Russia likely staged a drone attack near the Kremlin in an effort to bring the war in Ukraine to its domestic audience and set conditions for wider societal mobilization, according to an analysis by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The ISW cites several indicators suggesting that the strike was internally conducted and purposefully staged, including recent moves by Russian authorities to increase domestic air defense capabilities, which make it extremely unlikely that two drones could have penetrated multiple layers of air defense and detonated over the heart of the Moscow.

“Geolocated imagery from January 2023 shows that Russian authorities have been placing Pantsir air defense systems near Moscow to create air defense circles around the city. A strike that avoided detection and destruction by such air defense assets and succeeded in hitting as high-profile of a target as the Kremlin Senate Palace would be a significant embarrassment for Russia, the ISW recent assessment stated.

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According to the American think-tank, the Kremlin’s immediate and coordinated response to the incident, including accusations that Ukraine conducted a terror attack, also suggest that the drone attack was internally prepared to generate political effects.

ISW believes that the Kremlin staged the incident close to the May 9 Victory Day holiday to justify either canceling or further limiting celebrations, framing the war in Ukraine as a direct threat to Russia’s observance of historical events.

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Pro-war milbloggers have criticized the Kremlin for allowing Ukraine to cross multiple “red lines” without retaliation and called for Russia to escalate in response, while other milbloggers have advocated against retaliatory military escalation and called for a cautious response.

The ISW suggests that the purpose of such a false-flag attack would be to justify increased mobilization measures rather than any sort of escalation.

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At the same time, the American think-tank warns that Russia may be planning other false flag operations and increasing disinformation ahead of a potential Ukrainian counteroffensive to increase domestic support for the war.

The Ukrainian Resistance Center has reported that Russian forces in Bryansk and Kursk region received Ukrainian uniforms to conduct a false flag operation in border areas, and that Russian forces may simulate a hostage-taking.

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