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Lawyer Alexander Molokhov spoke to his client, Igor Girkin, according to a Friday night post by Molokhov to the Angry Patriots Club Telegram account, an ultra-nationalist political group Girkin co-founded.
"He reported that everything was fine. [He said] two words, nothing else," Molokhov said in his post. "We assume that he is being interrogated at Lubyanka.”
Lubyanka serves as the headquarters of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) and is also the location of a Moscow prison.
"But again, we insist that he be allowed to see lawyers he trusts and that he be given qualified legal assistance," Molokhov added.
Some background. Girkin is a Russian military blogger and former official in the self-declared, Russian-occupied Donetsk People’s Republic who suggested after the Wagner insurrection that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have to step aside, according to messages posted on his Telegram account and Russian news reports.
Girkin, who also goes by the nom de guerre Igor Strelkov, is a figure of the far-right who has been openly critical of Russia’s military in Ukraine and even Putin himself. He was arrested in Moscow on Friday, according to Russian state media and a Telegram message attributed to his wife. He has been remanded in custody until September 18 by a judge at the Meshchansky District Court in Moscow, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Friday.
The leadership of the British foreign intelligence service "can be forgiven" for making a plea to Russian spies to share secrets and work with MI6, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) said Friday, according to state news agency TASS.
The SVR was responding to remarks by MI6 chief Richard Moore on Wednesday, in which he appealed to Russians “wrestling with their conscience” to take a stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime and “share secrets with MI6.”
"The current head of the British foreign intelligence service, the MI6, Richard Moore, has publicly urged Russians to start working for the United Kingdom’s intelligence services and promised protection for traitors. He thinks this will put an end to the conflict in Ukraine," the SVR said in a news release made available to TASS.
The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service went on to say that "anyone who knows a little bit about this subject can remember that the Anglo-Saxons’ long-standing tradition is to eliminate well-worn traitors and defectors," adding "this has not been done professionally for a long time, as there would be a clear trail."
The SVR said during World War II, British intelligence officers sacrificed many lives and dedicated a lot of effort to the fight against Nazism, and that they did it in a courageous, professional, and subtle manner while fighting alongside their Russian allies, according to TASS.
The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service made a reference to Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, saying the mysterious M., who is James Bond's boss in the series, "commands beautifully" and "intelligently."
The SVR also referenced the Cambridge Five spy ring and George Blake — a double agent who used his position as an MI6 officer to spy for the Soviet Union.
"Take heed, colleagues," the SVR urged their British counterparts. However, "given some staff circumstances, it could be said that the current MI6 leadership can be forgiven for such mistakes," the SVR added.
Speaking in Prague on Wednesday, Moore said "there are many Russians today who are silently appalled" by the actions of the Russian military in Ukraine.
“They are watching in horror as their soldiers ravage a kindred country. They know in their hearts that Putin’s case for attacking a fellow Slavic nation is fraudulent," Moore said.
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh and Katharina Krebs contributed to this report.
US intelligence officials have no reason to doubt Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that he has moved a batch of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, senior officials with a division of the US Defense Department said Friday.
Putin said last month at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that “the first (Russian) nuclear warheads were delivered to the territory of Belarus,” adding that they were placed there for “deterrence.”
Russia has about 4,477 deployed and reserve nuclear warheads, including around 1,900 tactical nuclear weapons, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
It is not clear how much of that arsenal Putin intends to move, and Western officials have never publicly confirmed that any weapons have been transferred to Belarus.
But senior officials with the US Defense Intelligence Agency told a small group of reporters Friday that analysts have “no reason to doubt” Putin’s claims about the transfer.
The officials would not disclose why they believe that. They acknowledged that the weapons are difficult for the US intelligence community to track, even through satellite imagery.
What we know so far: US and Western officials told CNN earlier this month that it did not appear Belarus had finished upgrading the necessary storage facilities to house tactical nuclear weapons, and that available satellite imagery had not shown any signs of the kind of preparations and security that would be standard at a Russian nuclear facility.
Other sources told CNN, however, that there are various facilities in Belarus, dating back to the Soviet era, that could feasibly house some of the weapons.
Asked last week whether he had seen signs that Russia had moved the weapons, UK Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace told CNN that the UK had “seen signs of this progressing,” and noted that Putin “doesn’t always lie.” When pressed, however, Wallace also declined to elaborate on the signs he had seen.
US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller similarly declined to answer questions earlier this month about where the weapons actually are located.
What role is Belarus playing? Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said last month that in the face of aggression, he would show “no hesitation” in using the Russian tactical nuclear weapons stationed on his country's soil.
But the senior DIA officials said they do not believe Lukashenko would have any control over the arsenal. It would most likely be entirely controlled by Russia, the official said.
They also said that DIA does not believe the movement of the weapons to Belarus would alter the global nuclear landscape or increase the risk of a nuclear incident, because they would be in storage rather than forward deployed, and because they will be controlled by Russian forces.
