Moscow has accused Kyiv of attempting to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin after two drones were shot down over the Kremlin on May 3.
“As a result of timely actions taken by the military and special services with the use of radar control systems, the (drones) were disabled,” Russian state media reported.
Unverified footage shows an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) swooping over the heart of Russian power before bursting into a ball of flames. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Putin was not in the Kremlin at the time of the attack, which came in the middle of the night. Russia considers the attack as an assassination attempt on Putin.
“There were no victims and material damage,” the Kremlin said. “The Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures where and when it sees fit”.
Kyiv responded to the allegations saying Ukraine was not involved in the drone strike.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was not in the country, but on a trip to Finland where he is trying to drum up more support. His spokesperson Serhii Nikiforov also denied Ukraine was involved in the incident in a statement to BBC.
Speculation was rife that the drone attack on the Kremlin was the signal to the start of the widely expected spring counteroffensive.
Advisor to the head of Ukraine's Presidential Office Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter that, "Russia is clearly preparing a large-scale terrorist act,” adding, "Something is happening in the Russian Federation, but definitely without Ukrainian drones over the Kremlin."
Speculation has arisen over the incident with many questions remaining unanswered fuelling suspicions that the attack might be a false flag operation by the Kremlin. Why was footage filmed in the early hours of the morning not released immediately and only released in the afternoon of the following day? If there were loud explosions and a fall of fire over the Kremlin, isn’t it likely that someone saw and reported the incident at the time? If this was a serious attempt to kill Putin, why was the drones’ flight time to reach their target in the small hours at a time when clearly Putin would be in bed?
One theory is that the incident could be a symbolic warning from the Ukrainian government or a ruse by the Kremlin to either spur more Russians to enlist or to prepare the public for a new large and bloody counteroffensive by Russian forces and justify a retaliatory strike on Kyiv. So far the Kremlin has refrained from a destructive bombing campaign against the Ukrainian capital.
It comes a week before Russia celebrates Victory Day on May 9, to commemorate the Second World War, an important holiday in Russia that Putin used to drive up support for the invasion of Ukraine last year. The Red Square military parade is still set to take place, although authorities have imposed a ban on drones in the city from today.
This was the second drone strike against Moscow. A deadly wave of drones was launched from Ukraine into Russia on February 28. Drones struck several regions in western Russia, although damage was minimal and only one fatality was reported at the time.
One of the drones got within 100 kilometres of Moscow, breaching Russian defences and crashing without causing much damage. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered officials to tighten control of the Ukraine border in response to this rare attack on Russian territory. The attacks shook the Kremlin, which has since placed anti-aircraft guns around Moscow and on the roofs of key buildings including the Ministry of Defence, which is a stone’s throw from the Kremlin.
Ukraine authorities did not take responsibility for the February attacks and have not commented officially on any of the attacks on Russian territory, but have claimed the right to hit back at Russia.
The attack on the Kremlin will unsettle Ukraine’s Western allies, which have refrained from providing Kyiv with weapons or missiles that can reach into Russia for fear of provoking Russia into WWIII. It has also failed to provide Ukraine with advanced fighter jets, which could also be used to attack targets inside Russia.
However, Kyiv has undertaken several attacks using its own technology. Notably today’s attacks were by drones, not Western-supplied Nato missiles. The previous February attack was also carried out by Ukrainian-made drones with an 800km range – enough to allow them to fly from the Ukrainian border to Moscow.
The drone strikes against the Kremlin are the latest of Ukrainian attacks against targets on Russian soil or Crimea. In December, Ukraine sent a series of explosive-laden drones against several Russian airfields in the European part of Russia.
Despite the West’s disapproval of hitting targets inside Russia, Kyiv is clearly frustrated with the slow pace of Western weapons deliveries and its refusal to send more offensive weapons systems like fighter jets.
As Nato-made weapons are in effect off-limits, the drones used in December’s attack on airfields were probably 1970s-vintage, jet-propelled Tupolev Tu-141 reconnaissance vehicles that the Ukrainians pulled out of storage and packed with explosives, reported Forbes.
Amongst the most spectacular attacks was a huge explosion at an airbase on the Crimean peninsula that destroyed at least nine airplanes last August. However, it remains unclear if the explosion was caused by missiles or sabotage.
Another successful attack saw a truck bomb partly destroy the Kerch bridge that connects the occupied territory with the Russian mainland in October. Again the circumstances surrounding the attack remain opaque.
And in just the last few days have seen more drone attacks on Russian oil storage facilities in Crimea near the Black Sea port of Sevastopol resulting in massive fives.
Kyiv has not taken responsibility for any of these attacks.