediate and negotiate in such conflicts - together with the USA and the European Union, including China.

"In the end, it will be clarified through negotiations, not on the battlefield," emphasized Kretschmer.

Saxon Economics Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Martin Dulig (SPD) currently sees no way to negotiate with Russian ruler Vladimir Putin. "Neither Russia nor Ukraine currently believe in a solution at the negotiating table," he said. With the war of aggression, the European peace order was changed. However, stability must be achieved for Europe. It's not enough to just freeze a conflict.

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation had invited Kretschmer and Dulig to a debate. During the discussion, Kretschmer also emphasized that Germany would not be able to do without Russian gas in the next five to ten years. Energy prices are toxic and need to go down

Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has called for significantly tougher Western sanctions against Russian oligarchs because of the Russian military operation in Ukraine. The opposition politician wrote on online networks on Tuesday that Western sanctions have so far only affected 46 of the 200 richest people in Russia, according to Forbes magazine. "It doesn't sound like a full-scale war against Putin's oligarchs to me," Navalny said.

The head of the Russian gas giant Gazprom, Alexej Miller, is still not on the European Union's sanctions list. The oligarch Roman Abramovich, on the other hand, was not subject to US sanctions, although his companies supplied "metal to the Russian Ministry of Defense". The West is still not using the "stick" against the elite around President Vladimir Putin and is giving them "all their carrots," criticized Navalny.

The leader of a pro-Russian separatist region in eastern Ukraine has offered North Korea cooperation. He hopes that his self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic can enter into "mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation with North Korea in accordance with the interests" of their peoples, according to a message from separatist leader Denis Puschilin to ruler Kim Jong-un, the state news agency KCNA said quoted on Wednesday. North Korea is said to be considering sending workers to Donetsk for reconstruction projects.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the so-called Republic of Donetsk, its ambassador to Russia, Olga Makeeva, met her North Korean colleague in Russia, Sin Hong Chol, in Moscow at the end of July. There, the latter spoke of a “great potential” for bilateral cooperation in trade and in the “field of labor migration”, which could make it possible to relax the North Korean border controls caused by the pandemic. Pyongyang is said to be holding similar talks with the leadership of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, which is controlled by the Kremlin.

Luhansk and Donetsk together form the Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking region of steel mills, mines and other industries in eastern Ukraine. Separatists have controlled parts of Luhansk and Donetsk since 2014, and Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin recognized the areas as independent shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Since then, only the Moscow-backed government of Syria and, most recently, North Korea have done so. In response, the government in Kyiv severed diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

If North Korea implements possible plans to send workers to separatist areas in eastern Ukraine, it could prop up its ailing economy, but such a move would violate UN sanctions over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or directly via RSS feed.

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