Russian authorities said Tuesday that eight Ukrainian drones targeted civilian areas of Moscow, marking the largest attack on the capital city since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last year.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said the drones only caused “insignificant damage” to residential buildings and that two people were treated for minor injuries but didn’t need to be hospitalized. The Russian Defense Ministry said five of the drones were shot down, and three were downed using electronic warfare capabilities.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the drone attack was an attempt by Ukraine to intimate Russian civilians. The attack came as Russia has stepped up its bombardment of Ukraine, and Putin suggested it was a response to a Russia targeting Ukraine’s military intelligence headquarters a few days earlier.
Ukrainian covert attacks have increased inside Russia in recent months. Kyiv does not officially take credit for the operations, but Ukrainian officials strongly hint at their involvement.
“Of course we are pleased to watch and predict an increase in the number of attacks. But of course we have nothing directly to do with this,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said of the drone attack.
Last week, The New York Times reported that US officials believe one of Ukraine’s military or intelligence services was behind the drone attack that targeted the Kremlin in early May and other covert attacks inside Russia.
The report said the US officials don’t think Zelensky signs off on each covert action and suspect the Ukrainian president “and his top aides have set the broad parameters of the covert campaign, leaving decisions about who and what to target to the security services and their operatives.”
Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory risk a major escalation of the war, especially if Russia thinks the operations are supported by the US and NATO. Responding to the news of Tuesday’s drone attack, the White House said it didn’t support Ukrainian operations inside Russia.
“We saw the news and are still gathering information about what happened. As general matter, we do not support attacks inside of Russia,” a White House spokesperson said. However, the US does support Ukrainian attacks on Crimea, which was absorbed by Russia in 2014.
Over in the UK, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he didn’t have information on the drone attack but endorsed the idea of Ukraine hitting targets inside Russia.
“Ukraine does have the legitimate right to defend itself. It has the legitimate right to do so within its own borders of course, but it also does have the right to project force beyond its borders to undermine Russia’s ability to project force into Ukraine itself,” Cleverly said.