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Putin races to build VIP bomb shelter in Moscow

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Putin races to build VIP bomb shelter in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s staff has commissioned the construction of a large bomb shelter in Moscow amid a series of startling drone attacks near the capital and cross-border raids from Ukraine.

“The 800-person bunker for VIP patients and personnel is expected to be constructed at the Moscow Central Clinical Hospital, a protected facility, in near-record time,” the Moscow Times reported Friday, citing a Kremlin procurement contract signed last week. “All construction of what is officially termed a ‘civil defense protective structure’ is expected to be completed by Dec. 20 this year.”

Kremlin officials have fumed at the attacks and vowed revenge, even as Putin maintained Thursday that “there is absolutely no doubt” of Russia’s eventual victory in the war. Yet the bomb shelter plan implies that Russian elites feel a sense of vulnerability that could continue for months at least, as Russian forces brace for a long-awaited counter-offensive that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hopes will begin a wave of campaigns to drive Russia out of his country.

“This is not a movie.

It is difficult for me to say how you will see the counter-offensive,” the Ukrainian president said Friday. “The main thing is that Russia sees it, and not only it sees it, but it also feels it. And we are first of all talking about those troops that occupied our territory. Liberation of our territories is the result of a counter-offensive. When that happens, you’ll know it’s happening.”

The procurement document for the bunker was signed just days before Tuesday’s apparent drone attack. That operation caused only “minor damage” in Moscow’s suburbs, but the bunker requirements hint at preparations for more intense assaults. Earlier in May Russian authorities accused Ukraine of attempting to assassinate Putin through a drone attack that targeted the Kremlin those claims were met with skepticism in part because he was in St. Petersburg at the time of the incident.

“The bomb shelter is expected to protect from both a powerful blast wave and radiation within a 10-kilometer zone,” as the Moscow Times put it. “Also listed are several entrances and an emergency exit, main and auxiliary rooms, as well as a sophisticated ventilation and heating system to purify the air from ‘gaseous means of mass destruction’ and to allow ‘wartime medical procedures.’”

In the meantime, the second drone attack forced Russian air defenses into dramatic action, continuing a pattern of breaches of Russian security — including through cross-border raids by Russian neo-Nazis who defected from Russia in recent years — that have embarrassed the government and prompted a series of retaliatory threats.

“A counter-terrorist fight is effectively what the special op has largely turned into,”

Kremlin Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday. “They must be eliminated. And not only individually. It is necessary to destroy the hornets’ nest itself, the regime that emerged in Ukraine. It must be exterminated, it must be destroyed.”

Yet other Kremlin allies have conceded the difficulty of that project after more than a year of fighting since Putin launched the campaign to overthrow the Ukrainian government.

“Perhaps our only mistake is not having solved this issue in 2014-15, before Ukraine had an army or was prepared,” Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who allowed Putin to use Belarus as a staging ground for his assault on Kyiv last year, said Friday. “[I]n the meantime, [Ukraine] has been creating a capable armed force.”

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