As Kremlin and Kyiv exchange allegations about an assassination attempt on Mr Putin’s life, with Russia has accused Ukraine of attacking the bastion of the Kremlin by using drones, Moscow has stepped up the bombings of Ukrainian cities to mark Russia’s celebration of Victory Day – when Russia claimed to have defeated Nazi Germany on May 9, 1945 – using the so-called attack by two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) at the Kremlin approximately 15 minutes apart and that was downed by Russian air defence with the use of radar warfare systems, as per the Russian statement released in the media.
Asserting this to be a ‘terrorist’ attempt to kill Putin, it stated that there are ‘no victims and material damage.’ Unverified videos circulating on social media, show at least one drone hitting the Senate Building, one of the larger structures inside the Kremlin complex, starting a small fire. Zelensky’s adviser denied Ukrainian involvement in the attack while also claiming that it was the result of “local resistance forces”. United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken had said “We simply don’t know,” adding that “I would take anything coming out of the Kremlin with a very large shaker of salt.”
Ukraine denied responsibility. “We don’t attack Putin or Moscow, we fight on our territory,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told a press conference in Helsinki. Rarely are such covert attacks admitted to by adversaries, but what they do is give an excuse to escalate tensions in an ongoing conflict. Mr Putin is scheduled to preside over the Victory Day parade in Red Square near the Kremlin on Tuesday, on Russia’s main patriotic holiday, the May 9 celebration of the Soviet Union’s World War II victory over Nazi Germany.
Ukraine has, on previous occasions, mounted drone strikes deep inside Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea, including twice last December on an air base for Russian strategic bomber planes. It typically has not claimed responsibility for such actions, although Ukrainian officials have often celebrated them.
Putin and military action
While White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre asserted on Wednesday that the US “is not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders,” Kyiv has denied responsibility for the attack. Since the beginning of Moscow’s military action in Ukraine last year, Ukrainian forces have conducted many attacks on Russian territory.
As Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated following a drone strike on Russian military facilities in December, American authorities have consistently maintained that they “neither encouraged nor enabled” the strikes. Similar language has been used by American officials to justify their hesitation to give Ukraine long-range missiles, such as ATACMS rounds for use with Kyiv’s US-provided HIMARS rocket artillery platforms. These 300-kilometre-range missiles might be used by Ukrainian forces to attack Russia’s border regions, though not Moscow.
To assault Russian territory, Ukraine could have used some weapons supplied by the US. While the precise weapons used in the overnight attack on the Kremlin are unknown, American-made Switchblade drones have reportedly been used to target the Belgorod region. Earlier this month, the US also sent Ukraine an unspecified number of Altius 600 “kamikaze” drones. With a three-kilogram warhead and a 445-kilometre range, these drones can just about go from the northeast of Ukraine to Moscow.
But Moscow has some of the best air-defence systems -the S-400, which both India and China have acquired- and a few drones cannot get past them when fighter jets and missiles find it hard to do so. Even then, Moscow accused the United States of being behind the drone attack on the Kremlin intended to kill Russian President Vladimir Putin, the biggest challenger to US and NATO in Europe. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the allegation in a briefing to reporters, saying Washington should be aware that Russia knew the US was selecting the targets and Ukraine was merely implementing U.S. plans. He did not provide any evidence though, to support the claim of U.S. involvement.
A false flag operation? Diverse opinions
With Ukraine denying involvement in the attack and questioning the gains from such an attack, many experts are stating that this could actually be a false flag operation by Moscow to garner support ahead of the 9 May parade.
The US, while not going as far as calling it a false flag operation, expressed scepticism over it. “I’ve seen the reports. I cannot validate them, we simply don’t know,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at an event in Washington.
The US Senate intel chair was also of the opinion that there was no indication that Ukraine was behind the attack. US Senator Mark Warner was quoted by CNN as saying, “We still don’t have much information. At least at this point, no indication it was sourced by the Ukrainians.”
Shashank Joshi, the defence editor for UK-based current affairs newsmagazine, The Economist, said that he is keeping an open mind. “The Kremlin has a long history of staging such incidents in order to justify the war or justify some provocation,” he said, adding, “We’ve seen this going back to the very early years of Vladimir Putin’s time in office, and we saw this at the beginning of this war as well. So I emphasise it could be a Kremlin provocation.” James Nixey of London’s Chatham House think tank said that, if it was a “false flag” operation, “it reeks of desperation… And it’s a high-risk strategy likely to be exposed.”
There are some experts who opine that Ukraine might have been behind the attack, but it wasn’t an assassination attempt as much as a show of strength. As Mick Mulroy, a former US deputy assistant secretary of defence and CIA officer, told the BBC: This may have been to show the Russian people that they can be hit anywhere and that the war they started in Ukraine may eventually come home to Russia, even the capital.”
Former US Ambassador to Russia and a professor by profession, Michael McFaul, wrote on Twitter, “There was no assassination attempt on Putin. First, the drone used could not do major damage, let alone kill someone in the building. Second, Putin does not live (or sleep) in the Kremlin. Please stop repeating this Russian propaganda line. Thank you.” Moreover, dictators like Putin, are constantly alert to attacks, especially as Putin is alleged to have been behind attacks on over a dozen of his critics.
With Russia’s military campaign falling short of achieving success, John Spencer, the chair of urban warfare at West Point’s Modern War Institute, said that the incident pointed to being a false flag operation, meaning Russia may itself have staged the attack in order to justify a significant increase in hostilities as part of its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
In a tweet, he wrote, “Think twice about this. 1) Russia lies more than (tell them) truth 2) Russia needs such an attack to justify continuing their illegal war in Ukraine 3) Ukraine is not that stupid, with no military target in Kremlin 4) Plenty want Putin dead.” However, another set of experts and analysts believe the attack was a false alarm for rallying public support behind Russia’s “special military operation” that is allegedly losing steam domestically. Military watchers also believe that this staged drone attack at the heart of Russia would give the country a free hand to carry out massive strikes against Ukraine.
When asked about the accusations against Ukraine, President Zelensky claimed: “It’s very simple. Russia has no victories. He [Putin] can no longer motivate his society, and he can’t just send his troops to their death anymore… now he needs to motivate his people somehow to go forward.”
US-based Institute for Study of War (ISW) explained this with pointed arguments. “Russia likely staged this attack in an attempt to bring the war home to a Russian domestic audience and set conditions for a wider societal mobilization. Several indicators suggest the strike was internally conducted and purposefully staged.” Criticism against Putin’s botched up operation in Ukraine indicates that unhappiness within Russia is only mounting; but so is the frustration in Europe about getting dragged into this war by the US, which is a major beneficiary of this conflict.
While uncertainty about this recent episode continues, one thing is certain that with every passing day, the war in Ukraine moves closer to a major escalation. Ukraine has announced repeatedly that it’s planning a large-scale counteroffensive, a push to retake Ukrainian territory captured by Russia. Could Russia do the same?
-This story earlier appeared on www.timesnownews.com
Implications of Alleged Assassination Attempt on President Putin | Opinion News, Times Now (timesnownews.com)