Ukraine Launches Failed Drone Attack on Putin’s Residence: What Does It Mean For the Ongoing War?

On the night of May 2 Ukraine reportedly launched a drone attack on the Russian capital Moscow targeting the residence of Russian President Vladimir Putin, with two aircraft of unknown designation participating in the strike before being destroyed by electronic warfare units in the vicinity. Although no changes were made in President Putin’s schedule, the Russian government announced that it considers the attempted strike “as a premeditated terrorist attack and an attempted assassination of the president of the Russian Federation” and “reserves the right to take retaliatory measures whenever and wherever it sees fit.” The attempted strike comes as Ukrainian forces have suffered significant losses for several days on the frontlines, although whether the perpetrator was the Ukrainian government or one of the many allied militias or contractor units operating in the country remains uncertain. The ability of even relatively short ranged drones to reach Moscow from Ukraine, however, highlights why Russia has long been high concerned regarding the country’s absorption into the Western sphere of influence and possible membership of NATO. 

While Russia during peace talks early on in the war pledged to refrain from assassination attempts against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the possibility remains that this pledge could be revoked, or else that strikes on Ukrainian cities could be escalated, in response to the attack. Russia has consistently launched major counterstrikes to retaliate against serious Ukrainian attacks on its territory and symbols of its power, a notable example being the major missile attacks on Ukrainian cities in October in response to an attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge connecting the Crimean Peninsula to the Russian mainland. The Russian Military has notably anticipated possible air attacks on key targets in Moscow for several months, and deployed advanced air defence systems such as the Pantsir to guard buildings such as the Defence Ministry. Ukraine has continued to receive a wide range of drones and both surface to surface and air to surface missiles from its Western supporters and from Turkey, which when combined with support from Western personnel on the ground and access to NATO members’ vast satellite networks has enabled it to conduct successful strikes deep behind Russian lines on multiple occasions.