Miller said the US has “not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture nor any indication Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon.”
Since it began in June, the fighting has proved tougher than some anticipated, with progress being measured in hundreds of meters as opposed to tens of kilometers.
Here's what else you should know:
- Grain deal developments: Zelensky says he “coordinated efforts” on restoring the Black Sea grain deal in a phone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And Turkey will “not hesitate” to take the initiative needed to prevent the “harmful effects” of Russia pulling out of the Black Sea grain deal, Erdogan said Friday, according to Turkish state media. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said the option of having Turkey escort grain ships through the Black Sea is not a viable alternative to the collapse of the grain deal.
- Odesa strikes: A total of 21 people have been injured by Russian strikes on the southern port city of Odesa over the past five days, the head of the regional military administration, Oleh Kiper, said on Friday.
- German support for Poland: Germany has pledged to support its NATO ally Poland in defending its eastern flank in case of a potential attack from Wagner fighters in neighboring Belarus.
- Russia's crackdown on challengers: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin should be worried about his safety, pointing to the history of mysterious deaths of Kremlin challengers. In the latest example of Moscow's crackdown on dissent, a prominent Russian military blogger who has been critical of Putin was arrested in Moscow, according to Russian state media and a Telegram message attributed to his wife. He has been remanded in custody until September 18 by a judge at the Meshchansky District Court in Moscow, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Friday.
- On the ground: Two children were killed by Russian artillery in the village of Druzhba in the eastern Donetsk region Friday, according to a regional official.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says he “coordinated efforts” on restoring the Black Sea grain deal in a phone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"Due to Russia's actions, the world is once again on the brink of a food crisis," Zelensky wrote on Twitter Friday. “A total of 400 million people in many countries of Africa and Asia are at risk of starvation. Together, we must avert a global food crisis."
Zelensky said he thanked his Turkish counterpart "for the fruitful meeting" held in Istanbul earlier this month as well as for Turkey's "principled position regarding [Ukraine’s] NATO membership."
The Ukrainian leader also said he requested Erdogan’s assistance with prisoner-of-war swaps and discussed his peace plan.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that the Kerch Bridge connecting Russia to Crimea serves as a lifeline for Moscow's invasion and must be neutralized.
“The Crimean bridge, this is not just a logistical road, this is the road used to feed the war with ammunition, and this is being done on a daily basis,” Zelensky told the Aspen Security Forum, where he appeared by video.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 in a move that Ukraine, its allies and various international bodies condemned as illegal. Zelensky characterized the bridge as an extension of that Russian offense, calling it "an enemy facility built outside the law, outside international laws and all applicable norms."
“So understandably this is our objective," he continued. "Any target that is bringing war, not peace, must be neutralized."
The Ukrainian president also reiterated his government’s objective is to “reclaim the whole of the Crimea.”
“It's our sovereign territory, an unalienable part of our nation,” he said.
More background: Ukraine has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed two people and wounded a third on the Crimean bridge earlier this week.
The nearly 12-mile crossing is the longest in Europe and holds huge strategic and symbolic importance for Moscow.
Monday’s attack was the second on the bridge since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, after a fuel tanker exploded while crossing it in October.
A source in Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) told CNN the most recent attack was a joint operation of the SBU and Ukraine’s naval forces. And earlier this month, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister made what appeared to be the clearest admission yet that Ukrainian forces were also responsible for the October attack.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenky says his country’s counteroffensive is progressing slower than anticipated because the operation started later than initially expected.
“We did have plans to start it in spring, but we didn't, because frankly, we had not enough munitions and armaments and not enough properly trained brigades — I mean, properly trained in these weapons,” Zelensky told the Aspen Security Forum via video on Friday. “Because we started a bit late, it can be said — and it’s the truth, shared by all experts — that it provided Russia was the time to mine all our land and build several lines of defense.”
“Definitely they had a bit more time than they needed; because of that, they built all of those lines. And really, they had a lot of mines on our fields. Because of that, a slower pace of our counteroffensive actions,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian president said despite the difficulties, his country was making progress.
“We didn't want to lose our people, our personnel and our servicemen, we didn't want to lose equipment and because of that, they were quite careful about the offensive actions,” he said. “I would say that we are approaching a moment when relevant actions can gain pace because we are already going through some mine locations and we are demining these areas.”
Two children were killed by Russian artillery in the village of Druzhba in the eastern Donetsk region Friday, according to a regional official.
“At about 3 p.m., the Russians shelled the village with artillery — one of the shells hit the yard where the children were staying — a 10-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl,” the head of the Donetsk region military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, wrote on his Telegram channel. “They were brother and sister.”
“In addition, an elderly woman was wounded in the same village during the shelling — she was taken to hospital,” he added.
Kyrylenko called on residents to evacuate to areas further from the front line, especially if they have small children.
“Once again, I urge parents of underage children to take their children out of the danger zone,” he wrote. “Children should not live near war. You are responsible for the safety of their lives, including in the eyes of the law.”