Russia claims it foiled drone attack aimed at killing Putin in Kremlin

Two drones brought down, officials say, with Russian leader not in the building at the time; Ukraine says it had ‘nothing to do’ with it

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking to the Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Region, Gleb Nikitin, during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, May 3, 2023. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking to the Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Region, Gleb Nikitin, during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, May 3, 2023. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW — Russia said Wednesday it had shot down two drones aimed at Vladimir Putin’s residence in the Kremlin in what it called a “terrorist” assassination attempt against the Russian president.

“Two unmanned vehicles were aimed at the Kremlin… the devices were put out of action,” the Kremlin said in a statement, adding that this had happened during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday.

The remnants of the downed drones fell inside the Kremlin but did not injure anyone, the statement added.

It said the operation was “a planned terrorist act and an attempt on the life of the President of the Russian Federation.”

Ukraine said it had “nothing to do” with the alleged drone attack.

“Ukraine has nothing to do with drone attacks on the Kremlin,” presidential spokesman Mikhaylo Podolyak said. “Ukraine does not attack the Kremlin because, firstly, that does not solve any military aims,” he added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti that Putin wasn’t in the Kremlin at the time and was working from the Novo-Ogaryovo residence. He said Putin would still take part in a scheduled WWII Victory Day parade on Red Square next week as planned.

The Kremlin added that Putin was safe and his schedule was unchanged.

The Kremlin didn’t present any evidence from the reported incident, and its statement included few details. Tass quoted the statement as saying Russia retains the right to respond “when and where it sees fit.”

Moscow’s mayor announced a ban on unauthorized drone flights over the Russian capital.

In a statement, mayor Sergei Sobyanin said drone flights would be prohibited unless a special permit had been obtained from “government authorities.”

File: A view of the Kremlin with Spasskaya Tower and St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, June 20, 2020 (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

The Kremlin news came as Ukraine prepared for a fresh offensive against Russian troops that has been months in planning.

In possible signs that preparations are being stepped up, the frontline city of Kherson in southern Ukraine announced a long weekend curfew for resident,s and sabotage acts behind Russian lines intensified.

Kherson, which was re-taken by Ukrainian troops in November, will be under curfew from Friday evening until Monday morning.

Regional officials said this was “for law enforcement officers to do their job,” but similar long curfews have also been used in the past for troop and arms movements.

“During these 58 hours, it is forbidden to move on the streets of the city. The city will also be closed for entry and exit,” the head of Kherson’s regional military administration, Oleksandr Prokudin, said on Telegram.

He advised residents to stock up on food and medicine and said people could go for short walks near their houses or visit shops but should carry identity documents with them at all times.

The curfew announcement came as officials said three people were killed and five injured in a Russian strike on Kherson’s only working hypermarket on Wednesday.

Derailments and fires

Kherson was captured by Russian troops last year in the first days of the invasion and remained under Russian occupation until November 2022.

After a sustained campaign of sabotage attacks behind Russian lines, Russian forces withdrew from the city. They crossed to the eastern side of the Dnipro River which now delineates part of the front line in southern Ukraine.

The curfew announcement came as officials in Russia said they were dealing with a major fire at a fuel depot close to the bridge to Russian-annexed Crimea — the second such incident in just a few days.

A source in the emergency services was quoted by TASS news agency as saying that the fire had been caused by a drone.

In this handout photo released by Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, firefighters work at the side of an oil depot near Taqman in Krasnodar region, south of Russia. (Russian Emergency Ministry Press Service via AP)

An explosion also caused a freight train to derail in a southern Russian region bordering Ukraine on Tuesday, also the second such incident in just two days.

Ukraine says it has been preparing for months for a counteroffensive aimed at repelling Russian forces from the territory they currently hold in the east and south.

Meanwhile in Finland, NATO’s newest member, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was on a surprise visit to take part in a summit with the leaders of the five Nordic nations which have been key providers of military aid.

“In order to be in NATO and support alliances to gain support, fundamental diplomatic work must be done. Ukraine is doing it today,” Daria Zarivna, Ukraine’s presidential communications adviser, wrote on Telegram.

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