Putin blitzes Kyiv with drone strikes after assassination bid claims

Ukraine: John Bolton says Putin’s Russia ‘beyond the pale’

Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, was the target of drone strikes for the third time in four days after Russia accused Ukraine and the US of an assassination bid against Vladimir Putin. On Thursday night, air raid sirens sounded again but defence systems intercepted all drones and missiles coming from Russia. After the all-clear was given, Ukraine’s military said it had taken down one of its own drones that had “lost control” over the capital, but at least one other drone was reportedly shot down in another area of the city and it was not clear whether it was Russian or also Ukrainian.

People sheltered in underground tunnels beneath Kyiv’s Maidan Square as air raid sirens wailed. Two defensive missiles streaked across the evening sky, and a loud explosion was heard. No casualties were immediately reported.

It comes after Russia’s claimed Ukraine attacked the Kremlin in Moscow with drones meant to assassinate Putin.

Zelensky denied that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the purported drone attack. The Kremlin promised unspecified retaliation for what it termed a “terrorist” act, and pro-Kremlin figures called for the assassinations of senior Ukraine leaders.

Uncertainty still surrounds exactly what happened in the purported attack.

And on Thursday Putin’s spokesman accused the US of involvement. To generate domestic support for the war, Moscow has often tried to blame Washington for trying to destroy Russia through its help for Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a daily conference call that the Kremlin was “well aware that the decision on such actions and terrorist attacks is not made in Kyiv, but in Washington”.

Without offering evidence for his claim, Peskov said: “And then Kyiv does what it’s told to do.”

John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council at the White House, described the claim as “ludicrous.”

While, Zelensky, in the Netherlands, said he was “not interested” in the Kremlin’s opinion.

US intelligence officials are still trying to determine who was behind the drone incident and are exploring various possibilities, including a false flag operation by Russia or that a fringe group with sympathies for Ukraine could have been involved, according to a US official.

Meanwhile in Russia, drones hit two oil facilities in southern regions of the country near Ukraine in what appeared to be a series of attacks on fuel depots behind enemy lines, Russian media reported Thursday.

Four drones struck an oil refinery in the Krasnodar region, which borders the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing law enforcement sources. Another facility was reportedly hit in the Rostov region.

The fresh attacks came as Ukraine and Russia pressed their wartime rhetoric Thursday, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressing confidence that Vladimir Putin would be convicted of war crimes, and the Kremlin alleging that the US was behind what it called an assassination attempt against the Russian president.

The countries’ leaders have personally attacked each other multiple times during the war that Russia started by invading Ukraine in February 2022.

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But the official, who spoke Thursday on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter, said intelligence officials don’t yet have any definitive answers. The official added that the Biden administration “certainly would not support the strike against Mr. Putin.”

Zelensky’s top adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, claimed Thursday that Russia had “staged” the alleged drone attack. He cited the delay in Russian state media reporting it and “simultaneous video from different angles” that appeared to show the aftermath of the alleged 2:30 am attack.

The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War also saw evidence of staging.

“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,” the think tank said.

Given recent Russian moves to bolster security, it’s “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,” the ISW stated.

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