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A U.S. intelligence warning to Moscow two weeks ahead of a deadly March 22 terrorist attack included a specific reference to the Crocus City Hall concert venue that was targeted, The Washington Post reported on April 2.

According to the report, which was later confirmed by The New York Times, U.S. officials told Moscow that the Islamic State extremist group was plotting an attack and that Crocus City Hall was a potential target.

The warning did not include specifics about the timing of the attack but said it could come within days, intelligence sources told the two newspapers.

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

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

However, three days before the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to acknowledge receiving the warnings, though he dismissed them as “provocative statements” by the West that were meant to “resemble outright blackmail and the intention to intimidate and destabilize our society.”

Four gunmen stormed the concert hall outside of 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 Sebastien Lecornu told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, that France had always been ready to face down “terrorism” and was prepared for “increased exchanges with the aim of fighting this threat as effectively as possible,” a French Defense Ministry statement said.

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

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

Putin said the same day that the organizers of the Crocus attack wanted “to sow seeds of discord and panic…in our country and bring Russia down 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 Russia’s security forces, which critics say are focused on stifling domestic political dissent and opposition to the war against Ukraine, often prosecuting political opinions as “terrorism” or “extremism.”

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

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

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

Russia’s Defense Ministry on April 3 said military recruitment had jumped noticeably since the attack, with about 16,000 people reportedly signing military contracts in the previous 10 days.

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

With reporting by AFP

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