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A U.S. intelligence warning to Moscow two weeks before the deadly March 22 terrorist attack included a specific reference to the Crocus City Hall concert hall that had been targeted, the Washington Post reported April 2 .

According to the information, which was later confirmed by the New York Times, US officials said Moscow that the Islamic State extremist group was planning an attack and that Crocus City Hall was a potential target.

The warning did not include details of the precise timing of the attack, but said it could occur within a few days, intelligence sources told both newspapers.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on April 3 that the presidential administration was unaware of the US warning.

“This is not our area of ​​expertise,” Peskov said, “because this exchange of information usually takes place through the channels of special services.”

However, three days before the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to acknowledge receiving the warnings, while calling them “provocative statements” from the West meant to “sound like outright blackmail and intention to intimidate and destabilize our society.”

Four gunmen stormed the concert hall outside Moscow just before a concert, killing 144 people in the deadliest terrorist attack in Russia since 2004. The Islamic State, a designated terrorist group, quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.

The defense ministers of France and Russia discussed the attack in a rare phone call on April 3.

French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu told his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu that France had always been ready to face “terrorism” and was ready for “increased exchanges with the aim of combating this threat most effectively possible”, according to a press release from the French Ministry of Defense. said.

Putin and other Russian officials and commentators have claimed without evidence that Ukraine may have played a role in the attack. Ukrainian officials have denied any involvement and accused Moscow of using the tragedy to escalate its war against their country.

Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service, told Interfax on April 2 that the US warning was “too general” to allow Russia to prevent the attack.

Putin said the same day that the organizers of the Crocus attack wanted to “sow discord and panic… in our country and bring down Russia from within.”

He has previously accused the United States and other Western countries of pursuing similar goals. Putin urged law enforcement to identify the “ultimate criminal beneficiaries” of the attack.

The Crocus attack was a major failure for Russian security forces, which critics say are focused on stifling domestic political dissent and opposition to the war against Ukraine, often pursuing political opinions as “terrorism” or “extremism”.

Reuters reported on April 1 that Iran, a Russian ally, had also warned Moscow of a planned “terrorist operation” on Russian territory before the Crocus attack.

On March 29, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy accused Russian officials of misrepresenting the quality of U.S. information.

“The written information was concrete, timely and credible,” she said. said in a statement on Telegram.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 3 that military recruitment had increased significantly since the attack, with around 16,000 people signing military contracts over the previous 10 days.

“Most applicants indicated a desire to avenge those killed in the tragedy… as the main motive for entering into a contract,” a ministry statement said.

With a report from AFP

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