This premium article is exclusive to SOFREP+ Subscribers - Thank you for your support.
On May 3rd, 2023, Russian media reported a drone strike on the Kremlin the previous night—the center of power for Russia and Vladimir Putin. This attack has flabbergasted Russian media, parliamentarians, military personnel, and the global community.
The first attack on Moscow since the German invasion in 1942, Russia has become more vulnerable than ever in a war the majority of the world assumed they would win decisively. Though not claiming responsibility, Ukraine has enhanced its intelligence apparatus and defense industry to strike swaths of Russia, anyplace and anytime.
The drone strike on the Kremlin occurred on the night of May 2nd, in which Russian media reported it as an “assassination attempt on Putin.” The drone that struck the Kremlin did minimal damage and could not penetrate the building with its payload. However, the strike has raised more questions than answers to both Russia and the international community.
Blatant finger-pointing is leaning towards Ukraine. It has stepped up its drone capabilities to hit strategic targets inside Russia, such as oil storage facilities, ammunition depots, and military bases like the brazen strike on the Engels Military Base.
More Symbolic than Strategic
Hitting the Kremlin with a small drone with minimal more of a psychological operation, wildly as nothing was penetrated and Putin wasn’t in the facility at the time. This month of May is Soviet Victory Day, in which Russia celebrates its triumph over Germany in World War Two, and annual celebrations are held throughout the nation.
Ukraine, which is in its spring counteroffensive’s final preparation stages, has amplified targets on Russian logistics in the occupied territories and Russia. This has caused panic in the Kremlin as Putin canceled several May 9th Victory Day parades in several oblasts and occupied territories, such as Crimea.
The attack shows the Russian general public how vulnerable they are and that even Kremlin officials aren’t safe. This was confirmed as the Russian military put a mobile air defense system on top of the defense ministry building. If Moscow even holds Victory Day celebrations, it’ll be of the highest security and potentially canceled if the strikes uptick.
Ukraine’s Intelligence, False Flag, or Internal Power Struggle?
What makes the attack special is that there is minimal chance of it being a false flag. As the Russian general public has seen the drone attack on television, it will be hard for Putin and his inner circle to sell it as a “false flag,” as the citizens will know the Kremlin lied. It will keep them thinking that perhaps what they’re being told about the war is a lie as well.
Ukraine’s special forces (SSO and HUR MO) and their intelligence directorate (SBU) are probably behind the strike. Already conducting clandestine operations against key targets such as the Kerch Bridge and Engels Airbase, they have shown their capabilities of hitting high-valued Russian targets. They also have the experience of conducting assassinations against collaborators in occupied territories, and US intelligence linked them to the Daria Dugina car bombing.
According to the leaked Pentagon files, Ukraine’s intelligence had finalized plans to hit critical targets inside the Kremlin and take the fight to the Russian For.
CES in Syria. The Pentagon has attempted to stop Kyiv from these operations and has requested them to focus on expelling Russian Forces out of their control.
Nonetheless, as Ukraine is fighting and bleeding to liberate their nation, Washington should not be surprised if they decide to take the right into their own hands—especially as Russia has carpet-bombed Ukrainian cities to the ground (Mariupol, Severodonetsk, Bakhmut, Avdiivka) and has tortured and executed civilians as seen in Bucha, Irpin, Izium, and others.
Putin Can No Longer Hide Military Failures
Initially gaining strategic goals of imperial conquest in Ukraine from the initial 2014 invasion, 2022, to the present phase has been a disaster. Russian military losses in Ukraine have surpassed the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan in less than a year, and an estimated 220,000 military casualties can no longer be hidden.
Ukraine’s success in evicting Russian Forces from Kharkiv and Kherson city has closed Moscow’s area of operations, with even more strategic strikes on crucial command and logistics centers. Already canceling several May 9th parade sites, Dmitry Peskov reported that Putin had been relocated to a bunker, further degrading his strongman aura.
Hardliners and warlords in Putin’s inner circle continue to be in conflict openly, and as the longtime Russian autocrat continues to look weak in public, the more likely an internal conflict could brew.
Ukraine’s Growing Defense Capabilities
Kyiv’s defense industry has also adapted throughout the invasion. With a history of being one of the top nations in engineering, the sector known as Ukroboronprom announced its manufacturing of drones that can reach targets up to 1000 kilometers.
Russia, which stores most of its most prized assets towards the European side, is now within reach of these drones and all occupied areas of Ukraine. However, Kyiv’s strategy has been vastly different from Moscow’s. Whereas Russia looks to shell civilians to no end, akin to their operations in Syria and Chechnya, Ukraine has hit key logistics and command centers—showing the world that Kyiv can cripple Moscow’s war effort without maiming tens of thousands of civilians to do so.
What it Means Going Forward
Even if the attack is linked to Ukraine, there are other factors and possibilities. There has been growing infighting amongst Putin’s hardliners, such as Wagner CEO Yevgeny Prigozhin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. With battlefield setbacks and manpower losses, there will be increasing internal conflicts that Putin himself cannot stop.
There has also been resistance to Putin’s power, notably the National Republican Army, a Russian paramilitary group that has fought in Ukraine and claimed responsibility for several attacks and assassinations. With a base of operations in Ukraine and an unknown amount of sympathizers in Russia, the group could be behind the attack and step up its operations in the future.
With various possibilities, the attack on the Kremlin has left more answers than questions, but the world, including Russian society, now knows how vulnerable their fortress truly is. With Putin residing in a bunker after the strike, his strongman aura is diminishing every day the war continues, which brings the possibility that the man who labeled himself a reincarnated ‘Peter the Great’ could very much end up with the fate of Tsar Nicholas II.
Experience news and stories of our veteran journalists with a SOFREP.com subscription! Sign up now and get exclusive access to unique and honest perspectives.
Barrett is the world leader in long-range, large-caliber, precision rifle design and manufacturing. Barrett products are used by civilians, sport shooters, law enforcement agencies, the United States military, and more than 75 State Department-approved countries around the world.
There are on this article.
You must become a subscriber or login to view or post comments on this article.