Russia's war in Ukraine has apparently come home again, this time with drones striking skyscrapers in the capital

11 months ago 93
  • Two drones struck several buildings in Moscow on Monday, causing minor damage but no casualties.
  • Russia's defense ministry said it foiled the apparent attack, which it blamed on Ukraine.
  • It's the latest example of Putin's distant war in Ukraine coming home to Russia.

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A pair of drones struck non-residential buildings in Moscow on Monday, leaving behind relatively minimal damage and no reported casualties. Yet again, it seems Russian President Vladimir Putin's war has come home.

The attack was reportedly carried out by Kyiv and came after unrelenting Russian attacks on southern Ukraine with drones and missiles increasingly targeting the country's grain infrastructure. But it also once again signaled to Russian citizens that the conflict is not so distant, despite the Kremlin's attempts to limit the public exposure to the violence and fighting.

Russia's Ministry of Defense said it "foiled" the early Monday morning attack on Moscow, which it blamed it on Ukraine. "Two Ukrainian UAVs were suppressed by means of electronic warfare and crashed," it said in a Telegram statement. 

Fragments of one drone were found at a building located along a busy road near the center of Moscow, according to details released by Russian state-run media outlet TASS. Photographs of the scene show damage to the roof of an unidentified building, which is located just a few hundred meters from the Russian defense ministry's headquarters in the capital. 

A second drone slammed into the top of a business tower in the southern part of the city, TASS reported. Windows on the 17th and 18th floors were shattered, with photographs showing those two floors totally gutted from the outside. A Ukrainian intelligence official later confirmed to CNN on Monday that Kyiv was behind the attack, but it was not immediately clear what, exactly, the two drones might have been targeting before they were neutralized. 

A view of a building after two Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) attack in Moscow, Russia on July 24, 2023.

A view of a building after two Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) attack in Moscow, Russia on July 24, 2023. Photo by Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Kyiv has yet to publicly acknowledge the drones, although some officials took the opportunity to say Russia deserved to be attacked. 

"A boomerang always returns to its throwers. Even if they are convinced of their own impunity, hiding under the cover of anonymity in the safe houses of special organizations thousands of kilometers away from the active front. Justice has long arms," Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukraine's Presidential Office, wrote on Twitter.

"What do the mysterious 'drones' over Moscow say?" he continued. "1. Evil will not go unpunished. 2. No one promised Russia silence. And after 17 months of full-fledged war, the aggressor always receives a just retribution. 3. And first of all... about good awareness of where 'secret institutions' are located in Russia."

The Moscow area has now been targeted by drones on multiple occasions over the past few months, most recently earlier this month when several of the systems were shot down by Russia's air defense network. Ukraine has previously managed to target bases within Russia's internationally recognized borders located far behind the front lines, although the string of attacks on Moscow seem to highlight Kyiv's ability to bring the war even closer to home. 

These incidents appear to demonstrate that the war in Ukraine isn't as far away from Moscow as previously thought.

Putin has often gone to great lengths to downplay or outright deny certain aspects of the 17-month-long war in Ukraine, and he rarely acknowledges battlefield setbacks or shortcomings. The Kremlin has also managed to clamp down on the Russian public's exposure to the conflict, keeping elements of the conflict in the neighboring country largely out of view. 

Police secures an area outside a damaged non-residential building on Komsomolsky Prospekt after a reported drone attack in Moscow on July 24, 2023.

Police secures an area outside a damaged non-residential building on Komsomolsky Prospekt after a reported drone attack in Moscow on July 24, 2023. Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images

But the effects of the ongoing war keep targeting the Russian capital, and not all of them are on Ukraine.

Consistent feuding between the Wagner Group and Russia's military leadership, for example, led the mercenary organization to invade Russia in an armed rebellion last month and nearly march on Moscow before the chaotic mutiny was abruptly called off. 

Ukraine, however, appears to have been involved in a majority of the drone incidents inside Russia. US officials have previously said the Biden administration does not encourage Ukraine to strike beyond its own borders, fearing a disproportionate escalation by Russia. It's the same argument that the White House offered in its refusal to outfit Kyiv with certain much-sought-after long-range strike capabilities, such as ATACMS.

But the rhetoric around Ukrainian strikes inside Russia has changed somewhat in recent months. 

"As a general matter, we don't support attacks inside of Russia, but Russia continues its airstrikes on Kyiv, many of which have devastated civilian areas, and Russia continues its brutal attacks on the people of Ukraine," US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said after drones hit Moscow in late May.

"And so the important thing is that Russia could end this war at any time by withdrawing its forces from Ukraine instead of continuing to launch brutal attacks against Ukraine's cities and its people every day, targeting civilian infrastructure, targeting civilian areas," Patel added. 

Municipal workers remove a shattered glass window at the scene of a reported drone attack on Komsomolsky Prospekt in Moscow on July 24, 2023.

Municipal workers remove a shattered glass window at the scene of a reported drone attack on Komsomolsky Prospekt in Moscow on July 24, 2023. Photo by EKATERINA ANISIMOVA/AFP via Getty Images

Monday's incident in Moscow, meanwhile, came in tandem with another drone attack that Russia blamed on Ukraine. Moscow's defense ministry claimed 17 drones targeted Russian facilities on the occupied Crimean peninsula, with 14 systems brought down — 11 into the Black Sea — by "electronic warfare means" and another three shot down by an air defenses.

Tensions around the Black Sea have been particularly high for the past week after Russia killed the critical Black Sea grain deal, an internationally brokered agreement that allowed Ukraine to export food from key ports to avoid a global hunger crisis. After withdrawing from the agreement, Moscow immediately stepped up its assault on southern Ukraine's ports and food storage facilities — particularly in and around the city of Odesa. 

And Russia's attacks have been unrelenting ever since. Ukraine's defense ministry said on Monday that Russian drones attacked grain infrastructure along the Danube River, injuring several people and destroying food storage facilities. Photographs shared to Twitter by Kyiv showed damage to several of its facilities.  

"If someone in Russia hopes they can turn the Black Sea into a space of arbitrariness and terrorism, they will not succeed," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a Friday address to the nation. "We know how to defend ourselves, and we see the readiness of the world to work together in the future — and more actively — to give peace to this region."

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