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Russia attacks: Militants killed in St Petersburg, Moscow

Russian security forces raided suspected North Caucasus militants in St Petersburg. PHOTO: EPA

A Special Forces raid in St Petersburg and an attack by gunmen near Moscow have left at least six suspected militants dead, officials say.

Four were killed at a block of flats in St Petersburg, as Special Forces searched for North Caucasus militants.

Later, two gunmen suspected to be from the North Caucasus injured two traffic police officers east of Moscow before being killed by security forces.

BBC explained that Russia has been battling a long and bitter insurgency in the region.

Russia’s FSB security service said the St Petersburg raid had been aimed at detaining “wanted persons accused of participating in illegal armed groups in the North Caucasus”.

It added: “Criminals were destroyed by return fire when they attempted to resist.”

Reports said a number of arrests had also been made at the block of flats.

Images showed balaclava-clad officers surrounding the block on the outskirts of the city.

In the later incident, two gunmen attacked traffic police on the Shchelkovskoye highway in Balashikha, 20kilometres (12 miles) east of Moscow.

Police were investigating whether the men were from the North Caucasus.

A spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee told the Tass news agency: “Two policemen were wounded in the attack. One of them is in a serious condition.

“The attackers had firearms and axes. One of them was shot dead by the police during the attack and the other was killed when he was resisting arrest.”

A police source told Tass one of the traffic police officers had died but this has not been confirmed.

Security operations against militants are common in the North Caucasus region itself but are rarer in major cities outside.

The insurgency in North Caucasus followed two bitter separatist conflicts in Russia’s Chechnya republic and has occasionally spilled over into violence in other parts of Russia.

 

…Russia defends using Iran base for Syria air strikes

Russia defends using Iran base for Syria air strikes

Russia has said its use of an Iranian airbase to carry out bombing missions in Syria does not violate a United Nations resolution that forbids supplying warplanes to Tehran.

“No supplying, selling or transferring of warplanes to Iran has occurred,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday in comments reported by the Russian state news agency TASS.

Al Jazeera reported that Lavrov was referring to comments by US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, who said on Tuesday that Russia might be violating UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by using Iranian territory to launch air strikes in Syria.

 

The resolution prohibits the supply, sale or transfer of combat aircraft to Iran unless approved in advance by the UN Security Council.

Toner also described Russia’s move as “unfortunate but not surprising or unexpected”, saying the air strikes that purport to target the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant in Syria in actuality “predominately target moderate Syrian opposition forces”.

The Defence Ministry in Moscow said on Wednesday that Russian Su-34 warplanes took off from an airbase in Iran and conducted an air strike against ISIL in the Syrian province of Deir al-Zour.

The attack hit two ISIL command points and large training camps, “eliminating more than 150 militants”, the ministry said in comments carried by TASS.

On Tuesday, Russian warplanes used an Iranian airbase for the first time for military actions in Syria, TASS reported.

The airbase, in Iran’s western Hamadan region, is much closer to ISIL targets than the Khmeimim airbase, which Russia had previously been using, in coastal northern Syria.

Russia and Iran are long time allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Moscow and Washington support opposing sides in Syria.