Russia alleges Ukraine tried to attack the Kremlin in a Putin assassination attempt
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
There was a new attack today in the Russia-Ukraine war with a target that instantly grabbed global attention - the Kremlin in Moscow. Russia says it shot down two incoming Ukrainian drones, though at least one apparently hit the Kremlin and ignited a fire. Ukraine flatly denies it was responsible. With the latest, we're joined now by NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. Hey, Greg.
GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Juana.
SUMMERS: So before we get into the claims and counterclaims, what do we know for sure about what happened at the Kremlin?
MYRE: Well, there's video on social media, and it appears to be genuine, and it shows two separate airborne objects - apparently drones - closing in on a domed building inside the Kremlin walls. And this building is known as the Senate palace. The drones came in about 16 minutes apart. Both explode, and at least one appeared to set off a fire. Now, this happened around 2:30 a.m. Moscow time, yet there are at least two separate videos offering a clear view of this. And you can even see bleachers that have been set up outside the Kremlin walls on Red Square. This is part of a big parade set for May 9 to commemorate the Soviet victory in World War II, one of the most important days on the Russian calendar.
SUMMERS: And Greg, the Russians are blaming Ukraine for this?
MYRE: Yes, they are. And Russia not only says Ukraine did this, it goes so far as to call it an assassination attempt on Russian leader Vladimir Putin. His official residence and office is inside the Kremlin, though he's believed to spend relatively little time there and has multiple other homes. In fact, Russian officials said Putin was not in the Kremlin at the time of the attack, but, so far, he's not appeared or spoken publicly. We should note the Kremlin is quite expansive - many large buildings - and drones carry a limited payload. They cause damage, but it's highly improbable they could take out a specific individual in a large building. Still, with Russia calling it an assassination attempt, it indicates how seriously it's taking it and suggests there could be a very large-scale response.
SUMMERS: OK. But the Ukrainians say that they did not have anything to do with this, right?
MYRE: Correct. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is visiting Finland, and he addressed this question directly.
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PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: We don't attack Putin or Moscow. We fight on our territory. We are defending our villages and cities.
MYRE: So a very clear response from Zelenskyy, which is notable. Ukraine is usually very coy when attacks take place inside Russia. The standard Ukrainian response has been to neither confirm nor deny involvement, despite this almost universal belief that it has been responsible for most or all attacks in the past. We know the U.S. has discouraged Ukrainian attacks inside Russia, and the U.S. has really set a red line for Ukraine not to use U.S. weapons in these kinds of attacks. Still, there's this widespread belief that Ukraine has been behind many of the attacks, but it has used its own weapons - not ones provided by the U.S.
SUMMERS: Greg, we've got a couple seconds left here. I'd like to follow up. We've seen some increasingly brazen attacks inside of Russia. Can you tell us briefly what's been happening on that front?
MYRE: Yeah, these attacks keep hitting deeper and deeper inside Russia, almost always with drones. The Ukrainian military and private groups have worked hard and often boasted about their expanding range of these drones. We've even seen Russian air bases hit a couple hundred miles inside Ukraine - inside Russia.
SUMMERS: That is NPR's Greg Myre. Thanks so much.
MYRE: Sure thing, Juana.
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