Russia: Kremlin drone attack was Ukrainian assassination attempt on Putin

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Putin on April 27.
Video clip of one of the reported drones
Image: Unknown (Fair use).
The Kremlin Senate in daytime, 2019.
Image: Don-vip.

Yesterday, Russia said Ukraine launched a nighttime drone attack to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin at Moscow's Kremlin. Authorities reported no casualties.

"Last night, the Kiev regime attempted a drone strike against the residence of the President of the Russian Federation at the Kremlin. Two unmanned aerial vehicles targeted the Kremlin. Timely action by the military and special services involving radar systems enabled them to disable the devices. They crashed in the Kremlin grounds, scattering fragments without causing any casualties or damage," a statement from Russia's presidential press service read.

"We view these actions as a planned terrorist attack and an assassination attempt targeting the President, carried out ahead of Victory Day and the May 9 Parade […] The President has not suffered in this terrorist attack. His working schedule remains unchanged and follows its ordinary course. Russia reserves the right to take countermeasures wherever and whenever it deems appropriate."

Unverified videos circulating on the internet showed an object exploding above the domed roof of the Kremlin Senate, which houses the presidential residence, and, allegedly, a fire at the Kremlin. Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Putin was at a different office in Moscow at the time.

A Moscow resident told Verstka, an independent news source, he heard two blasts, the first at 02:30 MST (UTC+03:00) and the second twelve minutes later.

Verstka quoted a Kremlin employee as saying no changes in security were evident by Wednesday morning: "Nothing strange has happened. The Alexander Garden was not blocked off, cars were parked in the lot as usual."

Zelenskyy on March 24.
Image: President Of Ukraine.

Former President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev said there were "no options left except for the physical elimination of Zelenskyy and his cabal" in comments made to RIA Novosti.

Mikhail Sheremet, a Russian legislator, told state media: "Terrorists have settled in Kyiv, and, as you know, negotiations with them are meaningless. They need only to be destroyed, quickly and mercilessly. It's time to launch a missile attack on Zelenskyy's residence in Kyiv."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at a press conference: "We are not attacking Putin or Moscow." Zelenskyy was in Helsinki, Finland for talks with Nordic leaders.

"We are fighting on our own territory, defending our villages and cities," Zelenskyy continued. "We do not have enough weapons even for this. That is why we do not use them elsewhere. We have a deficit. We cannot use everything and everywhere."

Press secretary Serhii Nykyforov also denied Ukrainian involvement in the incident and suggested Russia was intentionally "escalating the situation ahead of May 9," which is Victory Day, commemorating the Soviet Union's triumph over Nazi Germany.

James Nixey of Chatham House, an independent policy institute, wrote to NBC News: "Let's be clear on what this is not. It's not an assassination attempt on Vladimir Putin. That's just what the Kremlin is saying […] The two most likely possibilities are a 'warning shot across the bows' by Kyiv or a false flag operation by Moscow designed to justify more intense attacks in Ukraine or more conscription."

The research group Institute for the Study of War released a report concluding: "Russia likely staged this attack in an attempt to bring the war home to a Russian domestic audience and set conditions for a wider societal mobilization." The institute further said: "The rapid and coherent presentation of an official Russian narrative around the strike suggests that Russia staged this incident […] Russia is employing an array of measures to frame the war in Ukraine as existential to Russia's domestic audience and to prepare for wider societal mobilization."

Two US officials, who spoke to NBC News, doubted Ukraine's drones could have penetrated air defenses and that US-supplied drones were capable of flying to Moscow.