MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s Federal Security Service has detained four men it says are members of the Ukrainian nationalist organization Right Sector on suspicion of plotting bomb attacks in Crimea, a charge denied by the group.
The four are suspected of involvement in two arson attacks in April on the Black Sea peninsula, annexed by Russia from Ukraine in March, the FSB said in a statement on Friday.
It said the suspects were also part of a group accused of plotting two bomb attacks during World War Two commemorations in Crimea in early May although neither took place, and that explosive materials and arms had been found in their homes.
Right Sector played a role in protests that toppled Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president in February, and the group is often a target of accusations by Russian officials and media.
In Kiev, the group said it was checking whether those detained had any link to the group and dismissed the allegation that it was involved in such attacks as “a blatant lie”.
“Right Sector operates according to the Ukrainian law,” said Artem Skoropadsky, Right Sector’s press secretary. “Right Sector has never planned, is not planning and never will plan terrorist acts.”
He described the accusations as propaganda and a provocation by the FSB, a successor to the Soviet-era KGB.
Itar-Tass news agency said the FSB was investigating plans for attacks in the cities of Simferopol, Sevastopol and Yalta, and said targets included power lines and railway bridges.
Russia’s state-run First Channel television showed FSB footage of three suspects and said they had been brought to the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center in Moscow.
Reporting by Steve Gutterman in Moscow and Natalia Zinets in Kiev, Writing by Steve Gutterman, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Alison Williams