Russia accuses U.S. of drone attack on Kremlin. Here's what we know.
Unverified footage from the Kremlin appeared to show two drones over the Russian Senate in Moscow, both of which were reportedly shot down by Russian air defenses.
The Russian government is accusing the United States of masterminding an assassination attempt on President Vladimir Putin in a drone attack at his residence in the Kremlin. Two drones were brought down by Russian air defenses in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Kremlin said in a statement. Putin was not in residence at the time of the alleged attack.
What do we know so far?
The last two days have been a back-and-forth of accusations between Ukraine, the U.S., and Russia.
On Wednesday, the Kremlin released a statement claiming that two “unmanned aerial vehicles” or drones had been taken down using “radar warfare systems” in what was called a “terrorist attack ... and an attempt on the president's life,” according to the Guardian. The Kremlin added: “The Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures where and when it sees fit.” Moscow had initially accused Ukraine of the attack which Kyiv immediately denied.
One day later, footage was published online appearing to show one of the drones being shot down over the Russian Senate and another showing smoke billowing from the building. Moscow would then go on to accuse the U.S. of aiding Ukraine in the attack. “Attempts to disown this, both in Kyiv and in Washington, are, of course, absolutely ridiculous,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday, Reuters reported. “We know very well that decisions about such actions, about such terrorist attacks, are made not in Kyiv but in Washington.”
The incident took place less than one week from Russia’s May 9 Victory Day parade — a celebration commemorating the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, or the Great Patriotic War, as it is called in Russia.
What is the U.S. response?
The Biden administration appeared to have no prior knowledge of the alleged attack in Moscow, telling reporters on Wednesday, “Whatever happened there was no advanced warning.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was unable to confirm reports late on Wednesday, stating, however, to take anything said by Kremlin officials to be taken with a very large shaker of salt.”
When Russia shifted the blame to the U.S., National Security Council spokesman John Kirby dismissed the accusation as “ludicrous.” He added: “We don’t even know exactly what happened here, but I can assure you the United States had no role in it whatsoever.” Kirby said that Washington would never encourage Ukraine to strike outside of its borders.
What has Ukraine said?
President Volodymyr Zelensky vehemently denied Russian claims that Ukraine had anything to do with Wednesday’s drone attack. “We don’t attack Putin or Moscow, we fight on our territory and defend our towns and cities,” Zelensky said, according to the Guardian. He went on to accuse Moscow of staging the attack in a bid to whip up support for intensified attacks on Ukraine.
A member of Ukraine’s security service said he was skeptical that the drone had come from Ukraine due to its size. “It definitely couldn’t fly 800 kilometers [about 500 miles],” Viktor Yahun, major general of Ukraine’s security service, said on Thursday. “Neither the distance nor the radio control, nor satellite [control] allow for that.” The closest point between Ukraine and Moscow is about 280 miles (or 450 kilometers), as reported by the BBC.
Yahun also said he didn’t put much stock in the theory that the drone bomb was a “false flag” attack, that is, intentionally carried out by Russia to pin blame on its geopolitical foes. “It’s not very good for them to humiliate themselves in the face of what is happening in Russia,” Yahun said, and suggested that it was most likely a third party that carried out the attack.