Russia is accusing Ukraine of launching a drone attack on the Kremlin in an attempt to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the Associated Press.
Ukraine has officially denied carrying out a drone attack on Moscow.
A video shared on Twitter appears to show some sort of drone exploding near a flagpole atop the Kremlin. Moscow residents nearby said they heard an explosion around 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
Russia’s official Presidential Press Service issued a statement on Wednesday saying that two drones had crashed on the Kremlin’s grounds without causing any injuries or damage.
“Russia reserves the right to take countermeasures wherever and whenever it deems appropriate,” the statement says.
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The U.S. government is looking into the matter but is unable to confirm the Russian government’s comments about what happened, a U.S. official told Task & Purpose on Wednesday.
The incident comes less than a week before Russia is expected to celebrate Victory Day on May 9, marking the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany. Since Putin came to power more than 20 years ago, the holiday has been celebrated with ever more elaborate military parades in Moscow’s Red Square.
It is impossible to tell from video being shared on social media where the drone that exploded over the Kremlin came from, said Samuel Bendett, an adviser with CNA, a non-profit research and analysis organization in Arlington, Virginia.
“It could have been launched from practically anywhere,” Bendett told Task & Purpose on Wednesday. “It could have changed direction on approach. It’s not clear if it was launched from Ukraine; if it was launched from Russia; whether it was the military, maybe it was somebody else, kind of a non-military unit. Again, a lot of unknowns in this video, a lot of questions in this video.”
If it turns out the drone is Ukrainian, there are three types of drones that it could be: The UJ-22, which may have come within 70 miles of Moscow in February; PD-1 and PD-2 domestically made drones; and the Chinese-made Mugin-5 drone, which is built for commercial use but can be refitted for military missions – all of which can fly several hundred kilometers, Bendett said.
Michael McFaul, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, tweeted on Wednesday that the Russian government’s claim that the drone attack was intended to kill Putin is baseless.
“First, the drone used had no capacity to do major damage, let alone kill someone in the building,” McFaul tweeted. “Second, Putin does not live (or sleep) in the Kremlin. Please stop repeating this Russian propaganda line.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, claimed on Wednesday that Russia is using the incident as a justification for a large-scale attack against Ukraine in the coming days, Reuters has reported.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre declined to say whether Russia may have staged a “false flag” attack, but she noted: “We know Russia has a history of doing this. They have a history of doing false flag [attacks]. It is not unusual. It is incredibly common. I just don’t want to speculate at this time.”
Shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Russian authorities claimed that a Ukrainian roadside bomb had killed three people inside separatist-held eastern Ukraine, yet the skull of one of the alleged victims had cuts that are typical of an autopsy, indicating the remains of a dead person had been placed at the scene of the alleged bombing.
However, Wednesday’s incident was not the first alleged drone strike inside Russia. In December, three Russians were killed by debris from a drone shot down over Engels Air Base, about 300 miles from the border with Ukraine. It was the second attack that month on the installation, where Russian bombers that fire cruise missiles at Ukraine are based.
Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of his country’s Defense Intelligence Directorate, told ABC News reporter Britt Clennett in a Dec. 31 interview that he would be unable to say whether Ukraine had attacked Engels Air Base until the war with Russia ends.
Budanov also said he expected to see further attacks carried out “deeper and deeper” inside Russia.
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