MOSCOW BLOG: Drone strikes

MOSCOW BLOG: Drone strikes
Two drones struck the Kremlin in the middle of the night on May 3. Was it an assassination attempt or a Kremlin black flag operation? / bne IntelliNews
By Ben Aris in Berlin May 4, 2023

Here we go again. Another conspiracy rabbit hole to jump down after two drones hit the Kremlin in the wee hours of May 3. I’m sure by now you have heard a million theories as to what happened. It seems that TV stations can find a pundit for every version and they have been hammering this story constantly since it broke.

So I will add my 2 cents. In this story there are few things that you can say with confidence, but there are a few things. The rest is mere speculation. However, the whole story is very fishy – something is not right here.

First, we can be confident it wasn't an assassination attempt simply because the drones arrived at the Kremlin at 2:30am, when it was clear no one was there, especially not President Vladimir Putin. It means you’d have to start the drones in Ukraine at somewhere between 8pm-10pm. Why not send them off at 1pm? Why wait until it was dark and the day is over?

Second, it is clear that Ukraine does have drones that can reach Moscow from the border, and it's also pretty sure that they can evade detection. We reported on a wave of drones launched against Russia from Ukraine at the end of February that got little play in the international press, as they caused little damage and only one person died. And there are more drone attacks in the south from Ukraine happening this morning.

Plus the Kremlin has clearly been expecting this, as we know from many reports and pictures that all the buildings around the Kremlin have had anti-aircraft guns on them for months, including the Ministry of Defence, which is just up the road from the Kremlin at the end of Novy Arbat.

You can discount pretty much everything else. The Kremlin lies constantly and Kyiv never takes responsibility for any of the many attacks it has carried out on Russian soil, some of which it is clearly responsible for. The US doesn't like it, as they then go from “helping Ukraine defend itself” to “helping Ukraine attack Russia” and that is a short step to “act of war” and Armageddon. Kyiv repeated this morning that it would never attack Russia without clearing it with the White House first.

Did Ukraine do it? I don't know but it smells like a Kremlin false flag to me. If you wanted to kill Putin with a drone why do it now in the middle of the night? Why not wait until May 9 and the Victory Day parade when he is out in the open and you know exactly where he will be? You’d probably get many of the chiefs of staff too and this year no other presidents are coming, so there would be little “collateral damage.”

And why did it take 10 hours to release the footage? Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov met with the press corps two hours earlier and said nothing. And why were the explosions so small? Moscow has incessant firework displays and the rockets they fire are ten times bigger than those two small explosions over the Kremlin’s dome. None of it adds up.

While the people in Kyiv were happy with news that their guys were attempting to strike the wolf in his bunker, I think it's more likely that this was a black-op to push more Russian men to sign up to the army.

As we have been reporting, life in Russia is going on pretty much as normal; the shops, bars and clubs are full and the economy is recovering nicely. But in the last two weeks a massive recruitment drive suddenly appeared. Instead of conscripting more people Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu is trying to hire 400,000 more kontraktniki, and it's not going well. That’s a huge number. A nice drone strike scare is probably going to shake some people out of their apathy. It's important, as the political cost of doing another round of conscription is actually very dangerous for Putin.

And the Kremlin has form here. If you remember, in 1999 there was a powerful separatist movement in Chechnya, and Putin was running for president at the same time. There were a series of powerful apartment bombings in Moscow that killed hundreds in their sleep and shocked the nation. Putin was swept into office on tough talk and the Russian army swept into Chechnya. Thing is, it turns out that it was almost certainly the FSB that blew up the buildings. (According to bne IntelliNews sources it was Boris Berezovsky’s idea.)