Whodunit, and why? Military strategists have been racking their brains trying to unravel the mystery behind the two drone attacks on May 3rd on the Senate Palace in Kremlin. This has left the strategists wonder who could have commissioned the attacks and for what. Irrespective of the answers, the audacious attacks are sure to recoil on Russian president Vladimir Putin, leaving their impact even beyond Europe. These attacks qualify for a place among history’s most ill-conceived assaults in a high-security zone.
Blaming President Zelensky
The Red Square in front of the Kremlin was the scene of action. Available video footages show a small drone dipping towards the Kremlin in the early hours on May 3rd. In an action-packed dramatic sequence, the drone explodes close to the Russian flag on the Senate Palace’s domed roof. Under the full-moon light, the Red Square, and the victory stands erected there for the May 9th Victory Day parade, stood there as mute, but majestic, spectators.
The operation was so meticulously planned that 15 minutes later a second drone exploded over the Kremlin, bathing the Senate building in billows of smoke. Predictably, Russia pointed fingers at Ukraine and blamed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky for planning the attacks. Russia branded the attacks as “a planned terrorist act and an attempt on the president’s life.” The fact the attacks happened less than a week before the Victory Day parade means there was something major about the attacks, downplayed otherwise by global media. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russia-says-ukraine- attacked-kremlin-with-drones-failed-bid-kill-putin-ria-2023-05- 03/
Video Courtesy: Al Jazeera English
Creating a False Alarm
Losing no opportunity, Russia vowed at once to retaliate and escalate its Ukraine offensive. While the suave Mr Zelensky denied Ukraine’s hand in the attacks, he blamed Russia for creating a false alarm. Perhaps he was right. Russia has every reason to orchestrate the twin drone attacks. Ever since Ukraine proposed its counter-offensive, Mr Putin has been labouring hard to find a plausible excuse for launching a “large-scale terrorist attack” on embattled Ukraine and a murderous strike on Mr Zelensky’s compound in capital Kyiv. https://poliphoon.com/the-final- shot-at-freedom/
There is more logic to this theory. As Mr Putin does not live in the Kremlin, Mr Zelensky could not have ordered the drone attacks on the Senate Palace. Highly improbable that a sensible Ukraine launched a non-serious and a non-murderous attempt. What is the fun in doing so? If Ukraine wanted to attack Russia’s heart, why would it do a half-hearted non-serious attempt? Given the advanced intelligence Ukraine has now, thanks to the United States, it is irrational to believe Kyiv thought Mr Putin lived in Kremlin. https://eurasiantimes.com/picture-perfect-attack- kremlin-drone-strike-100-staged-think/
The Attacks are Symbolic
By all means, Ukraine knew Mr Putin rarely goes to the Kremlin, let alone stay there overnight. Why would Ukraine attack Kremlin when Mr Putin was known to be working from his Novo Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow? All indicators thus point to Russia’s hand behind the Kremlin attacks, probably designed to whip up Russian nationals’s support for Mr Putin’s war in Ukraine. Whoever launched them, the attacks are notable for two reasons.
One, they are symbolic. Perhaps the idea was not to kill Mr Putin, but send a strong message to Russia and its autocratic president that they should not consider themselves safe against Ukrainian offensives. Possibly, the planners of the attacks wanted to forewarn Mr Putin that Ukraine can go to any length to avenge the gruelling 14-month-long illegal war. The attacks seem to carry an important message: Russia is as vulnerable as it presumes Ukraine is. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/05/04/did- russia-stage-the-kremlin-drone-attack-it-blamed-on-ukraine-.html
Hit Where it Hurts the Most
Two, the timing of the attacks was strategic. Launching the Kremlin attacks, when the Victory Day parade was less than a week away, was an assault on Russia’s pride, intended to hit where it hurts Russia the most. The Victory Day is in commemoration of the Soviet triumph over the Nazis in World War II, aka the Great Patriotic War. The day is an article of national faith for Mr Putin. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe- 61332283#:~:text=Under%20Vladimir%20Putin%2C%20Victory%20Day,call%20the%20Great%20Patriotic%20War.
Spreading panic ahead of the Victory Day celebrations was an assault on Mr Putin’s notion of nationalism. History, filled with national pride, means a lot for the Russian dictator. So much so that he has been leaning on distorted versions of the history of the Great Patriotic War. Mr Putin has been quoting selective passages from such history to justify his war in Ukraine. He has been doling out dubious theories to his countrymen ever since he launched the war.
Mr Putin’s Inscrutable Personality
Perhaps, the Kremlin attacks intended to puncture these theories, which are dear to Mr Putin. So dear that he had initiated serious discussions on how to ensure the emotional event on May 9th passed off in great glory, and peacefully. With the Kremlin attacks staring him in the face now, such discussions have become more frequent. More so because Mr Putin does not view the Kremlin attacks as isolated incidents. He sees the Kremlin attacks fitting into a pattern, within a recent series of similar mysterious attacks inside Russia.
These theories are making military strategists in Europe believe Mr Putin could not have engineered the attack. They feel Mr Putin might not have taken the pain to attack the Kremlin and score a self-goal, particularly when Russia is escalating its offensives in Ukrainian cities like Kherson and Bakhmut. However, Mr Putin is an inscrutable personality. He loves to spring surprises and views them as a dire necessity in his illegal war in Ukraine. https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/times- insider/2014/04/04/reporting-on-putin-and-the-nuances-of- kremlinology/
Attacks May Have a Silver Lining
Considering this surprise element, Mr Putin could have set up the Kremlin attackers to justify the war in Ukraine and convince his countrymen that the war is a necessity for Russia. Plus, Mr Putin would have liked to leverage the Kremlin attacks as a tool to influence his global supporters, including China, to back him and his war. Finally, whoever was behind the attacks, they are destined to backfire. If they were stage-managed by Russia, they expose the chinks in its security.
After all, two drones made it to the heart of Moscow, Russia’s most secure spot. Mr Putin knows well this would expose his vulnerability and loose grip on Russia’s defences. In fact, the Kremlin attacks may have a silver lining for Mr Putin, if Ukraine is the author. Kremlin would fortify Mr Putin’s defences and his inner circle further. Within Russia, the attacks may even win support for Mr Putin and his war in Ukraine. https://www.reuters.com/graphics/UKRAINE-CRISIS/COUNTEROFFENSIVE/mopakddwbpa/index.html
Put aside for a moment the questions whodunit, and why. The Kremlin attacks are tragic from the global perspective. They do not augur well for world peace. Finally, the attacks, the images and the footages will end up convincing Russians what Mr Putin is doing in Ukraine is right. Russians may begin believing in toto Mr Putin’s lies and his distorted versions of history. They may even egg on their autocratic president to continue fighting the war in Ukraine.
There is a need to view the Kremlin attacks through a macro lens. The attacks are global assaults on lovers of peace. Though the Kremlin attacks have not caused any physical harm to Mr Putin, global peace has suffered a serious damage. As the Kremlin attacks show how restless and desperate Mr Putin is getting now in the Ukraine war, they may help Ukraine get more sophisticated weapons from the West to counter expected escalations by Russia. The Kremlin attacks may after all end up as blessings for Kyiv.