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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How The Moscow Drone Attacks Are Quietly Targeting Putin's Inner Circle

Drone air attacks continue in Russia's capital, with evidence that Ukraine has figured out how to target certain buildings belonging to Vladimir Putin's entourage. It's a clear message from Kyiv.

Tape guarded by russian offiials blocks off the street next to a drone damaged building

One of the buildings damaged after a series of drone attacks in Moscow on Wednesday

Cameron Manley

Another drone attack rocked central Moscow on Wednesday — and again the significance of Ukraine striking anywhere in the Russian capital should not be underestimated. It’s the sixth attack of its kind since July 30. Yet the importance of the summer barrage may go even further: the target Wednesday was a building known to belong to an important member of the entourage of President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin appears to want to downplay and obfuscate information about the actual targets. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reported no casualties,but said that several windows had been blown in on a neighboring five-story building. The Defense Ministry said the drone had been suppressed by electronic warfare and collided with the building after losing control.

Meanwhile, the Russian Telegram channel Mash reported that a drone had hit the One Tower building, which was reprinted by various other publications. Yet according to photos and videos of the explosion analyzed by the Russian independent news site Agentsvo, the drone actually hit the Moscow Towers skyscraper which is currently under construction, and not One Tower.

Targeted buildings 

In 2017, the developer of Moscow Towers partnered with the Russian businessman and property manager Grigory Baevsky, who has deep and longstanding connections with Putin and loyal Russian oligarchs, the Rotenberg brothers. According to an investigation carried out by the Organized Crime and Corruption — Reporting Project (OCCRP), Baevsky formerly bought up luxury apartments in the Moscow area before giving them to Putin's daughter Katerina Tikhonova, the sister of Putin’s former partner Alina Kabaeva and Kabaeva’s grandmother.

In 2020, the ownership of Moscow Towers, previously held by the Grand City company, was transferred to the Graz closed-end mutual fund. This transition was overseen by the management company Fin-Partner, which has connections to the Rotenberg brothers.

Fin-Partner also oversees Berocci, another closed-end mutual fund, which acquired four plots of land and two houses in the exclusive Usovo Plus village. This village is situated near Putin's Rublevka residence, known as Novo-Ogaryovo. An article by "Project" magazine linked this property to Maria Vorontsova, the daughter of the president.

A man in fatigues holds up a drone at head level.

A member of a Ukrainian military brigade carrying a drone for launch during a mission in the Kherson area, a few kilometers from the Russian front. July 26, 2023

Hector Adolfo Quintanar Perez/ZUMA

Connections and corruption 

Also on Wednesday in Russia's Belgorod region, a drone attack has killed three people. Belgorod's Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov blamed Kyiv for the attack on the region which is located near Ukraine's border.

But ultimately, the far greater threat for the Kremlin are the attacks on the capital. Earlier, two more drones were shot down by Russian air defense in the Mozhaisk and Khimki districts of the Moscow region, the Ministry of Defense reported. According to state-run RIA Novosti, in Khimki, the wreckage of a drone fell on a private house. The roof of the building partially collapsed, and the wall of a non-residential building was also damaged. No casualties have been reported.

It's a stark reminder that Ukraine will stop at nothing to dismantle these connections.

Due to the UAV (drone) attack, the capital's airports were temporarily shut down. Two flights were sent to alternate airfields, the Federal Air Transport Agency said.

Attacks on Moscow have indeed become commonplace. This is the sixth day in a row that the Russian capital has come under fire. On August 18, a drone hit the Expocentre building. On July 30 and August 1, drones flew into a government high-rise in the IQ quarter in the Moscow International Business Center

These recent attacks on the capital also help shine a light on the underlying corruption and connections that are ostensibly fueling Russia’s war in Ukraine. The incident also stands as a stark reminder that Ukraine will stop at nothing to dismantle these very connections.

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