Russia has accused Ukraine of launching a nocturnal drone strike on the Kremlin with the goal of assassinating President Vladimir Putin, the most dramatic claim levied by Moscow against Kyiv since the war began.
The Russian government made the claim on Wednesday, and it was reported by various state news organizations.
Putin was not in the building at the time, and there was no physical damage to the Kremlin, according to Russian officials, who also threatened retaliation.
“The Kremlin has assessed these actions as a planned terrorist act and an assassination attempt on the president on the eve of Victory Day, the May 9 Parade,” Russian news agency RIA stated, adding that Putin’s schedule had not changed and he was working from his Novo Ogaryovo estate outside Moscow.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy refuted the allegations, claiming that his country had not harmed Moscow or its president.
“We don’t attack Putin or Moscow; we fight on our own turf,” Zelenskyy said at a press conference in Helsinki.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior Ukrainian presidential official, also told Reuters that Kyiv had nothing to do with the purported event.
He claimed in a tweet that Russia’s assertions were a false flag, writing, “Russia is clearly preparing a large-scale terrorist attack.”
Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian defence analyst who served as a senior research officer in the Soviet Academy of Sciences, told Al Jazeera that if the Kremlin’s accusations were true, it would be difficult to “say which kind of drones were used”.
“At nighttime, Putin doesn’t appear to be in the Kremlin. He goes there for working hours and doesn’t live there,” he added.
Felgenhauer said that in retaliation, it was possible that Russia could order its forces in Ukraine to attack the presidential offices in central Kyiv.
Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Russian Duma and a Putin ally, called for “destroying the Kyiv regime”, adding:, “no negotiations can take place with the regime of Zelenskyy.”
Video appears to show attempted attack
The purported attack was most likely carried out by Russian partisans, according to Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs.
“Information appeared that the drone on the Kremlin was launched by Russian partisans from the Moscow region,” he stated on Twitter.
The Kremlin provided no evidence from the purported incident and provided little information in its statements.
After the alleged incident, an unverified video circulating on Russian social media showed pale smoke rising behind the main Kremlin Palace in the walled citadel.
The video was posted in the early hours of Wednesday on a group for inhabitants of a neighborhood across the Moskva River from the Kremlin, and it was picked up by Russian media, including the military news agency Zvezda’s Telegram channel.
The claimed incident occurred as Ukrainian soldiers prepared for a counteroffensive against Russian occupiers, more than a year after Putin ordered a full-scale invasion.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy is currently in Finland and will visit to Germany as he pushes on Kyiv’s Western allies to provide further military support.
Recent alleged strikes in Russia have acted as a reminder that the country is vulnerable to hostile blows.
They have struck as Moscow prepares to commemorate the Soviet victory over the Nazis on May 9, an event that has become essential to Putin’s authority.
Hundreds of firefighters were battling a massive fire on Wednesday, which Russian authorities blamed on a Ukrainian drone crashing into an oil terminal on Russia’s side of the bridge it built to occupy Crimea.
Meanwhile, a second goods train derailed in the Russian region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine.
Russia also accused Ukraine of attacking an air station deep within Russian territory in December, which houses strategic bomber planes equipped with nuclear weapons.
A drone crashed near Kolomna, some 110 kilometres (70 miles) from Moscow’s downtown, in February.
A lawmaker who represents Crimea in Moscow, Mikhail Sheremet, told Russian state media that the Kremlin should order a missile attack on Zelenskyy’s residence in Kyiv in retaliation for Wednesday’s alleged incident.
Mikhail Sheremet, a Russian politician who represents Crimea in Moscow, said Russian state media that the Kremlin should order a missile attack on Zelenskyy’s Kyiv apartment in revenge for Wednesday’s alleged incident.