Russia is coming full force at Ukraine with claims that the Kremlin foiled a drone attack meant for President Vladimir Putin, early Wednesday morning.
Russia has called it an “terrorist” act and promised retaliation, but Ukraine has denied all involvement.
At the time of the alleged drone attack, Putin was not in the Kremlin, but rather at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, according to his spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
New York Times reports:
Two explosions occurred 15 minutes apart over the Kremlin early Wednesday, video footage verified by The New York Times showed, in an incident that set off a flurry of accusations and escalated tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
Russia claimed the Ukrainian government had orchestrated a drone attack, describing it as a deliberate attempt to strike President Vladimir V. Putin’s residence that was foiled by Russian “electronic warfare systems.” Russia did not release any evidence to show that Ukraine was behind the explosions.
Ukraine denied any involvement, asserting that Russia had manufactured the incident to distract attention from Ukraine’s looming counteroffensive.
Whatever the provenance of the explosions, it was clear that the Kremlin had made an usually deliberate choice to publicize the incident. About 12 hours after the blasts, Mr. Putin’s press service issued a rare, five-paragraph statement alleging that the “Kyiv regime” had used drones to carry out an unsuccessful “attempt on the life of the president.” Mr. Putin’s spokesman said the president was not in the Kremlin when the explosions occurred, at around 2:30 a.m. Moscow time.
If the explosions were indeed a drone attack, the penetration of central Moscow’s air defenses would represent the latest embarrassing failure by a Russian military that has struggled throughout the 14-month war. Either way, the incident could serve as a pretext for Mr. Putin to launch new strikes on Ukraine, as happened after the fiery attack on Russia’s bridge to Crimea last October.
Claims of the attack came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an unannounced visit to Helsinki to meet with leaders of five Nordic countries.
Zelensky said during a Helsinki news conference, shortly before Russia’s claims of a drone attack, that Ukraine’s counteroffensive is coming “very soon.”
This year “will be decisive … for victory,” he added.
A video posted on a local Moscow news Telegram channel shows what may have been the proposed attack, with smoke rising over the Kremlin buildings. The caption of the video states that residents in a nearby apartment building reportedly heard bangs and started seeing smoke around 2:30 a.m.