The Kremlin Drone Attack Is Linked To Ukraine’s Counter-Offensive — No Matter Who Did It
Whether Ukraine or Russia is behind the clamorous attack on the Kremlin, which Moscow says was an assassination attempt against Vladimir Putin, it is bound to shape the imminent counter-offensive.
This article has been updated May 3, at 8:45 p.m. CET, with Zelensky quote and additional background
KYIV — The stakes could not be higher. The alleged drone attack on the Kremlin — whether Kyiv or Moscow ordered it — means that the Russia-Ukraine war is reaching a new level.
A video began circulating Wednesday afternoon of what the Russian authorities said were two Ukrainian drones that "tried to strike" the Kremlin residence and assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was not on the premises, and no injuries or material damage was reported.
The Kremlin called the attack a "planned terrorist act" and "an attempt on the life of the President of Russia,” adding that "the Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures where and when it sees fit."
The Mediazona publication published a video of the attack, which was posted by residents of the nearby Yakimanka district of the Russian capital. The telegram channel of the district reports that local residents saw sparks in the sky above the Kremlin and heard a loud sound that "was similar in strength to a thunderclap."
Ukraine's position on the attack
It is notable that such a clamorous incident linked directly to Putin comes amid reports that Ukraine may be launching a major counter-offensive against Russia’s invading troops. Sources in Kyiv have denied any responsibility, and alluded to Moscow being behind the incident, described as a “trick” to justify an outsized response.
"We have no information about the so-called overnight attack on the Kremlin,” Serhii Nykyforov, spokesman for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Later, Zelensky flatly denied Kyiv's involvement: "We don't attack Putin or Moscow," Zelensky said during a news conference in Helsinki. "We fight on our territory, we are defending our villages and cities."
Yet whether Moscow or Kyiv orchestrated the Kremlin attack, the imminent counter-offensive that Ukraine has been planning would appear to be central to the calculation.
If Ukraine was indeed able to deploy a drone so deep inside Russian territory, aimed directly at Putin, it could be a way to unsettle the Kremlin and stoke internal divisions in Moscow as the counter-offensive begins.
A pretext for Moscow?
Instead, the incident may wind up turning out to be a so-called "false flag" attack, used as a pretext for Moscow to go after Ukrainian civilian targets. Top Zelensky advisor Mikhail Podolyak put forward that scenario late Wednesday, warning that Russia is “planning a large-scale terrorist attack.”
I think that the Ukrainian army’s offensive has already begun.
Moscow has been stepping up attacks on Ukrainian territory, including those aimed at weapons supply centers. At least 16 civilians were killed Wednesday in heavy shelling in the eastern Ukrainian region of Kherson.
If Russian forces are outmatched on the battlefield, attacking cities and innocent civilians could be seen as a last-ditch tactic to avoid defeat.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Russia’s Wagner Group private military company, whose forces are fighting in eastern Ukraine, declared on Wednesday that he believes the "active phase" of the Ukrainian counter-offensive is about to begin.
"I think that the Ukrainian army’s offensive has already begun. We are seeing increased activity of enemy aircraft, increased activity around the perimeter of, and inside, our front,” he said. “Though we continue to control the inside of our front, the situation around the perimeter is unfortunately not looking so good. Our flanks…how reliable are they? I will not say anything about that for now.”
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