Who really attacked the Kremlin?/Ai tấn công Kremlin ?(để mưu sát Hitputin)?-Báo GRID

Joshua Keating

Did Ukraine really attack the Kremlin?

(Alex Zarubi/Unsplash)
Russia accused Ukraine of an attempt to assassinate President Vladimir Putin with an aerial drone attack at the Kremlin  today. According to a statement from Putin’s office, two drones were destroyed by air defense systems, “scattering fragments without causing any casualties or damage.” Putin wasn’t there at the time. Videos posted online appear to show flying objects approaching the Kremlin, and some fire and smoke from the grounds. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and senior presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak denied responsibility. “We fight on our territory,” Zelenskyy said.

What kind of drone was it? Sam Bendett, an expert on Russian drones at the Center for Naval Analyses, wrote on Twitter that the drone appears to be a fix-wing model, perhaps either Ukraine’s own UJ-22 or a Chinese-made Mugin-5. A UJ-22, which has a range of about 500 miles — more than the distance from Moscow to the Ukrainian border — reportedly crashed just outside Moscow last week. This latest incident follows a series of drone strikes on Russia and Russian-held territory, most dramatically a strike on a fuel depot in Crimea last Saturday. 

Why now? If this Kremlin strike was the work of the Ukrainians (and that’s a big if), it probably wasn’t a serious attempt to kill Putin, who is known to spend little time working there. As Russia analyst Mark Galeotti noted on Twitter, coming just ahead of Russia’s symbolic Victory Day, it may have been a “performative strike, a demonstration of capability and a declaration of intent: ‘don’t think Moscow is safe.’” 

RAND Corporation analyst Brynn Tannehill also noted there could be a strategic objective ahead of Ukraine’s much-anticipated spring offensive: If Moscow appears vulnerable to strikes like these, the Russians may be forced to pull scarce air defense systems back toward the city meaning Russian positions in Ukraine will have “less defenses in a zero-sum game of coverage.” 

Who’s behind it? The Ukrainian government almost never takes responsibility for attacks on Russian territory, which — officially at least — are opposed by its main backer, the U.S.

It’s also possible, as Podolyak suggests, that the attack was the work of anti-Kremlin forces inside Russia. A shadowy group calling itself the National Republican Army has taken responsibility for a number of high-profile attacks, including the car bombing near Moscow last year that killed Daria Dugina, daughter of Kremlin-linked ideologue Aleksandr Dugin, and a St. Petersburg café bombing last month that killed prominent military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky

What’s next? Whoever is responsible, the Russian government could use the drone incident as a pretext to step up strikes across Ukraine, just as it did after the alleged bombing of the bridge connecting Crimea and Russia last fall. The Kremlin statement noted that “Russia reserves the right to take countermeasures wherever and whenever it deems appropriate.” Former president Dmitry Medvedev, as he often is, was more blunt, saying that Russia now had “no options left other than the physical elimination of Zelensky and his clique.”

But given the missile barrages that have struck Ukrainian civilian targets in recent days, the Kremlin doesn’t exactly seem to be holding back. – 

Joshua Keating

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