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2 Apr, 2024 12:35

Explosives in Ukrainian ‘icons’ enough to destroy five-story building – FSB

Smugglers put hexogen inside religious artefacts in an attempt to sneak them into Russia, the agency said

The explosives hidden inside holy Orthodox images and other Church items seized on the Russia-Latvia border would have been enough to bring down a five-story apartment block, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has claimed. The deadly cargo originated from Ukraine and was being transferred to Moscow, according to the agency.

The FSB announced on Tuesday that four homemade bombs, 10kg of high-industrial plastic explosives, 91 electronic detonators, and parts of an RPG-7 warhead had been discovered inside a shipment of Church goods during a vehicle check at the Ubylinka crossing between Russia and Latvia. The cargo had traveled from Ukraine through several EU nations – Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia – before arriving at the border, according to the agency.

Later in the day, the FSB released a video showing an explosives expert opening up the casings of the ‘icons’ and revealing a white substance. Judging by the footage, the seized shipment contained several hundred holy images and multiple other items.

“Hexogen, a powerful plastic explosive, was found inside the icons,” Dmitry Belotserkovsky, head of the Interior Ministry’s forensic center in Pskov Region, said. Hexogen, also known as RDX, is 1.5 times more powerful than TNT, he added.

The amount of the seized explosives was “enough to blow up a five-story residential block,” the official stressed.

The shipment also contained industrially produced fuses with delay mechanisms that are usually used by special forces units to carry out sabotage activities, Belotserkovsky said.

A man who was detained for attempting to smuggle the explosives across the border told the FSB that his final destination was the Russian capital. “I was traveling towards Russian territory to the city of Moscow, where the unloading of the cargo was supposed to take place,” the suspect said in the video.

The FSB and other Russian security agencies have been on high alert since March 22, when terrorists opened fire on thousands of concertgoers at Crocus City Hall outside Moscow and set fire to the venue. At least 144 people were killed and more than 550 injured, according to official figures.

All four suspected perpetrators, who are Tajik nationals, were captured the next day as they were driving towards Ukraine. Several others who allegedly aided them have also been arrested since then.

Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility for the Crocus City Hall attack. FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov has suggested that the US, UK, and Ukraine might be linked to the crime, possibly using radical Islamists as proxies. All three have rejected the claim, while Washington and Brussels have insisted that Kiev had nothing to do with the massacre.