(Moscow) Russia claimed on Wednesday to have shot down two Ukrainian drones which targeted the Kremlin in Moscow, denouncing an assassination attempt on Vladimir Putin, an accusation immediately rejected by Kyiv.
“We did not attack Putin,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a surprise trip to Finland. “We are defending our villages and towns,” he added, as Kyiv said Russian strikes left 18 dead in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine.
The United States, allies of Kyiv, for their part said they were taking the Kremlin’s accusations with “great caution”.
Such a drone incursion into Moscow would be a first since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine in February 2022. It is in any case the most spectacular attack imputed to Kyiv by Russia on its own soil.
“Last night, the Kyiv regime attempted to hit the Kremlin” with two drones that were “disabled” by electronic warfare systems, the Russian presidency claimed.
She denounced “an attempted terrorist act and an attempt on the life of the President”, adding that “Russia reserves the right to take retaliatory measures where and when it deems appropriate”.
In one of the videos broadcast by Russian media on social networks, a device is seen exploding in a sheaf of flames at the top – surmounted by a Russian flag – of the dome of the Palace of the Senate, one of the main buildings in the enclosure of the Kremlin.
It was not immediately possible to verify these independent source images.
Late Wednesday afternoon, an AFP correspondent saw several people busying themselves on the dome of the Senate Palace, with no damage visible from the ground.
A few days before important military celebrations for Moscow, drone attacks and sabotage have multiplied on Russian soil, also at a time when Kyiv says it is preparing to launch a vast counter-offensive.
A senior Russian official, Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament Vyacheslav Volodin, called for a response using “weapons capable of stopping and destroying” the Ukrainian leadership.
Ex-President Dmitry Medvedev went further: “After today’s terrorist attack, there is no alternative left to the physical elimination of Zelensky and his clique,” he wrote. on Telegram, current number two of the Russian Security Council and accustomed to vitriolic statements.
Ukraine, which regularly denies the attacks on Russian territory attributed to it, has again rejected any involvement.
“We did not attack Putin… We are fighting on our territory, we are defending our villages and our towns,” Zelensky insisted at a press conference in Helsinki.
One of the Ukrainian president’s advisers, Mykhailo Podoliak, accused Moscow of “staged” to justify “a major terrorist attack in Ukraine”.
The attempted attack made public by the Kremlin came days before the May 9 celebrations marking the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
Several military parades have been canceled across Russia due to security concerns. The Briansk region, bordering Ukraine, thus gave up the big festivities on Wednesday, after two spectacular sabotages which derailed two trains in recent days.
The Kremlin, however, said on Wednesday that the big military parade in Red Square in Moscow would take place as planned. The police device did not seem to have been reinforced on Wednesday. Onlookers strolled unconcerned near Red Square past banners celebrating May 9.
Moscow City Hall on Wednesday announced a ban on drone flights over the city.
Incidents involving drones have multiplied in recent months in Russia, these machines having targeted military bases or energy infrastructures.
A fuel depot thus caught fire overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday in Russia, near annexed Crimea, after the “fall of a drone”, according to the official news agency TASS.
The increase in these actions comes at a time when Kyiv claims to have completed its preparations for a major counteroffensive against Russian positions in Ukraine.
“Massive” Russian strikes on Wednesday left 18 dead and 46 injured in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, according to Kyiv.
It is in this context that the Ukrainian authorities on Wednesday announced a 58-hour curfew in Kherson, near the southern front line, from Friday evening to allow “police forces to be able to carry out their work “.
The Kherson region is often cited by analysts as one of the possible theaters of a Ukrainian counter-offensive. The regional capital, Kherson, was recaptured in November by troops from Kyiv, but has since been regularly bombarded by the Russians.
During his surprise trip to Helsinki, Mr. Zelensky said that “this year will be decisive […] for Europe, for Ukraine”.
In this context, the European Commission presented on Wednesday a financial instrument endowed with 500 million euros to increase the EU’s ammunition production capacity to one million shells per year in order to replenish its arsenals and help the Ukraine.
Russia said on Wednesday it shot down two drones launched at the Kremlin compound in Moscow overnight in an attempt to kill Vladimir Putin, days before military celebrations on May 9.
Here is what we know, for the time being, of this alleged attack against the heart of Russian power, denied by Kyiv, and which comes in the midst of a multiplication of attacks and sabotage in Russia.
In the middle of the afternoon on Wednesday, the Kremlin issued a statement claiming that two Ukrainian drones attempted to strike during the night the Kremlin complex, the center of Russian power under the guard of the Federal Protection Service (FSO) which ensures the personal safety of Vladimir Putin.
“We consider these actions an attempted terrorist act and an attempt on the life of the president,” the Kremlin said.
According to the presidency, both aircraft were shot down using “electronic warfare radar systems”. “There were no casualties or damage caused by the falling and scattering of the fragments” of drones on the Kremlin, according to this source.
In its statement, the Kremlin says the president was not injured. At the same time, his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told Russian media that Vladimir Putin was not there at the time of the attack.
According to Mr. Peskov, Mr. Putin is working on Wednesday at his official and ultra-secure residence in Novo-Ogariovo, 25 kilometers west of Moscow.
The evening before, Vladimir Poutine was, officially, in displacement in Saint-Petersburg (north-west) where he met the director of the theater Mariinski, always according to the Russian presidency.
Immediately after the Kremlin statement, a series of videos purporting to show the attack suddenly appeared on multiple Russian-speaking Telegram channels supporting the attack in Ukraine.
One of these videos, the most spectacular, shows a flying machine exploding in a shower of flames above the dome of the Palace of the Senate, surmounted by a Russian flag, one of the main buildings in the compound of the Kremlin.
AFP was unable to confirm the veracity of these videos and Russian authorities have not commented on them at this stage.
Late Wednesday afternoon, an AFP correspondent saw several people busying themselves on the dome of the Senate Palace, without visible traces, from the ground, of damage to the dome in question.
The attack comes as Russia is under pressure from a string of drone attacks over the past five days, including against oil depots and two spectacular railway sabotages in a Russian region bordering Ukraine.
These incidents come a few days before the celebrations, on May 9, of the 1945 victory against Nazi Germany, an essential date in the political program of the Kremlin, which poses as a successor to the power of the USSR.
The spokesman for the Russian presidency assured that the large military parade in Red Square, which adjoins the Kremlin, will be held as planned, despite this alleged drone attack.
Very quickly, the Ukrainian presidency declared having “nothing to do” with this alleged attack, even accusing Russia of “staged”.
“Such staged remarks by Russia should only be seen as an attempt” to find a pretext for “a large-scale terrorist attack in Ukraine,” said Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky.
For him, such an attack, if carried out by Kyiv, “would not solve any military problem”, when Moscow still controls nearly 20% of Ukrainian territory.
The Speaker of the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, called on him to “destroy” the Ukrainian government after the alleged attack.
The mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, for his part announced that drone flights would now be strictly prohibited in the capital, except with special authorization from the Russian government.