Who was behind the Kremlin drone attack?
Most of you have probably seen the dramatic pictures that emerged from Russia this past week.
A flying object is seen heading toward the dome of the Kremlin Senate Building. An explosion occurs. The scene is filled with black smoke.
Another explosion is about to happen: rumors and speculations on what happened.
A drone attack? Apparently. But by whom? Ukraine? Russian partisans? Or was it an inside job? A false flag operation?
I’m not sure. There is still much that remains unknown about what happened, but here are some thoughts.
Officially, the Kremlin says that it was an attack by Ukrainian drones (two in fact), which targeted President Vladimir Putin.
An attempt to assassinate the Russian president? Seems unlikely. President Putin does have a private apartment in the Kremlin but his main residence is 32km (20 miles) away.
Even Russian state TV appeared to cast doubt on that version on Wednesday evening. One analyst on Channel 1’s Vremya evening news bulletin observed: “The kind of explosive charge carried by drones like these cannot do widespread damage. This attack was clearly just for show.”
Ukraine has denied trying to assassinate President Putin.
“We don’t attack Putin or Moscow,” said President Volodymr Zelensky this week. “We fight on our territory. We’re defending our villages and cities. We don’t have enough weapons for this.”
But suppose this was, indeed, an operation conceived and carried out by Ukraine, or by a group in Russia sympathetic to Kyiv? Even if this was “just for show”?
That would be hugely embarrassing for the Kremlin. Just imagine the seat of Russian power, one of the most heavily guarded complexes in the world, penetrated by a couple of drones packed with explosives – despite all the air defense systems protecting Moscow and the jamming systems the Kremlin surely has to keep dangerous drones at a distance and to prevent such attacks.
Improbable, impossible even? Well, think back to 1987 when West German teenager Mathias Rust evaded Soviet air defenses and landed his Cessna plane on Red Square. History shows that nothing is impossible.
It was telling how the main evening news bulletins on Russian TV channels reported this week’s incident. It was the top story. But neither of the bulletins I watched, Vremya on Channel 1 and Vesti on Russia-1, broadcast those dramatic videos of explosions and smoke.
Instead, they used library footage of the Kremlin and Red Square. Perhaps because the image of a defenseless Kremlin under attack was too uncomfortable to share. Russian newspapers covered the story the following day, however, not in great detail.
But back to rumors and speculation. Social media is awash with cries of “fake!” and “false flag!”
Some commentators suspect it was staged by the Russian authorities or by elements of the security services to provide a pretext for escalating the war in Ukraine.