Ukrainian drones struck Moscow on Tuesday, Russia said in what one politician called the worst such attack since World War Two, while Kyiv was also hit by air for the third time in 24 hours.
Since Russia sent troops into its neighbour in February last year, the war has largely been fought inside Ukraine, though Moscow has reported some attacks on its territory and said one was an assassination attempt against President Vladimir Putin.
Tuesday’s early morning raid targeted some of Moscow’s wealthiest areas including a western zone where Putin and the elite have residences. He was later in the Kremlin and received a briefing on the attack, a spokesman said.
Russia’s defence ministry said eight drones sent by Kyiv were shot down or diverted, though Baza, a Telegram channel with links to the security services, said more than 25 were involved.
Two people were injured while some apartment blocks were briefly evacuated, according to Moscow’s mayor. Residents said they heard loud bangs followed by the smell of petrol. Some filmed a drone being shot down and a plume of smoke.
Lawmaker Maxim Ivanov called it the most serious assault on Moscow since the Nazis, saying no citizen could now avoid “the new reality”. “You will either defeat the enemy as a single fist with our Motherland, or the indelible shame of cowardice, collaboration and betrayal will engulf your family,” he said.
Earlier this month, two drones exploded over the Kremlin in an attack Russia also blamed on Kyiv and said was aimed at Putin.
“The sabotage and terrorist attacks of Ukraine will only increase,” said another Russian lawmaker, Alexander Khinshtein, who called for a radical strengthening of defences.
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak denied Kyiv was directly involved in targeting Moscow on Tuesday, though he said “we are pleased to watch” and forecast more to come.
At a messy stalemate for most of 2023 with Russian troops occupying some eastern Ukrainian regions, the war has killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions, reduced cities to ruins and caused havoc in the global economy.
KYIV HIGH-RISE HIT
Kyiv said four people died around Ukraine in Russia’s latest attacks on Tuesday, with 34 wounded including two children.
“Russia is trying to break us and break our will. To deprive peaceful citizens of sleep and prevent us, the security and defence sector, from preparing to implement important tasks,” said Ukraine’s Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko.
In the capital, Ukrainian defence forces said they shot down more than 20 Iranian-made Shahed drones.
One person died and four were injured when debris from a destroyed Russian projectile hit a Kyiv high-rise apartment building causing a fire, officials said. Two upper floors were destroyed with people possibly still under rubble.
Flames engulfed the top of the building.
Russia has attacked Kyiv 17 times in May with drones or missiles, mostly at night, in an apparent attempt to undermine Ukrainians’ will to fight after more than 15 months of war.
But Ukraine says U.S.-supplied Patriot anti-missile defences are achieving a 100% interception rate.
Kyiv is promising a counter-offensive backed with Western weapons to try to drive Russian occupiers from territory seized in Moscow’s self-styled “special military operation” to “denazify” its neighbour and protect Russian speakers.
Western opponents call it an imperialist land grab.
With Putin wanted by the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges, there has been speculation over his possible attendance at an August summit in South Africa where authorities would theoretically be obliged to arrest him.
Asked about that, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would participate in the BRICS nations’ meeting at “the proper level”, with further details to be announced. The group comprises China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa.