What’s behind the drones over the Kremlin?
The Presidential Executive Office of Russia has reported that two drones were shot down over the Kremlin on Wednesday night. Moscow has spoken of an attempt on Vladimir Putin’s life and pinned the blame on Ukraine, reserving the right to retaliate for the "terrorist attack". Kyiv has denied the accusations. Europe’s press discusses whether this was a Ukrainian attack or a Russian false-flag operation.
An expression of Putin’s weakness
La Repubblica comments:
“The tsar is naked. The little Ukrainian drone wasn’t able to kill Vladimir Putin but it may have done worse: it has destroyed his image as a strong man, the pillar of his twenty-year system of power. The explosion in the night, with flames licking at the Russian flag, exposes the full weakness of the president, who has not only proven unable to defeat the Ukrainians but can’t even defend his palace. The same weakness is revealed when Putin makes his rare public appearances, despite the efforts of the court architects to hide it.”
Not very dangerous but all the more symbolic
The plan could not have been to kill Putin, explains Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russian security policy, in The Spectator:
“If this was a Ukrainian attack, which would probably have been masterminded by military intelligence, then it was primarily symbolic and political. It is hardly that they would have expected to kill Putin given the relatively small warheads on the drones and, more to the point, that he is notorious these days for only rarely and reluctantly going to the Kremlin. Indeed, he was at his out-of-town residence at Novo-Ogoryovo. What the Ukrainians would have wanted to show is that Moscow is not safe, and to do so shortly before 9 May: Victory Day in the Russian canon.”
Don’t jump to conclusions
The Wiener Zeitung takes a look at similar incidents in the past:
“Was the whole thing a ‘false flag’ operation — a disinformation scam aimed at pinning the blame on Ukraine? History presents several such examples: the alleged attack on the German station in Gliwice on 31 August 1939 by Polish free-army men (who in reality were SS men) served Adolf Hitler as a pretext for the attack on Poland. ... In 2003 it was reported that the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and therefore had to be overthrown, but after the US invasion no such weapons were ever found. These examples should be sufficient warning against jumping to conclusions.”
An excuse to attack Zelensky?
Moscow is up to something new, Russian opposition figure Igor Eidman suspects on gordonua.com:
“The alleged Ukrainian drone attack on the Kremlin looks every bit like a Russian provocation. What’s more, this is probably the second act of the ballet. The first was six days ago when for some unknown reason Putin made an unexpected visit to the Kremlin at night. At the time, Kremlin spokesman Peskov explained this by saying that ‘the president has a flat there’. But this could have been staged to make the threat a drone attack on the Kremlin would pose for Putin look more credible. ... The drone attack could be the second and main act of this provocation, serving to justify future Russian terrorist attacks, including against the Ukrainian leadership and Zelensky himself.”
An excuse for absence from parade
In a Facebook post, journalist Sergey Parkhomenko speculates that the drone attack was faked to justify Putin’s absence from the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow marking the triumph over Nazi Germany:
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the pharaoh suddenly turns up at a small, cosy town festival in Vichuga or Chukhloma for the May 9 celebrations. ... The last thing Putin needs now is a situation (which would be the first in months) where it is known in advance exactly where and when he will appear. ... All his movements are unpredictable and secret. But the parade is the parade, Red Square is Red Square, so total predictability. A no-go.”