In the early hours of May 3, two purportedly Ukrainian drones struck the dome of the Kremlin’s Senate building which overlooks the Red Square. According to the Kremlin’s Spassky Tower which can be seen in the foreground of emerging social media videos of the attacks, the first drone struck at 2:27 a.m. with the second hitting at 2:43 a.m. While one drone appears to be destroyed in a cloud of smoke, the second one can be seen bursting into flames above the dome. Russian officials immediately alleged that Ukraine was behind the attacks and claimed that the incident was a failed assassination attempt on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin’s office confirmed that while fragments of the drones are scattered on the Kremlin’s territory, no material damage or casualties occurred as a result of the attack.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky immediately denied Moscow’s most serious accusations since the war began saying during a press conference in Helsinki, “We don’t attack Putin, or Moscow, we fight on our territory.”
While Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykailo Podolyak told Reuters, “In my opinion, it is absolutely obvious that both ‘reports about an attack on the Kremlin’ and simultaneously supposed detention of Ukrainian saboteurs in Crimea… clearly indicate the preparation of a large-scale terrorist provocation by Russia in the coming days.”
Moscow has been quick to accuse both Kyiv and Washington of carrying out the attacks which it claims were a targeted assassination attempt on Putin despite Putin not being at the Kremlin at the time of the attack.
According to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, Ukraine was merely implementing plans “dictated” by Washington but provided no evidence of the allegations.
“We are all aware that decisions on such actions, on such terrorist attacks, are not made in Kyiv. But in Washington. And Kyiv is doing what it is told to do,” Peskov told reporters Thursday.
“It is very important that in Washington they understand that we know this, and understand how dangerous such direct participation in the conflict is,” Peskov added.
Meanwhile, the White House said it was aware of the attacks but said that the U.S. was “unable to confirm the authenticity of them at this time,” with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying that the accusations should be taken with a “very large shaker of salt.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre added, “I don’t want to get into speculation from here about what happened. But we are – we are indeed aware of the reports. The United States is certainly not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.”
Putin’s office released a statement regarding the strikes claiming that Russia reserved the right to retaliate saying, “Two uncrewed aerial vehicles were aimed at the Kremlin. As a result of timely actions taken by the military and special services with the use of radar warfare systems, the devices were put out of action.”
“We regard these actions as a planned terrorist act and attempt on the president’s life, carried out on the eve of Victory Day, the May 9 Parade, at which the presence of foreign guests is also planned…” the statement continued.
“The Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures where and when it sees fit.”
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Former Russian president and current Deputy Head of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said that the attacks “leaves us no option but to physically eliminate Zelenskyy and his clique.”
Meanwhile, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner paramilitary group, cautioned against the use of nuclear weapons in retaliation writing on his Telegram channel, “As someone who is a radical person, I can say that the use of nuclear weapons in response to a drone, of course, is out of the question.”
Several observers have also called into question Russia’s allegations that the purpose of the attacks was to assassinate Putin, with Mark Galeotti, a British expert on Russia, saying, “[Putin] notoriously rarely goes to the Kremlin, let alone stays there overnight.”
“If we presume it was a Ukrainian attack, consider it a performative strike, a demonstration of capability and a declaration of intent: ‘don’t think Moscow is safe,'” Galeotti added.
As noted by The Guardian, Putin seems to be downplaying the incident with state media not showing footage of the incident Wednesday evening, but rather having reporters merely read a statement from the Kremlin
The Victory Day military parade, which is held in the Red Square and commemorates the defeat of Nazi Germany, is still expected to go forward on May 9 only now with heightened security.
According to Margarita Simonyan, who is the influential head of the RT, “If the drone attack on the Kremlin was a cunning plan by Moscow to justify firing a kill shot at the Kyiv regime, the situation would look very different by now.”
“The air would be filled with statements promising tough responses, an emergency meeting would have been broadcasted followed by an emergency address to the nation,” she added.
Putin has announced that he will not be making a national broadcast in response to the drone strikes.
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