A swarm of drones hit Moscow on Tuesday in an unprecedented attack while Russian drones struck Kyiv for a third straight day as Ukraine gears up for a major offensive against Russian forces.
The Russian defence ministry blamed Kyiv for the attacks on Moscow and the surrounding region, which left two people slightly injured and caused what it said was “minor” damage to buildings.
A Ukrainian presidential aide denied Kyiv was directly involved in the drone attack, but said Ukraine was enjoying watching the events and predicted an increase in such attacks.
Russia said Ukraine had launched its biggest drone attack on Moscow but that its air defences downed or disabled all eight of the drones.
“Regarding the attacks: 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,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told the Breakfast Show YouTube channel.
Two residential buildings that were hit in Moscow are located in the affluent southwestern part of the Russian capital and near the city centre. One is close to a popular park.
Two drones were intercepted over the Kremlin earlier this month but this was the first time that unmanned aerial vehicles had hit residential areas of Moscow, which is located hundreds of kilometres from the front lines in Ukraine.
A senior Russian politician said three of the drones shot down on Tuesday had been downed over the exclusive Rublyovka suburb, where President Vladimir Putin has an official residence.
Alexander Khinshtein, a prominent member of parliament from the ruling United Russia bloc, said the drones had been downed over three Rublyovka villages, one of which is located just 10 minutes’ drive from Putin’s residence at Novo-Ogaryovo.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, which has begun probing the strike, confirmed that drones were downed over the Odintsovsky district, which includes Rublyovka.
Rublyovka, a patchwork of elite gated communities in the forests west of Moscow that once boasted some of the world’s highest real estate prices, is home to much of Russia’s political, business and cultural elite.
The raids will be seen as a psychological blow and a major embarrassment for the Kremlin which has gone to great lengths to say the protracted conflict does not pose a threat to Russians.
Explosions outside Moscow
Andrei Vorobyov, the governor of the Moscow region, said several drones had also been downed near the capital.
“This morning, the residents of certain districts in the Moscow region could hear explosions, it was our anti-air missile defence system,” he wrote.
“Several drones were shot down while approaching Moscow,” he added, urging residents to keep calm and adding that “all rescue services are doing their work”.
Since the start of Russia’s assault on Ukraine, drone attacks have hit targets outside Moscow, including military installations located far from the front.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said the residents of two buildings damaged in Tuesday’s strikes had been evacuated and added that they “can return to their apartments once the special services have finished their work”.
Residents told Russian journalists that a drone had entered an apartment on the 14th floor but did not explode.
“There was no blast. The police came and knocked on the door and asked all people to leave,” a resident told the state news agency RIA Novosti.
Also on Tuesday, Ukraine said it had downed 29 out of 31 drones, mainly over Kyiv and the Kyiv region in the latest Russian barrage — the third on the capital in 24 hours.
On Monday, Russia fired a barrage of missiles at Kyiv, sending panicked residents running for shelter in an unusual daytime attack on the Ukrainian capital following overnight strikes.
The latest barrages landed as the Ukrainian capital was still recovering from an overnight Saturday drone attack, the biggest since Russia began its campaign in Ukraine in February last year.
Kyiv received its first shipments of the American-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system in April, and US President Joe Biden on Monday suggested more aid was to come.
Asked about Russia’s fierce attacks on Kyiv, Biden told reporters, “It’s not unexpected,” adding: “That’s why we’ve got to continue to give Ukraine all that it needs.”
Kyiv has been preparing an offensive, although its timing and focus have been the subject of months of speculation.