Fake flag? Analysts believe Russia “likely staged” Kremlin drone assault claimed on Ukraine and the West 2023

Political analysts believe there are many reasons to suspect Russia organized the drone attack on the Kremlin, which it blamed on Ukraine.

Wednesday, Russia accused Ukraine of employing two drones to assault the Kremlin.

The Kremlin declared in a statement that Ukraine had attempted to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, but it did not give evidence. Putin was not in the Kremlin at the time.

Ukraine denied any participation, saying it more likely indicated that Russia was plotting a large-scale terrorist strike against Ukraine in the coming days.

Russia has been accused of staging “false flag” strikes on Ukraine to justify or expand its military actions as the war enters its 15th month.

Ukraine is unrelated to Kremlin drone attacks. “We don’t attack the Kremlin because, first of all, it doesn’t solve any military tasks,” said Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak.

On Thursday, the Kremlin said Washington helped Ukraine plan and execute the drone assault. Again, it offered no proof.

Attack staged?

Defense and political analysts and officials are also dubious, believing Russia may have carried out the “attack” for a variety of reasons, including to prepare Russian society for war.

The Institute for the Study of conflict think tank claimed Wednesday evening that Russia likely planned this incident to bring the conflict home to Russian domestic audiences and build conditions for a greater social mobilization.

The ISW stated that Russia has lately increased its domestic air defense capabilities, especially in Moscow, which suggests the strike was locally conducted and staged.

The ISW stated that two drones could not have “penetrated multiple layers of air defense and detonated or been shot down just over the heart of the Kremlin in a way that provided spectacular imagery caught nicely on camera.”

The Kremlin’s “immediate, coherent, and coordinated response” further suggested that the attack was “internally prepared in such a way that its intended political effects outweigh its embarrassment,” the think tank added.

The ISW considered “it is very likely that the official Russian response would initially have been much more disorganized as Russian officials scrambled to generate a coherent narrative and offset the rhetorical implications of a clear informational embarrassment” had the assault been a surprise.

CNBC asked the Kremlin about allegations that it was behind the drone assault. No response.

Questionable footage

Social media videos of the drone assaults raised doubts about the attack’s veracity.

Videos showed smoke billowing over the Kremlin and burning wreckage on the domed Senate Palace within its gates. Another drone exploded above the Senate dome. When the drone detonated, sharp-eyed viewers saw two unidentified figures climbing on the domed roof.

Why the Kremlin waited hours to announce the incident and why Russian social media channels, usually abuzz with talk about the war with Ukraine, Russian military strategy, and leadership, were silent about an incident that allegedly occurred in central Moscow at night is also a mystery.

Why did recordings of the “attack” only arise afterward, and who took them and why did they start shooting immediately before the drones were visible above the Kremlin?

Western diplomats also questioned Russia’s assertion that Ukraine attempted to kill the Russian president. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Russia’s charge should be taken with a “very large shaker of salt.”

Analysts also say that an assassination attempt would show a lack of awareness of the Kremlin’s top security or Putin’s routines.

“People should really stop talking about this as an attempted assassination attempts against Putin,” political analyst, professor, and author of many books on Russia Mark Galeotti stated immediately after the claimed event, calling it “just playing to Kremlin talking points.”

“He notoriously rarely goes to the Kremlin, let alone stays there overnight, and there were no scheduled early morning meetings or the like there which might make one assume he might be in his (palatial) flat there,” Galeotti tweeted.

I understand that’s well safeguarded. “Not quite a bunker, but something that would be hard to hit by anything unable to make some sharp turns, which would make it vulnerable,” Galeotti said.

If Ukraine was behind the “attack,” it should be seen as a “performative strike, a demonstration of capability and a declaration of intent” to “don’t think Moscow is safe.”

Why bother?

Analysts stress that drone launchers cannot be identified. They say what counts is how Russia will utilize the “attack” domestically or internationally.

Analysts suggested the supposed attack’s timing, two days before the May 9 triumph Day celebration honoring the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany, was not coincidental.

The Kremlin stated the drone assault occurred “on the eve of Victory Day, the May 9th Parade, at which the presence of foreign guests is also planned.”

“The Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures where and when it sees fit,” it said, implying the incident might be used to justify an escalation of its operations against Ukraine.

Analysts said Moscow likely hoped the incident would bolster its attempts to portray Ukraine as an existential threat to Russia, especially ahead of this year’s Victory Day parade, which was scaled down due to “security considerations” and possible attacks.

“I don’t care who launched these drones, where they came from, or if they could kill Putin. “I don’t care because I can’t know,” tweeted Center for European Policy Analysis director for Democratic Resilience Sam Greene on Wednesday.

“What I care about is what happens next, and that includes how this plays domestically in Russia and whether it induces significant new escalation from the Russian side,” said Greene, a professor of Russian politics at King’s College London.

He said the Kremlin was “very clearly stoking the fires of [a] public demand for revenge” by calling the incident a “terrorist” act and an attempt on Putin’s life. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for “the physical elimination” of the Ukrainian government.

“The public seems to be responding the way the Kremlin likely wants it,” Greene added. A brief look into Kremlin-friendly Telegram discussions reveals that popular responses are even more harsh than politicians.”

He warned that if the Kremlin’s response is “weak or non-existent… people will notice.”

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