Here’s a look at what we know about the alleged nighttime drone attack on the Kremlin and the questions it raises.
Two of the many videos posted on Russian social media show two objects flying on the same trajectory towards one of the highest points in the Kremlin complex, the Senate dome, with the clock in the nearby Spassky Tower showing 2:27 a.m. and 2 a.m. . :43 in the early hours of Wednesday. The first appeared to be destroyed with little more than a puff of smoke, the second appeared to leave flaming debris on the dome. Time and location checks by Reuters indicated that the videos may be authentic.
WHAT IS RUSSIA SAYING?
Russia called the incident a terrorist attack and an attempted assassination of President Vladimir Putin, for which it said it reserved the right to retaliate.
Western security analysts dismissed the idea that the attack was aimed at killing Putin, given that the drones appeared to be targeting a highly visible point of the Kremlin’s huge fortified citadel, rather than residential neighborhoods, and that Putin is working often moreover. . His office said he wasn’t there at the time.
WHAT IS UKRAINE SAYING?
Ukraine has denied any responsibility. “We are not attacking Putin or Moscow, we are fighting on our territory,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told a press conference in Helsinki.
COULD UKRAINE MOUNT SUCH A STRIKE?
Maybe. Ukraine appears to have mounted drone strikes deep in Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea on numerous occasions, including twice last December on an air base for Russian strategic bombers. He generally did not claim responsibility for such actions, although Ukrainian officials often celebrated them.
IF IT WAS UKRAINE, WHAT WOULD IT MEAN?
Ukraine has often surprised Moscow with its military prowess, staging attacks well beyond the front lines, but a blow to Russia’s symbolic center of power would be its boldest move yet.
“If we assume this was a Ukrainian attack, consider it a performative strike, a demonstration of capability and a statement of intent: ‘don’t think Moscow is safe,” Russia specialist and security analyst Mark Galeotti wrote on Twitter.
Some commentators described it as a humiliation for Russia, drawing a comparison to a 1987 incident when a young West German pilot, Mathias Rust, evaded Soviet air defenses and landed a small plane in Red Square. .
COULD IT BE A RUSSIAN “FALSE FLAG” OPERATION?
Some Western analysts said it was possible that Russia itself staged the incident in order to shift the blame to kyiv and justify some kind of overwhelming response. The aim could be “to make Ukraine look reckless, either to weaken Western support or to try to build Russian domestic support”, said Phillips O’Brien of the University of St Andrews.
James Nixey of London’s Chatham House think tank said that while this was a ‘false flag’ operation, ‘it reeks of desperation… And it’s a high-risk strategy likely to be exposed “.
WHAT WILL THE US DO WITH IT?
The Biden administration has poured cash and weapons into Ukraine to help it defend against the Russian invasion, but would likely be worried about the unpredictable consequences any Ukrainian attack on the Russian capital could bring. The White House said it had been unable to verify the Russian allegation of a Ukrainian attack, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russian claims should be taken with “very great salt shaker”.
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF TIME?
The incident comes at a time of high tension and a potential turning point in the war, as Ukraine prepares to mount a long-awaited counter-offensive.
Perhaps more immediately, it coincides with preparations for Russia’s Victory Day holiday on May 9, marked by a military parade in Red Square below the Kremlin walls.
Some of the videos of the incident showed spectator stands that had already been set up for the parade, directly above the Senate wall. Parade security had already been tightened.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The statement from Putin’s office pointed to a significant response. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said it was time “to physically eliminate Zelenskiy and his clique”, and Parliament Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin called for the use of “weapons capable of stopping and destroy the terrorist regime in Kyiv”.
Western analysts have wondered how far it is possible for Russia to step up, given the death and destruction it has already inflicted on Ukraine with massive missile strikes.
Matthew Ford, an associate professor at Sweden’s Defense University, said further strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure would be less effective now that spring has arrived and the disruption of grain supplies will harm Russia’s own allies. He also wondered if Russia was capable of eliminating Zelenskiy.
“The closest they’ve gotten was last spring. How could they ever pull it off now – that seems highly unlikely,” he said in a phone interview.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)