When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Drones On Moscow: Vladimir Putin On The Defensive Like Never Before

In another scenario, Putin could be bragging about Russia's control of Bakhmut after nearly a year of fighting, and the bombing of the Ukrainian Intelligence’s headquarters, which was recently acknowledged by Kyiv. But instead he must retreat to the ultimate home front after drone attacks in the capital.

Drones On Moscow: Vladimir Putin On The Defensive Like Never Before

An apartment building damaged by a drone strike in Moscow.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — In February of last year, when Russian President Vladimir Putin dubbed his invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation,” he was telling Russians that it would be over quickly. Now, 15 months later, drones are striking apartment buildings in Moscow, bringing a whiff of war to inhabitants of the Russian capital, who had so far thought they’d been spared.

The psychological shock is far greater than the military impact.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

It is a symbol of the failure of the Russian president’s Ukraine campaign. Pro-war nationalist bloggers were quick to criticize the lack of air defense, which allowed the drones to strike Moscow. But if they had really wanted to taunt the government, they could have compared it with the performance of the Ukrainian air defense which, thanks to Western equipment, knocks down most of the Russian drones and missiles fired at Kyiv.

In the same vein, Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the mercenary outfit Wagner and rival to Russia's military commanders, commented on his Telegram channel: “The people have a right to ask these questions," and, in a message aimed at the military establishment, added a pointed note: “May your houses burn."

Russia finally has a success to brag about — but Ukraine keeps the initiative

The impact of the Moscow strikes is first and foremost political, which was undoubtedly the goal of those who sent this swarm of drones. Ukraine has denied all responsibility, just like the previous incursion, of a drone shot above the Kremlin.

Putin briefly reacted yesterday, claiming, without any proof, that the Russian air defense had worked as intended. He accused Kyiv of wanting to “terrorize” — his word — the population of Moscow. Surely, this is a cynical statement from a man who has been bombing Ukrainian cities for weeks — and particularly recently, including the capital.

The paradox is that Vladimir Putin is now on the defensive, even though he can finally brag about a few military successes: in Bakhmut, where Russian forces pushed Ukrainians out of the city after nearly a year of fighting, and the bombing of the Ukrainian Intelligence’s headquarters, which was recently acknowledged by Kyiv.

But Ukraine still manages to keep the initiative, between a recent marine drone attack in the Black Sea, the incursion of Russian rebels in Belgorod, inside Russia, and now, drones on Moscow.

A "No Drone Zone" sign in Zaryadye Park near the Kremlin.

Sergei Bobylev/TASS

High stakes for Ukraine

By multiplying these operations on many different fronts and in many different ways, the Ukrainian army is covering its tracks as it prepares a counteroffensive. This attack has been the object of so much speculation in the past weeks that it was necessary to confuse the enemy so that they cannot know where the Ukrainian army will strike.

Ukraine is playing for high stakes with this counteroffensive.

The tactic worked well last year: Kyiv said for weeks that an attack was being prepared in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, only to retake entire swathes of the north-east territory. It will be hard to pull that off twice.

Ukraine is playing for high stakes with this counteroffensive, which is being prepared in an important international context. European leaders meet this week in Moldova, probably with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself. And a NATO summit, at the beginning of July in Vilnius, Lithuania, will be a key date for the future of the conflict. Weapons deliveries, security guarantees and political coordination: Ukraine will want to arrive in Vilnius in a position of strength — and it will all play out first on the field of battle.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Russia's Dependence On China Is Deep And Wide — It May Also Be Irreversible

Russia is digging itself into a hole as it becomes increasingly dependent on China, as a result of international sanctions and isolation. This shifting dynamic, analysts argue, is bound to have ripple effects around the world

Photo of ​China's Xi Jinping giving a speech while Russia's Vladimir Putin is sitting down, as they meet in Moscow on March 21

China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin meeting in Moscow on March 21

Vazhnyye Istorii


Russian President Vladimir Putin has scored a "huge own goal" with the war in Ukraine, according to CIA Director William Burns.

He was referring to Russia's losses at the front, international sanctions, the expansion of NATO and Russia's growing dependence on China — something that has escalated in recent years and may well become one of the enduring challenges Putin's government has created for Russia.

The risks associated with this final point, the deepening dependence on China, are substantial — and breaking free from it will prove to be a formidable task.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Russia's evolving relationship with China has become a focal point in international geopolitics and economics. This transformation has been catalyzed by a combination of factors, including Western sanctions, Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014, its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and China's meteoric rise in the global economy since the early 2000s.

The shift in Russia's economic alignment toward China began in earnest in the aftermath of the Ukraine conflict and the resulting Western sanctions. Prior to this, Russia had maintained strong trade ties with Europe, particularly in energy exports. But as sanctions took hold, Russia turned to China as an alternative trading partner and a source of investment.

These hopes for increased commerce between the two countries come as Moscow seeks continued support for its war on Ukraine. China's top diplomat Wang Yi is currently visiting Russia for security talks, which Russian media say could pave the way for Vladimir Putin visiting Beijing soon.

Yet despite attempts to gain diplomatic punch from such a visit, Putin would arrive in the Chinese capital weaker and more beholden to China than ever.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest