Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged retaliation for Tuesday’s drone attacks in Moscow that he blamed on Ukrainian aggression. He accused Kyiv of “terrorist activity” and called the actions a provocation.
In what may be a dramatic escalation in the conflict, Russian authorities reported that at least eight armed Ukrainian drones attacked the city. They said several Moscow buildings sustained damage.
No deaths or injuries were reported, and the Russian Defense Ministry said that five of the attacking drones were shot down. Officials reported that three others were jammed electronically, and a few buildings suffered minor damage to exteriors and windows.
Putin declared again that Russian forces did not attack civilian targets in Ukraine, though he did not specify how his military would respond.
Ominously, he mentioned potential nuclear escalation of the conflict when he accused Kyiv’s forces of attacking a nuclear power facility in Zaporizhzhya.
Massive escalation in Ukraine. 🇺🇦
Putin declared today that Russia struck the Ukrainian Intelligence Headquarters in Kyiv 2-3 days ago, and the drone attack on Moscow was an attempt at retaliation.
— Clandestine (@WarClandestine) May 31, 2023
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) claimed that Putin is deliberately trying to downplay the attack on Moscow to “avoid exposing the limited options he has to retaliate against Ukraine.”
The D.C.-based think tank said that the Russian president insinuated that the drone attack was Kyiv’s response to recent strikes by Kremlin forces. Putin further reported that the Russian army hit Ukraine’s military intelligence headquarters earlier this week.
There has been no mention of this alleged action by the Russian Defense Ministry.
The ISW report said that Putin’s reference to ongoing strikes in Ukraine is likely meant to signal that Russia is already retaliating and does not need to carry out further actions.
Ukrainian officials have denied responsibility for the drone attacks on Moscow. Russian sources indicated that as many as 30 drones were involved, though this has not been independently verified.
Putin confessed that Moscow’s air defenses still need work. He said that the attacks were meant to not only frighten the city’s residents but to also instigate a retaliatory strike. According to the ISW, the Russian president believes that he is being provoked.
It said that he “has consistently retaliated against genuine and purported Ukrainian actions by ordering massive missile and drone campaigns, likely due to Russian forces’ inability to achieve any decisive effects on the battlefield.”