Russia has been accused of taking its propaganda war to new heights after Moscow claimed kyiv had attempted to assassinate President Vladimir Putin in a drone strike on his Kremlin residence.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky vehemently denied the allegation, saying “we are not attacking Putin or Moscow, we are fighting on our soil,” while other Kiev officials suggested Russia may be setting the stage for further escalation of the war, as he threatened “retaliatory measures”. ”.
As Kiev prepares for a counter-offensive against Russian forces that Zelensky said would be launched soon, Putin’s presidential office said two drones were shot down overnight and the Russian leader had not been in the compound at the time. The state news agency RIA said Putin spent Wednesday working at his Novo Ogaryovo residence on the outskirts of Moscow.
A Kremlin statement said: “As a result of timely actions taken by the army and special services with the use of radar warfare systems, the devices were put out of service… We consider these actions as a planned terrorist act and a attempt on the president’s life.”
Drone fragments were scattered on the Kremlin grounds, but there were no injuries or damage, he said.
Video posted by Baza, a Telegram channel with links to Russian law enforcement, showed a flying object approaching the dome of a Kremlin building overlooking Red Square, exploding in a burst of light just before reaching it. .
Ukraine’s Western allies cast doubt on the Russian claims. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had seen the reports but that “anything that comes out of the Kremlin” should be taken “with a big salt shaker”, adding that “we will see what the facts are”. . Britain’s defense secretary Ben Wallace said Britain would assess reports of the drone strike but “would not take Russia’s comments at face value”.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, suggested that Moscow’s claims would provide a pretext for Russia to “justify massive attacks against Ukrainian cities, against the civilian population, against infrastructure facilities” in the coming days.
He said The independent: “[It] creates an informational fictitious threat to the Russian domestic market, further consolidating Russian society and elites in the fight against Ukraine.”
The top aide said he also feared it would allow the Russian parliament to give the green light to invest more of the country’s budget in the military, increasing mobilization, which would result in “the ultimate destruction of Russia’s remaining human rights.”
He added that Ukraine was not interested in “symbolic outbursts around the Kremlin” and was only focused on “seeing Putin and his elite in the dock.”
Mark Galeotti, a leading Russia analyst, said the alleged attack was unlikely to have targeted Putin, who “notoriously rarely goes to the Kremlin, let alone spends the night there.” He tweeted that even if it were supposed to be an attack from Ukraine, it should be considered “a performative attack, a demonstration of capability and a statement of intent: ‘I don’t think Moscow is safe’.”
If the Kremlin’s comments were to be taken at face value, they would still raise serious questions about the security of Putin, one of the world’s best-protected leaders.
However, the incident certainly rankled politicians in Moscow, who demanded action. Vyacheslav Volodin, the influential speaker of the Russian parliament, called for the use of “weapons capable of stopping and destroying the terrorist regime in kyiv” without specifying what those weapons would be.
Russian officials have repeatedly raised the specter of the possible use of nuclear weapons during the invasion of Ukraine. Former President Dmitry Medvedev, a close Putin ally, said in a social media post that the alleged drone strike left Moscow with no choice but to “eliminate” Zelenskiy and his “clique” in Kiev.
The Kremlin claimed the attack was planned to disrupt Victory Day, which Russia celebrates in Red Square on May 9 to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Moscow said the parade will take place as scheduled.
Shortly before the news about the alleged attack broke, the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, banned the use of drones in the Russian capital, with the exception of drones launched by the authorities. He offered no reason for the ban, saying only that he would prevent “illegal use of drones that can hinder the work of law enforcement.”
Elsewhere, oil deposits were on fire in both southern Russia and the Ukraine. Dozens of firefighters battled a huge conflagration that Russian authorities say was a Ukrainian drone crashing into an oil terminal on the Russian side of its bridge to Crimea. A fuel depot in Ukraine was on fire after a suspected Russian drone strike in the central town of Kropyvnytskyi.
An administrative building in the Dnipropetrovsk region in southern Ukraine was also attacked by a drone and set on fire. Ukraine said it had shot down 21 of 26 Iranian-made drones in a nighttime burst, protecting targets in kyiv, where air-raid sirens blared for hours into the night.
Sixteen people were killed by Russian shelling in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine, 12 of them in the city of Kherson, the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office said. Russian forces have regularly shelled the city from Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.
Ukraine and Russia have been carrying out long-range strikes since last week in apparent anticipation of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Moscow says it has attacked military targets, though it has produced no supporting evidence. kyiv, without confirming any role in the incidents in Russia or Crimea, said the destruction of infrastructure was a preparation for its planned ground assault.
Meanwhile, Zelensky visited Finland on Wednesday, his fourth known trip abroad since the full-scale invasion of Russia. The leaders of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden also attended his visit.
The president said his goals were to bolster Ukraine’s military and secure an eventual place in NATO, a goal endorsed by the five Nordic nations in a statement.
In Brussels, European Union countries finalized a scheme to jointly buy ammunition and missiles for Ukraine after weeks of talks.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.