Ukraine Situation Report: Kyiv Denies Any Involvement In Terror Attack Near Moscow

Details are still scarce, but Russia was shaken tonight by an apparent terror attack at the Crocus City Hall in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow that left 40 dead and more than 100 wounded, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB. Initial Russian reports claim that five gunmen were involved in the attack, with Russia’s top investigative agency, the Investigative Committee, now looking into who may have been responsible.

Videos and photos from Crocus City Hall soon appeared on social media, showing at least four gunmen opening fire from automatic weapons within the concert hall. One video shows three men in fatigues firing rifles at pointblank range into bodies strewn about the lobby. 

There are reports that the attackers also detonated explosives, with the sounds of blasts being heard in some of the videos from the attack. The building was then set ablaze and, according to some reports, is now essentially destroyed. At least one video shows a Ka-32 firefighting helicopter in action, attempting to bring the blaze under control.

Ukraine was quick to deny any involvement in the incident.

On X, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeting the following statement:

“Ukraine certainly has nothing to do with the shooting/explosions in the Crocus City Hall (Moscow Region, Russia). It makes no sense whatsoever…”

“Ukraine has been fighting with the Russian Army for more than two years. And everything in this war will be decided only on the battlefield. Only by the quantity of weapons and qualitative military decisions. Terrorist attacks do not solve any problems…”

“Ukraine has never resorted to the use of terrorist methods. It is always pointless. Unlike, by the way, Russia itself, which uses terrorist attacks in the current war against Ukraine…”

Podolyak said that there had been prior warnings from foreign embassies about the possibility of an impending terrorist attack in Moscow.

While stopping short of suggesting the Crocus City Hall attack was a Russian false flag operation, he did warn that “there is not the slightest doubt that the events in the Moscow suburbs will contribute to a sharp increase in military propaganda, accelerated militarization, expanded mobilization, and, ultimately, the scaling up of the war” and that the Kremlin would use the incident to “justify manifest genocidal strikes against the civilian population of Ukraine.”

This evening, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, with a statement on its Telegram channel. The Russian authorities are yet to officially comment on this development.

The latest reports suggest that this was not a suicide mission and that at least some of the perpetrators escaped the concert hall and are now at large. With that in mind, this appears to be very much a developing incident and one that has the potential to deteriorate still further.

Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.

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News from Ukraine this morning was dominated by the latest wave of Russian missile and drone strikes that were directed at Ukrainian energy infrastructure, including the country’s largest dam, leaving more than a million people without power. You can read our full coverage of those raids here.

Meanwhile, of course, fighting continues on the battlefield, as demonstrated by these two videos, which appeared recently.

The first shows the aftermath of a purported Ukrainian strike on a Russian ammunition depot in the eastern Luhansk region, one of the areas of Ukraine that Russia claims to have annexed. The location may well be Popasnaya, a city that was largely destroyed during the initial full-scale Russian invasion and which has been occupied by Russian forces since May 2022.

The next video shows another Ukrainian attack, this time as it happens. The weapons depicted here are cluster munitions, delivered against Russian troops’ positions, likely by artillery or rockets. The location is said to be Klishchiivka, a village near Bakhmut, in the eastern Donetsk region. This has been a frontline village since the ferocious battle for Bakhmut, which eventually fell to the Russians in May 2023. The video underlines just how instantly destructive cluster munitions are.

The U.K. Royal Air Force today announced that a group of 10 Ukrainian pilots have graduated from flying training, preparing them for advanced fast jet training and eventually conversion to the F-16 with partner nations

The Ukrainian contingent recently had a graduation ceremony to mark their successful completion of the Elementary Flying Training course, conducted on the Grob Tutor aircraft as well as in simulators. 

The syllabus included general handling, instrument flying, low-level navigation, and advanced formation flying. The Ukrainian pilots also undertook English language training in preparation for flying the F-16.

U.K. Secretary of State for Defense, Grant Shapps, said:

“I would like to congratulate these brave pilots on completing their initial training here in the UK. Thanks to the world-renowned skills of RAF, they have received some of the best training available and are now a step closer to joining the fight against Putin’s illegal invasion.”

In other news of British military support to Ukraine, the U.K.-administered International Fund for Ukraine has announced a new package of military support worth £60 million — around $75.6 million. The package will include “advanced new surveillance drones” of an undisclosed type, as well as additional air defense systems.

