Yet another blame game is underway, after incredible footage of what appeared to be a drone attack on the Kremlin surfaced on Wednesday.

 

What exactly happened?

 

Unverified video footage circulating on social media appears to show an explosion on the domed roof of a building known as the Kremlin Senate, which houses the presidential administration, though the exact target and perpetrator remain unknown.

What was Russia’s initial response?

 Russia accused Ukraine of a "planned terrorist act and an attempt on the life of the President of the Russian Federation."

 This was swiftly followed by calls from senior Russian officials for retaliation. Shortly after news of the attack broke, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Russian Duma and Putin ally, demanded "the use of weapons capable of stopping and destroying the Kyiv terrorist regime".

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 He added: "No negotiations can take place with the regime of [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky."

 Dmitry Medvedev, former president and current Deputy Chairman of Russia's Security Council, later called for the "physical elimination" of Zelensky.

 Kyiv and Odesa were once again targeted overnight by a missile and drone attack, the third such strike in just four days.

 On Thursday, Moscow upped the ante, accusing the U.S. of masterminding the attack and ordering Kyiv to carry it out.

 What has Ukraine said?

 Kyiv has denied having any role in the attack on the Kremlin and has suggested it was a ‘false flag’ operation, staged as a pretext for launching more attacks on Ukraine.

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The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has yet to comment on this information.

 President Zelensky said on Wednesday evening: "We fight on our territory; we are defending our villages and cities."

 Ukrainian presidential spokesman, Mikhaylo Podolyak, suggested Moscow is to blame. "Such staged reports by Russia should be considered solely as an attempt to prepare an information background for a large-scale terrorist attack on Ukraine," he said.

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 What has the international reaction been?

 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cast doubt on the veracity of Russia's account, saying: "I would take anything coming out of the Kremlin with a very large shaker of salt."

 Eastern European expert, Sergej Sumlenny, said he believes that Russia is responsible. He cited factors, including the speed with which the Kremlin confirmed the incident and the circulation of apparent CCTV footage from government-controlled cameras, as evidence that Russia "wants us to see it."

 It’s worth noting that in a world where clips of potentially game-changing events go viral within seconds of them happening, there was a delay of several hours between the explosion at the Kremlin and the clips being reported in Russian state media.

 The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said the attack was "likely staged" by Russia in an attempt to "bring the war home to a Russian domestic audience and set conditions for a wider societal mobilization."

 It added: "The Kremlin’s immediate, coherent, and coordinated response to the incident suggests that the attack was internally prepared in such a way that its intended political effects outweigh its embarrassment."

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 Does Ukraine even have the capability to carry out such an attack?

 While the perpetrator remains unknown at this stage, Ukraine certainly has the technical capabilities to carry out long-range strikes inside Russia and has done so before.

 "At this point, it may be Ukraine's own UJ-22 drone, or a Chinese-made Mugin-5, which was apparently used by Ukraine before," with Kyiv's PD-1 drone as another option, Samuel Bendett, a researcher in uncrewed military systems and an analyst with the CNA Russia Studies Program, told AFP.

 The UJ-22 "has a long range and can potentially reach Moscow," but it is unclear where the drones were launched from at this point, said Bendett, who emphasized that much is currently still unknown.

 Dominika Kunertova, senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich, agreed. "I think it's possible that Ukraine has developed a long-range drone capability that could reach Moscow. Extending the strike distance has been Ukraine's main objective regarding innovation in uncrewed systems," Kunertova said.

 But she added that "one of the main strategic advantages of using a drone for this purpose is deniability" – the more difficult it is to trace any attack back to Ukraine, the less chance of an escalation to the conflict.

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 Doesn’t Russia have air defenses?

 It does. The fact a drone could penetrate the airspace of the most important building in the Russian capital suggests they are either incredibly poor or they simply weren’t functioning for some reason.

 "Russian commentators hinted even last year it probably can't protect the entire country and that there may be gaps that can be exploited," Bendett said, though it is "unclear why this drone was not intercepted over Moscow."

 The ISW noted: "Russian authorities have recently taken steps to increase Russian domestic air defense capabilities, including within Moscow itself, and it is therefore extremely unlikely that two drones could have penetrated multiple layers of air defense and detonated or been shot down just over the heart of the Kremlin in a way that provided spectacular imagery caught nicely on camera."

 What are the ramifications of the attack?

 As well as the overnight missile and drone attack against Ukrainian cities, in Russia, Moscow's mayor announced a ban on unauthorized drone flights over the Russian capital.

 In a statement, mayor Sergei Sobyanin said drone flights would be prohibited unless a special permit had been obtained from "government authorities".

 The attack comes just a few days ahead of the scheduled May 9 WWII Victory Day parade on Red Square for which Russian authorities have long- tried to reassure its people that the conflict in Ukraine is distant and does not pose a threat to Russian territory.

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 But this incident as well as a series of recent attacks on Russian-occupied Crimea, including a drone attack on the Ilsky oil refinery near the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk just a couple of hours after the alleged Moscow attack, are making it increasingly more difficult to persuade Russians that they are safe. A recent report revealed that one of the biggest fears among the Russian population, currently, is the fear of acts of sabotage on their own territory.

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Comments ( 1)

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Bradley Wiggins
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

Why would Ukraine attempt to assassinate Putin at the Kremlin, knowing that he wasn’t there at the time? Russian logic and stupidity?

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