The Telegraph 2024-03-24 10:00:35


Prince William’s pride at ‘courage and strength’ of Princess of Wales

The Prince of Wales is “extremely proud” of the “courage and strength” shown by his wife, the Princess of Wales, since her cancer diagnosis, royal sources have told The Telegraph…

License this content

Prince Harry reaches out to brother after being ‘blindsided’ by cancer announcement

Prince Harry has put the acrimonious rift with his brother behind him to “reach out” privately after being told the Princess of Wales was undergoing treatment for cancer…

License this content

Britain warns Putin not to use Moscow attack to intensify war on Ukraine

Britain has warned Vladimir Putin not to use a deadly terror attack in Moscow as an “excuse” to intensify its war on Ukraine.

The Russian president used a speech on Saturday to accuse Kyiv of trying to help four alleged gunmen escape after they opened fire on unsuspecting victims in a concert hall, killing at least 130 people.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack shortly afterwards as Ukraine denied any involvement. That assessment was backed up by the United States, who warned several weeks ago of an imminent terror attack in Moscow. 

IS released a selfie on Saturday of the men it said were involved along with details of how they planned and executed the ambush at Crocus City Hall.

However, in a five-minute video announcing the arrest of the perpetrators, Putin said: “They tried to hide and moved towards Ukraine, where, previously, a window had been prepared for them to cross the border.”

He also called the attackers “Nazis”, the Kremlin’s commonly used code word for Ukrainians.

A senior Whitehall security source told the Telegraph: “Putin’s desperation to put all of this on Ukraine is unsurprising, as he tries to further dupe the Russian people whilst pretending that there is no dissent within Russia.

“He must not use this confected connection as any sort of excuse for intensifying his illegal war in Ukraine.”

Alicia Kearns, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “Russian media channels are already circulating deep fake videos of Ukrainian officials in an attempt to blame Ukraine and provide Putin some defence for the war crimes he’s committing in Ukraine or worse, pretext for further atrocities.

“There is no indication of any link to Ukraine, nor any credible reason to suggest their involvement.”

Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, echoed that sentiment, saying he hoped “this terrible tragedy will not become a pretext for anyone to escalate violence and aggression”. 

Ukraine’s foreign ministry said they feared the accusations had the aim of “whipping up anti-Ukrainian hysteria in Russian society, creating conditions for strengthening the mobilisation of Russian citizens to participate in criminal aggression against [the] state”. 

US officials have privately voiced concern about unsubstantiated claims of Ukrainian involvement, suggesting that blaming Kyiv for the attack could be a way for Moscow to justify a further escalation or encourage more Russian recruits to the front line.

Washington DC’s public statements have so far gone no further than expressing condolences and strong condemnation of the attack.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “The United States strongly condemns the heinous terrorist attack in Moscow. We extend our deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones and to those who were injured or affected by these unconscionable attacks against innocent civilians. ISIS is a common terrorist enemy that must be defeated everywhere.”

But US officials were quick to confirm IS’ claim of responsibility for the massacre, perhaps to serve as an early counter against Russian claims of Kyiv’s involvement.

US intelligence gathered earlier in March found that Islamic State-Khorasan, known as IS-K, the branch of the group based in Afghanistan, had been planning an attack on Moscow, according to officials.

License this content

Celebrities who mocked Princess of Wales called on to apologise

Blake Lively is among celebrities who have been upbraided for mocking the Princess of Wales in the weeks before she announced she had been diagnosed with cancer.

The American actress, 36, made a “Photoshop” jibe, alluding to the Princess’s absence from public life, when she launched her new drinks range earlier this month.

Lively posted an intentionally edited picture of herself to her 44.7 million Instagram followers, writing in the caption: “I’m so excited to share this new photo I just took today to announce our four new Betty Buzz and Betty Booze products! Now you know why I’ve been MIA.”