Until F-16s arrive in Ukraine — which could be before the end of this year — the Soviet-era MiG-29 Fulcrum remains the primary fighter of the Ukrainian Air Force, its utility buoyed by an increasing array of weapons options. While reportedly dating from last summer, the interesting video below provides from-the-cockpit footage of a flight of MiG-29s taking off from what is said to be Vasylkiv air base, outside Kyiv.

A more recent view of another Ukrainian airbase, next with footage that shows an attack prosecuted against Mykolaiv air base by a Russian Lancet loitering munition. The drone is seen striking what is said to be a temporary hangar containing an L-39 Albatros jet trainer. The lightweight structure appears to be completely obliterated, very likely along with the L-39 inside of it.

While an L-39 is not the most valuable Ukrainian Air Force asset, the incident once again demonstrates the vulnerability of critical military infrastructure, including airbases, to attacks by lancets and other similar weapons.

A video has appeared that claims to show Russian special forces inspecting a Ukrainian Ukrainian M1A1 Abrams tank lost near Avdiivka on March 2. This is understood to be the third Ukrainian Abrams confirmed lost in the conflict so far. We previously reported on the losses of the first and second examples.

Drone developments next and the news that Ukraine has developed a new one-way attack drone with a jet engine. Reports suggest that the new drone has undergone successful tests and has demonstrated a speed of around 250 miles per hour.

An unfortunate drone victim was this Russian infantry fighting vehicle, a BMP-2, which was struck by a Ukrainian first-person-view (FPV) drone, which flew directly into its crew compartment, leading to a catastrophic ‘cookoff.’ The incident reportedly occurred in the eastern Donetsk region.

The next video details the demise of a Ukrainian Baba Yaga-type heavy multirotor drone. It’s one of a growing number of incidents of drone-versus-drone aerial warfare that we have seen in the conflict. In this case, a Russian quadcopter hunts down the Baba Yaga before crashing into it to bring it down.

Russian drones also continue to fall to Ukrainian forces, too. This set of videos provides another view of the U.S.-supplied VAMPIRE counter-drone system, in these instances bringing down three Russian Shahed-136 one-way attack drones, reportedly during the attacks on Ukraine last night. The VAMPIRE system, apparently in use with the Ukrainian Navy, uses laser-guided 70mm rockets, originally designed for air-to-surface use, as surface-to-air weapons. You can read more about it here.

Finally,  in terms of today’s drone coverage, an unusual mission for a Russian drone, which is seen dropping mines into a river.

Amid looming concerns about a possible new Russian offensive directed against the Black Sea coast, Ukraine has been busily preparing defensive lines close to the city of Odesa and in the area between the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions. 

The Russian Ministry of Defense’s propaganda train, named Strength in Truth, is on the move again, with its latest destination being the city of Chelyabinsk in west-central Russia, close to the Ural Mountains. The most recent accounts suggest that, as well as memorializing Russian soldiers killed in the invasion of Ukraine, visitors can also directly sign up to join the military. Children, meanwhile, are encouraged to write letters to troops engaged in the so-called “Special Military Operation.” A captured Bradley Fighting Vehicle is featured as one of the exhibits.

A weapon that may well have more propaganda value than true military utility is the Cold War-era FAB-3000, an enormous general-purpose bomb, weighing 6,614 pounds.

FAB-3000s (as well as smaller FAB-1500s) were among the weapons inspected by Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu during a visit to defense industry enterprises in the Nizhny Novgorod region. 

As far as is known, the FAB-3000 can currently only be carried by the Tu-22M3 bomber, and without a wing kit to increase its range, its use would leave the aircraft extremely vulnerable to Ukrainian air defenses in most conceivable scenarios.

In the past, we have seen Ukrainian soldiers benefit from the protection offered by the Bradley Reactive Armored Tiles (BRAT) installed on the front and sides of the hull of the M2A2 Bradley ODS infantry fighting vehicle. Now, we can see Russian troops doing something similar, using a disabled Ukrainian Bradley for cover, amid fighting somewhere near Avdiivka.

To finish, a scene full of pathos, as a Russian soldier sits on the bank of a reservoir near Avdiivka and watches over his sunken BTR-82A armored personnel carrier. 

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Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.