Correspondent in Moscow
Fear over the city. The objective was undoubtedly that - to scare the adversary and create a diversion - while kyiv was still Monday the target of an intensive Russian missile raid and that the Ukrainian counter-offensive is still looming. . At dawn on Tuesday morning, several neighborhoods in southwestern and southern Moscow were woken up by explosions as the capital came under attack from eight drones, according to the Defense Ministry, up to twenty-five and even thirty-two, according to some Telegram channels. In any case the most massive since February 2022.
“The attack involved eight aircraft-type drones. All enemy drones have been defeated,” said the statement from the Ministry of Defense. Three of these drones were reportedly shot down by electronic warfare weapons, the other five by air defense forces. “The kyiv regime has chosen (…) to terrify Russia, to intimidate Russian citizens,” reacted Vladimir Putin. “Apparently that’s what it’s for: provoking us and provoking us to retaliate with mirror actions. We will see what to do about it,” the Russian president said. He also considered that this attack was a response to a Russian strike that recently targeted the Ukrainian military intelligence headquarters in kyiv.
According to the mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, only two people were slightly injured during this unprecedented raid on the capital, less than a month after the two explosions, which remained quite mysterious, occurred above the Kremlin, on the night of 3 may. Tuesday morning, several buildings were damaged, including Atlassova Street, in the “new Moscow” district. An impact was clearly visible on the twenty-fifth floor of an apartment tower; the affected apartment was empty at the time.
“We were all asleep, it was 4 a.m. Then there were two explosions, and the alarms of all the cars went off,” said Maxime, a 40-year-old Muscovite living near Atlassova Street, interviewed by AFP. “Why did the air defense not work? Why didn't the warning sirens sound? How did (drones) get here? And where did they start from? ”, he wonders, between amazement and concern.
According to the Telegram channel Fairidaily, one of the drones was shot down over the upscale Rubliovka district, where there are state dachas and private residences of officials and businessmen, a ten-minute drive away. of Putin's residence in Novo-Ogarevo. Social media and federal channels - which didn't go into much detail on the subject - showed debris from the drones and their explosive charges. This raises questions about their characteristics and the point from which they were launched.
Judging by the images on the internet, these are mid-class drones, with a wing width of about 2.5m to 3m, equipped with internal combustion engines. According to the BBC's analysis, two types of drones may have been employed: one with a "classic" configuration, similar to a light engine aircraft, the other with a "canard" type airfoil with a wing support in the rear, such as those used in particular during an attack on the city of Krasnodar, in southern Russia, on May 26. These drones would have a theoretical range of 400 km to 1000 km, sufficient to reach Moscow from Ukraine - the distance, for example, between the Russian capital and the city of Kharkov is about 670 km. The cost of each drone is estimated between 30,000 and 200,000 dollars.
Some experts favor the use of Raybird-3 drones, which have a wingspan of around 3 m and can carry a payload of up to 5 kg over a distance of 1,000 kilometres. On the other hand, estimates the military specialist Vladislav Shurygin, the drones which attacked Moscow could also have been launched from a closer distance, therefore from Russian territory. A version, unconfirmed, which is based in particular on the use by the Russians of short-range Pantsir-S systems, rather than long-range S-400 systems.
As usual, kyiv has not claimed responsibility for this raid, which comes as attacks, drone raids, sabotage and incursions into Russian territory, most recently in Belgorod, have increased in recent weeks. “Perhaps not all drones are ready to attack Ukraine and want to return to their creators,” quipped Mykhaylo Podolyak, adviser to President Zelensky. On Tuesday, the Ukrainian Air Force said it shot down 29 Iranian-made explosive drones out of 31 launched, “almost very close to the capital and in the skies of kyiv.”
The raid on Moscow is part of a series of preparatory operations for the counter-offensive planned by Ukrainian forces, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday. “The objective is to deceive the enemy, to create a situation of uncertainty for him, to force him to disperse his resources or to influence his way of thinking and thus to “shape” the battlefield before a major offensive “, explained the FT.
"Ukraine will continue these types of operations by combining them with targeted attacks aimed at undermining Russia's military capabilities", considers the British daily. “There is no doubt that acts of sabotage and terrorist attacks from Ukraine will only increase,” conceded MP Alexander Khinstein, one of the Duma voices most loyal to the Kremlin, on Tuesday. . “Defence and security measures must be considerably strengthened, especially with regard to the fight against drones,” he added.
Many official reactions visibly tried to reassure the population by stressing that the drones counted had been shot down. "It's amazing. But that should not reassure anyone. Do not underestimate the enemy!”, warned Alexander Khinstein.