The Gossip Girl actress has since deleted the post and apologised for the “silly” joke, saying: “I’m sure no one cares today but I feel like I have to acknowledge this.

“I made a silly post around the ‘Photoshop fails’ frenzy, and oh man, that post has me mortified today. I’m sorry. Sending love and well wishes to all, always.”

The social media furore around the Princess’s whereabouts, well-being and domestic life reached a fever pitch following her release of a Mothering Sunday picture of herself and her three children – and her subsequent apology for editing it.

A few US celebrities weighed in with jokes amid the surge in online speculation, including by the social media star Kim Kardashian, who published a series of photos to her 364 million followers on Instagram with the caption: “On my way to find Kate.”

The post, which at the time of writing is still on her page, received an immediate backlash after the Princess announced in a personal video message on Friday that she has been undergoing preventative chemotherapy since late February.

“How do you feel now it’s been announced she has cancer?” one follower asked on Kardashian’s post, with another weighing in writing: “This didn’t age well. You never know what someone is battling.”

Owen Jones was among more high-profile people to apologise on Saturday following the Princess’s health revelation.

The Left-wing activist and journalist wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “As someone who speculated on this without considering it could be a serious health condition, I’m very ashamed to be honest, and all the very best to her.”

He had previously publicly said that he was “fully on board the Kate Middleton truther train,” which is a reference to the online sleuths who started conspiracies about her whereabouts and condition.

The Princess’s revelation sparked an outpouring of support and well wishes from around the world and has prompted a fierce outcry at some of the nasty conspiracy theories propagated during her absence from public life.

On Saturday, Hollywood star Jamie Lee Curtis called for people to stop peddling conspiracy theories about the Princess, saying: “Can we please just STOP with this bull—t conspiracy theory? This is a human being with young children, and clearly some sort of health issue.

“That is a private matter. Do we not have better things to do and more important things to think about and be concerned about than this? It’s a really low point in our society when there are SO MANY crucial issues that need our attention.”

On Friday, Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, said the Princess had been subjected to “intense scrutiny and unfairly treated by certain sections of the media around the world and on social media” as he called for her privacy to be respected.

Some TV hosts in the US have also come under fire for their involvement in spreading conspiracy theories on their shows, including John Oliver and Andy Cohen.

Meanwhile, TV presenters Davina McCall and Piers Morgan are among the British media figures who have called for the mother-of-three to be left alone amid her cancer diagnosis and ongoing treatment.

License this content

‘I fell to the floor and played dead as Moscow gunmen killed the girl next to me’

Moscow’s Crocus City Hall was packed to the rafters on Friday night as fans of Picnic eagerly awaited the Soviet-era rock band’s arrival on stage.

The musicians were still in their dressing room when gunshots first rang out. At first, the audience thought it was part of the build-up to the show. Then several gunmen clad in combat fatigues burst through the doors and started shooting.

Videos shared on social media showed four or five men dressed in bulletproof vests and armed with assault rifles entering the large, marbled concert hall.

They carried a large cache of weapons and shot indiscriminately at people.

“They acted like trained fighters,” one eye witness told Mash, a Russian news Telegram channel. “They killed the guards and people standing at the door. Then they blocked the main entrance.”

Among the most graphic footage to emerge shows the gunmen firing on those trapped in an entranceway to the concert hall for a full minute at point-blank range.  

After that, the attackers lobbed an explosive device into the crowd, starting a fire which eventually burnt through the roof of the building.

People described how they played dead to survive or had other miraculous escapes.

‘I pretended to die’

One woman interviewed on Russian TV while in hospital being treated for burns to her hands and body said: “I fell to the floor and pretended to die. The girl next to me was killed.”

Yulia Khvatkova was running late for the concert and dashing to catch the start of the show with her boyfriend.

What she didn’t realise was that the gunmen were behind her. They opened fire just as she reached the concert hall entrance.

