Russia accuses Ukraine of Moscow drone attack

Published : 30 May 2023 09:36 PM

Russia has accused Ukraine of launching an early morning drone attack on Moscow, the first time the city has been targeted by multiple drones since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian defence ministry said Kyiv had staged a "terrorist attack" using at least eight drones and causing minor damage to several buildings.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said no-one was seriously injured.

Ukraine has denied carrying out the drone strikes.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that Kyiv was not directly involved, but that Ukraine had enjoyed watching events unfold and predicted an increase in such incidents.

Russia's defence ministry said all eight drones had been intercepted.

"Three of them were suppressed by electronic warfare, lost control and deviated from their intended targets. Another five drones were shot down by the Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile system in the Moscow region," the ministry said.

Earlier Russian media reports had said as many as 30 drones were involved. Authorities have also said several of them fell on buildings after being downed.

Mr Sobyanin said that some residents had been evacuated but were later allowed to return home. Two people had sought medical assistance, he said.

The BBC's Russia editor Steve Rosenberg in Moscow heard an explosion in the distance at 06:24 local time (03:24 GMT) in north-west Moscow, with the windows of his home shaking from the blast.

Another explosion was heard at 06:58, he says.

Judging by the conversations on social media, a lot of people in the Moscow area heard the explosions too, he adds.

For many in the Russian capital, the war in Ukraine had been something that was happening a "long way away, it was something that they saw on television".

The aerial assaults struck some of Moscow's most prominent neighbourhoods. Areas hit include Leninsky Prospekt, a grand boulevard created under Josef Stalin.

A part of western Moscow where Russia's President Vladimir Putin has a residence, along with other members of the Russian elite, was also hit.

Some politicians have been quoted by Russian news agency Tass saying that the drone attacks were intended to cause panic, but that the attempt had failed.

Putin has been briefed about the incursion and has been working in the Kremlin, his spokesman reported.

The president's long-time aide, Dmitry Peskov, also said Moscow's air defences and the defence ministry had worked well in dealing with the aerial sortie.

However, Russia's air defence systems are in need of modernisation, according to one politician quoted by local media.

The attacks in Moscow came as a complete surprise to the population, with no warning signals alerting that an aerial attack would happen, said Viktor Sobolev, talking to Federal Press.

Russia's radar was unable to detect the drones and trigger the air raid alarm because they were flying very low, the former military officer explained. He added that Russia should create systems that can see drones at very low altitudes.

Three of the drones shot down were taken out over Moscow's exclusive Rublyovka suburb, according to a member of Russia's parliament. A patchwork of exclusive gated communities situated in the forests west of the capital, the area is home to many of Russia's business, political and cultural luminaries.

One zone is a short 10-minute drive from a residence owned by President Putin in Novo-Ogaryovo.

Purported residents include former president Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin has frequently targeted inhabitants of the neighbourhood as an out-of-touch elite lacking commitment to Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

The mercenary chief blamed Tuesday's drone attacks on military officials living in the suburb.

In an expletive-ridden post on the messaging app Telegram, he asked why Russia was allowing drones to fly to Moscow.

"Let your houses burn." he concluded defiantly.

The strikes on Moscow followed an overnight drone attack on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in which at least one person was reported killed.

Ukrainian officials said falling debris set buildings on fire as Ukraine's air defences intercepted more than 20 drones.

The head of Ukraine's military intelligence, Gen Kyrylo Budanov, had warned of a swift response to a series of Russian missile strikes on Kyiv