Putin says Ukraine trying to frighten Russians following Moscow drone attack

May 30, 2023
Footage appears to show drone flying in south-eastern Moscow
Footage appears to show drone flying in south-eastern Moscow

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded to Tuesday's drone attacks on the capital Moscow, accusing Ukraine of trying to frighten Russians.

He said civilians were targeted, but air defenses dealt satisfactorily with the threat.

The Defense Ministry said at least eight drones caused minor damage, but Kyiv has denied responsibility.

This is the first time the city has been targeted by multiple drones since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said no-one was seriously injured. Several drones fell on an exclusive western suburb where senior officials live.

Speaking on Russian TV, Putin said the attack had been a response to what he described as a Russian attack on Ukraine's military intelligence HQ in recent days. The BBC is unable to independently verify whether any such attack took place.

"In response to this, the Kyiv regime chose a different path — the path of attempts to intimidate Russia, to intimidate Russia's citizens, and of air strikes against residential buildings," he said.

"This is obviously a sign of terrorist activity. They are provoking us into responding in kind," he added.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Western support for Kyiv was "pushing the Ukrainian leadership towards ever more reckless criminal deeds including acts of terrorism".

But the US State Department repeated Washington's position that it did not support attacks inside Russia, adding that it was still gathering information on the drone strikes.

The strikes on Moscow followed an overnight drone attack on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv in which at least one person was reported killed.

Ukrainian officials said falling debris set buildings on fire as Ukraine's air defenses intercepted more than 20 drones.

Meanwhile, Russia's Defense Ministry said all eight drones targeting Moscow had been intercepted.

"Three of them were suppressed by electronic warfare, lost control and deviated from their intended targets. Another five drones were shot down by the Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile system in the Moscow region," the Ministry said.

The aerial assaults struck some of Moscow's most prominent neighborhoods. Areas hit include Leninsky Prospekt, a grand boulevard created under Josef Stalin.

A suburb of western Moscow where Putin has a residence, along with other members of the Russian elite, was also hit.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that Kyiv was not directly involved, but that Ukraine had enjoyed watching events unfold and predicted an increase in such incidents.

Putin said that while Moscow's air defenses had responded successfully they still needed "bit of work" and had to be made "more dense".

One former military officer said the attacks came as a complete surprise to Muscovites. There were no warning signals alerting that an aerial attack would happen, said Viktor Sobolev, talking to Federal Press.

Russia's radar was unable to detect the drones and trigger the air raid alarm because they were flying very low, he explained. He added that Russia should create systems that can see drones at very low altitudes.

Three of the drones shot down were taken out over Moscow's exclusive Rublyovka suburb, according to a member of Russia's parliament.

A patchwork of exclusive gated communities situated in the forests west of the capital, the area is home to many of Russia's business, political and cultural luminaries.

One zone is a 10-minute drive from Novo-Ogaryovo, the suburban residence of the Russian president and thought to be Putin's main abode. Other purported residents include former president Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin has frequently lambasted inhabitants of the neighborhood as an out-of-touch elite lacking commitment to Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

The mercenary chief blamed Tuesday's drone attacks on military officials living in the suburb. In an expletive-laden post on the messaging app Telegram, he asked why Russia was allowing drones to fly to Moscow.

"Let your houses burn," he concluded defiantly.

Dr. Jack Watling, an expert on land warfare from the Royal United Services Institute, told the BBC that Ukraine had struck airfields in Russia before, but not the capital.

At the time, unverified footage circulated online showing smoke rising above the complex, while a second video showed a small explosion above the Senate Palace, used as offices for the presidential administration.

Russian authorities claimed it was an attack ordered by Kyiv, while Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky denied his country was involved in the incident. — BBC

May 30, 2023
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