Moscow came under attack by several drones on Tuesday morning, Russian officials said, exposing the capital’s vulnerability to retaliation over President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The barrage shortly after sunrise came as Russia launched another wave of air strikes on Kyiv, killing at least one person, hospitalising others and forcing the evacuation of a high-rise building, in the fourth attack in three days on the Ukrainian capital.
In Moscow, two people suffered minor injuries after a number of drones crashed into residential buildings in the city’s south-west, mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.
Russia’s defence ministry said Ukraine had used eight drones in the attack, but none had hit their targets. It claimed to have downed five drones outside Moscow with Pantsir anti-aircraft systems and caused the other three to crash after jamming their control systems.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the attack, which would mark one of its largest drone strikes on Russia since the war and demonstrate Kyiv’s growing capabilities to strike deep behind enemy lines in Russia.
Kyiv has embarked on a campaign aimed at stoking fear and undermining the Russian army ahead of an expected counteroffensive, according to Ukrainian officials.
“If the goal of the assault was to stress out the population, then the fact of Ukrainian drones appearing in the skies over Moscow has done enough of that already,” wrote Rybar, a popular pro-war blogger on social media app Telegram.
Videos on social media showed drones flying low over the Russian capital, with one exploding over Rublyovka, a wealthy suburb that is home to much of Russia’s political elite. Others showed damage after three drones crashed into residential buildings.
The Ukrainian Air Force said it shot down 29 of 31 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched by Russia on Tuesday, as explosions reverberated and sent residents running for cover. Buzzing drones could be heard flying over central Kyiv before dawn, followed by wall-shaking explosions from air defence systems that knocked the unmanned vehicles out of the sky.
Aerial attacks have become a regular occurrence in Kyiv since Russia began targeting civilian infrastructure with mass air strikes last autumn. The assault on Tuesday was the 17th on the capital in May alone after Ukraine’s force shot down dozens of ballistic cruise missiles and drones over Kyiv in the early hours of Sunday and into Monday.
Kyiv city authorities reported damage to residential buildings and said a high-rise apartment in the Holosiivskyi district was evacuated due to a fire from falling drone debris. One person was killed and a 27-year-old woman was hospitalised.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ignat said Nato-grade air defence systems, including the US-made Patriot system, had been used to defend the capital in recent days.
A Financial Times reporter observed the Patriot system knocking down a missile during morning rush hour on Monday. Debris from several missiles fell on to building tops and roadways in the capital.
The attacks in Russia have brought the war home in recent months to a capital that had been largely insulated from its effects.
Earlier in May, two drones attacked the Kremlin in a daring night-time raid, one exploding directly over its medieval onion domes and the other crashing into a building.
Two Ukraine-backed militias led by anti-Putin neo-Nazis from Russia also conducted a brief cross-border attack last week.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for any of the attacks and denied involvement in the drone strikes on the Kremlin.
Experts have said that assault was likely to have been launched from near Moscow, given the small drones used and their different directions.
But pro-war Russian commentators, citing video footage and pictures of fragments, suggested that Ukraine could have launched the drones from central and eastern border areas from which Moscow retreated last year after a series of humiliating defeats.
“This once again raises the issue of whether it was justified to pull our troops out of Chernihiv and Sumy regions a year ago and leave a buffer zone north of Kharkiv last fall,” Rybar wrote. “It also calls into question our reconnaissance in the border areas and the enemy’s activity in those regions.”