Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) says it has uncovered an extremist "cell" that was directed by the militant group Islamic State (IS) and was planning terror attacks in Moscow during the New Year's holidays and the upcoming presidential campaign.
In a December 12 statement, the FSB said that three suspected members of the cell were arrested in the Odintsovo district outside the capital.
The arrestees were from Central Asia and were suspected of financing terrorist activities, recruiting for IS, and plotting terrorist attacks, the statement said. It said the cell was directed from abroad by "IS leaders."
FSB officers confiscated two handmade explosive devices, two AK-47 assault rifles, and ammunition, and found and destroyed a bomb-making lab, the statement said.
FSB Director Aleksandr Bortnikov told a meeting of Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee earlier in the day that the arrests took place on December 11, but he did not say how many people were detained.
The FSB frequently announces that it has foiled terrorist plots ahead of holidays and important events. It was impossible to independently verify the agency's statement.
President Vladimir Putin, a former FSB chief, announced last week that he will seek a new six-year term in the March 18 election. The official campaign is scheduled to start later in several days.
Bortnikov said that FSB analysis "indicates that the leaders of international terrorist organizations are pushing ahead with attempts to create hotbeds of terrorism in various regions of Russia."
He pointed to a bombing that killed 16 people in the St. Petersburg subway in April and a knife attack that injured seven people in the Siberian city of Surgut in August as "confirmation" of this.
Bortnikov said that Russian authorities had prevented 18 terrorist attacks from being carried out this year.
With reporting by RIA Novosti, TASS, and Interfax