Ukraine launched its biggest ever drone attack on Moscow on Tuesday but air defences destroyed all eight of the drones, bringing the 15-month war in Ukraine to the heart of the Russian capital.
Drone attacks deep inside Russia have intensified in recent weeks, with strikes on oil pipeline installations and even the Kremlin earlier this month that Moscow has blamed on Ukraine.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said two people were injured, one of whom was hospitalised, in the early morning attack. Moscow’s airports remained open. No deaths were reported.
Residents in south-western Moscow said they heard loud bangs at around 0200 to 0300 GMT, followed by the smell of petrol. Some filmed a drone being shot down and a plume of smoke rising over the Moscow skyline.
“This morning, the Kyiv regime launched a terrorist attack with unmanned aerial vehicles on premises in the city of Moscow,” Russia’s defence ministry said.
“Eight unmanned aerial vehicles were involved in the attack. All enemy drones were hit.”
The defence ministry said special electronic counter-drone technology was used to divert three of the Ukrainian drones while five more were shot down, including by Pantsir missile systems which help defend Moscow.
There was no immediate comment from Ukraine on the attack. Kyiv denied that it was behind the drone raid on the Kremlin earlier this month, though The New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence believes Ukraine was behind that attack.
More than 15 months into one of the deadliest wars in Europe since World War Two, there is little sign of peace and Moscow has repeatedly warned that the West is escalating the war by supplying Kyiv with so much weaponry.
It was unclear how President Vladimir Putin will react to the attack on Moscow, which brings the war in Ukraine to the capital of the world’s biggest nuclear power.
So far Putin has been successful in keeping the war in Ukraine far from Moscow, where life has continued relatively normally despite the biggest crisis in Russia’s ties with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Russia began attacking the Ukrainian capital with swarms of cheaply produced loitering munitions often known as “kamikaze drones” last October and uses them extensively during its regular air strikes across Ukraine.
Russian media said damage was done near Moscow’s Leninsky Prospekt and close to Vnukovo Airport. Russian state television gave the attacks some coverage but it was not extensive.
Putin has repeatedly cast the conflict in Ukraine as a struggle with what he says is an arrogant and aggressive West which is risking a global war by supporting Ukraine.
Thus far, the war has been described by the Kremlin as a “special military operation”.
Russian lawmaker Maxim Ivanov said it was the most serious assault on Moscow since Nazi attacks during World War Two, and no citizen could now avoid what he called “the new reality”.
“You will either defeat the enemy as a single fist with our Motherland, or the indelible shame of cowardice, collaboration and betrayal will engulf your family,” he said.
Russia’s investigative committee said a number of drones were shot down and that there was minor damage due to the falling wreckage.
Andrei Vorobyov, governor of the Moscow region, said on the Telegram channel that several drones were shot down on their approach to Moscow.