“I was wounded in the shoulder, my boyfriend was hit in the arms and legs. A woman fell right next to me with a bullet through her temple,” she told the Astra news agency.

“A cheerful woman was selling tickets at the entrance. When we ran away I saw her lying there with these tickets with a bullet in her head. I still have this picture in front of my eyes.”

Anna was also about to enter the concert hall with her parents when the shooting started.

“We were literally three steps away from the entrance when a man fell down dead in front of me,” she told the Russian channel TV Rain. “People started shouting: ‘Run, they’re shooting’. We didn’t realise it at first, because it sounded like firecrackers.”

Inside the hall, built to accommodate 6,200 people, the crowd dropped to the floor in a desperate bid to dodge the flurry of bullets, some attempting to crawl under seats through the thick smoke to the exits.

Many did not make it that far. Footage from the scene showed scores of bodies slumped over seats or on the ground.
Elena, 61, said one man “saved a lot of people” after he tackled one of the gunmen.

She was hiding under a seat, watching an attacker near the stage shoot people when she saw the man grab his assault rifle and beat him with it.

“He just gave us the opportunity to all go out through the stage, through the emergency exit we all ran out into the street. He saved a lot of people. I don’t know if he was still alive,” she said.

The attackers then started setting fire to the hall, according to Vitaly, an eyewitness quoted by the BBC. “They threw some petrol bombs, everything started burning. We were led out towards an exit.”

Another eyewitness said children and teenagers were in the complex at the time of the attack, taking part in a ballroom dancing competition.

By Saturday morning, officials said that the death toll was more than 93, including three children, and that more than 145 had been injured, the worst attack on civilians in Russia for years. Ten people reportedly died from smoke inhalation from the fire as they hid from the gunmen in an underground toilet.

Video footage from the site showed police loading heavy black body bags into dark grey refrigerated vans.

Lax security

Survivors have complained that security around the high-profile venue appeared to have been too light and was easily overwhelmed by the attackers.

Crocus City Hall is one of Moscow’s most famous music venues: Elton John, Lenny Kravitz, Eric Clapton, and Dua Lipa have all performed there. The complex includes a large shopping mall. It was also the site of the infamous Miss Universe pageant Donald Trump attended in 2013.

By late Friday night, electronic billboards across Russia were displaying the word “mourn” and a flickering candle on a black background.

On Saturday morning, news agencies on the Telegram messaging app had blacked out their avatars and queues at blood donation centres had formed across Moscow.

“This is a matter of life and death for dozens of people,” Alexey Shaposhnikov, chairman of the Moscow City Duma pleaded.

Huge manhunt

Police launched a massive manhunt for suspects after a gunfight with a suspected getaway car in southern Russia. Several people have been detained. 

European leaders were quick to condemn the attacks, which the Islamic State terror group (IS) claimed responsibility for within hours.

Two weeks ago, the US embassy in Moscow warned of a potential terror attack, advising US citizens to avoid large gatherings, including concerts but this week Vladimir Putin dismissed the warning as “outright blackmail” intended to “intimidate and destabilise” Russian society.


Analysis
Moscow terror attack raises questions about FSB failure to prevent it


Read more

US officials said their alert had been partially based on intelligence indicating Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) branch of the terror group was active inside Russia.

Some senior Russian officials, including former president Dmitry Medvedev, blamed Ukraine for the attack and threatened harsh retaliation.

Russia’s worst terror attack in over a decade has brought a collective shudder across Europe, where memories of other music venues turned to slaughterhouses have resurfaced: the Bataclan in Paris in 2015, and the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017.

License this content

Nigel Farage joins anti-Ulez protesters in show of support

Nigel Farage has described the Ulez charge as “the most unjust, unfair tax” after joining a group of protestors to show his support for them…

License this content

‘We’ll climb this mountain with you’: Princess of Wales’s brother shares message of support

The warm public message of support released by the Princess of Wales’s brother, James Middleton, spoke more than a thousand words…

License this content