Moscow drone attack: what happened as buildings damaged and Russia accuses Ukraine of ‘terrorist’ strike

Officials in Russia have blamed the “terrorist” drone attack on Kyiv - but Ukraine has yet to comment

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Russia has accused Ukraine of launching a series of drone attacks on Moscow.

The Russian defence ministry said on Telegram early on Tuesday (30 May) that Kyiv had staged a “terrorist” strike on its capital city, using at least eight drones. Residents in Moscow awoke to the sound of explosions, officials said, with several buildings damaged in the attack.

The mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, added however that there had been no serious injuries - and that emergency services were “at the scene of incidents”. Meanwhile, Andrei Vorobyov, governor of Moscow and its surrounding regions, claimed all drones were intercepted and shot down on their approach to the city.

A report posted to Telegram on Tuesday (30 May) read: “This morning, the Kyiv regime launched a terrorist drone attack on targets in the city of Moscow. Three of them were suppressed by electronic warfare, lost control, and deviated from their intended targets. Another five drones were shot down by the Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile system in the Moscow region.”

Ukraine has not yet commented on the reported drone strike, but the head of its military intelligence, Major-General Kyrylo Budanov, said on Monday (29 May) that there would be a swift response to a series of Russian drone strikes on Kyiv in recent days. The news of the rare attack on Moscow broke as Ukraine’s capital city faced its third air raid in a 24-hour period, with at least one person killed and three others seriously injured.

A view of a damaged multi-storey apartment building after a reported drone attack in Moscow on May 30, 2023. Credit: Getty ImagesA view of a damaged multi-storey apartment building after a reported drone attack in Moscow on May 30, 2023. Credit: Getty Images
A view of a damaged multi-storey apartment building after a reported drone attack in Moscow on May 30, 2023. Credit: Getty Images

What has Russia said?

After Russia reported the attack on Telegram, news websites in the country began to further detail the damage caused by the strikes. The RIA Novosti news agency said that one drone had hit the upper floors of a residential building at 98 Profsoyuznaya Street, while another had made contact with a 24-storey apartment building on Atlasova Street in New Moscow. Officials said this happened after the drones were downed.

Mayor Sobyanin also said that some residents were being evacuated as a result of the attack, and that two people had sought medical assistance. There were no reports of casualties.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported that images posted on social media showed traces of smoke in the sky above Moscow - with others showing damage to buildings, such as a broken window. Steve Rosenberg, the broadcaster’s Russia Editor, added that he heard an explosion in the distance at 6:24am local time (3:24am GMT) in north-west Moscow, before hearing another at 6:58am.

What has Ukraine said?

Ukraine has not commented on the strike so far, with no word heard from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky or other high-ranking officials.

On Monday (29 May), after Russian missile strikes continued on Kyiv, Major-General Kyrylo Budanov warned that there would be a swift response. It was the third night in a row that the capital city had been attacked, with one person killed.

A fire also broke out in a multi-storey building in the southern Holosivskyi district of Kyiv, believed to have been started by falling debris, and two upper floors of the building were destroyed with officials warning that people could still be under the rubble.

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, wrote on Telegram: “A massive attack! Do not leave shelters.” Serhiy Popko, head of Kyiv’s military administration, added: “The attack was massive, came from different directions, in several waves.”

Ukraine reported on Tuesday (30 May) that it had shot down most of the drones, with its air force saying on social media: “Between 11.30pm and 4.30am, Russian occupation troops attacked Ukraine”. It said 31 Shahed-136/131 drones were on course for Kyiv, but 29 were downed - almost all of which were “near the capital [and its] skies”.

In his nightly video address, President Zelensky praised Patriot anti-missile defences for taking out many of the drones and missiles fired on Sunday and Monday. “When Patriots in the hands of Ukrainians ensure a 100% interception rate of any Russian missile, terror will be defeated,” he said.

What is the context of the drone strikes?

The reports of the latest strike on Moscow come after two drones exploded over the Kremlin in early May. Again, Russia blamed the attack on Ukraine - claiming it was an attempted assassination on its President Vladimir Putin.

Kyiv however denied responsibility, with Zelensky saying in Finland, ahead of his visit to The Hague in the Netherlands: “We don’t attack Putin or Moscow. We fight on our territory. We are defending our villages and cities.”

The Russian defence ministry however said it had downed two unmanned aerial vehicles, with fragments of drones found scattered in the grounds of the Kremlin. There were no casualties, injuries or damage, it added, and Putin had not been at his residence at the time.

Unverified footage then circulated online, appearing to show smoke rising over the Kremlin. Another video showed a small explosion above one of the site’s buildings, while two men appear to clamber up the dome.

After Kyiv denied it had carried out the strike, Russia accused the US of being behind the incident. Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said at a press briefing in Moscow that the Kremlin “knows that decisions about such terrorist attacks are taken in Washington,” and that Kyiv “just implements these decisions”.

Commentators debated who they believed was behind the strike, with the Institute for the Study of War arguing that the reported attack was internally conducted by Russia. It said: “It is extremely unlikely that two drones could have penetrated multiple layers of air defence and detonated or been shot down just over the heart of the Kremlin, in a way that provided spectacular imagery caught nicely on camera.

“Russia likely staged this attack in an attempt to bring the war home to a Russian domestic audience and set conditions for a wider societal mobilisation.” This belief was echoed by Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat, who said he thought Russia had staged the attack on the Kremlin to try to “show some kind of escalation on the part of Ukraine”.