May 30, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Russia blames Ukraine for multiple drone attacks on Moscow

Institute for the Study of War

Russia claimed that Ukraine conducted a series of drone strikes against Moscow on May 30 as Russia again targeted Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed drones. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) accused Ukraine of attacking Moscow with eight drones on the morning of May 30, and claimed that Russian forces shot down five of the drones and suppressed three drones with electronic warfare systems. Russian propagandist Vladimir Solovyev, however, claimed that Ukraine launched 32 drones of which some targeted the prestigious neighborhood of Rublyovka in Moscow Oblast. A Russian independent outlet claimed that the drone strikes predominantly targeted areas near Russian President Vladimir Putin’s residence in Novo-Ogaryovo and other elite neighborhoods in Moscow Oblast. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin stated that several buildings in Moscow suffered minor damage, and Russian sources amplified footage of a minor explosion in the Novaya Moskva neighborhood. A Russian milblogger claimed that drones flying over Moscow resembled Ukrainian attack drones. Geolocated footage shows Russian forces shooting down drones identified as Ukrainian by OSINT accounts in several different areas of Moscow and Moscow Oblast. Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak denied that Ukraine was directly involved in the drone strike but forecasted that there could be an increase in such attacks in the future.

Russian forces conducted another Shahed 131 and 136 drone strike against Kyiv overnight on May 29 to May 30. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces shot down 29 of 31 Russian Shahed 131 and 136 drones that targeted Kyiv. Senior Russian officials claimed that Russian forces struck high profile targets in Kyiv during recent strikes, likely to appear successful in retaliation for the recent Belgorod Oblast incursion. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu claimed that Russian forces struck a Patriot air defense system in recent days. Ukrainian Air Forces Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat denied Shoigu’s claim, however. Russian milbloggers’ recent complaints about the perceived lack of Russian escalation in response to the Belgorod border raid and Moscow drone strikes do not give Russian forces credit for the unprecedented scale of their air campaign against Kyiv. Many milbloggers, including high-profile voices like former Russian officer Igor Girkin and Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin have frequently and recently complained about the lack of full scale general and economic mobilization in Russia, the only feasible measure likely to satisfy the broader information space outcry.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to downplay the drone attack on Moscow to avoid exposing the limited options he has to retaliate against Ukraine. Putin claimed that Russian forces struck the Ukrainian military intelligence headquarters “two [to] three days ago” and claimed that the Russian Armed Forces continue to respond to Ukraine’s “war against Donbas” by striking Ukrainian military infrastructure. Putin insinuated that the drone strike on Moscow was Kyiv’s response to Russian strikes, and the Russian MoD conveniently claimed on May 30 that Russian forces carried out “a group of strikes with long-range high-precision air-launched weapons at main decision-making centers” in Ukraine. The Russian MoD did not claim that it had struck the Ukrainian military intelligence headquarters recently and there is no available confirmation of Putin’s claim. Putin stated that Ukraine is trying to provoke a response and make Russia “mirror” its actions. Putin’s emphasis on past and ongoing missile strikes is likely an attempt to signal that Russia is already actively retaliating and does not need to respond to further Ukrainian provocations. Putin has consistently retaliated against genuine and purported Ukrainian actions by ordering massive missile and drone campaigns, likely due to Russian forces’ inability to achieve any decisive effects on the battlefield.

Key Takeaways

  • Russia claimed that Ukraine conducted a series of drone strikes against Moscow on May 30 as Russia again targeted Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed drones.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to downplay the drone attack on Moscow to avoid exposing the limited options he has to retaliate against Ukraine.
  • The drone attack on Moscow generated varied responses from the Russian information space.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is likely attempting to conceal the high Russian losses in Ukraine by artificially inflating Ukrainian casualties in the war.
  • EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell stated that Russia will not enter negotiations while trying to win the war.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast of Kupyansk and northwest of Svatove, and Russian sources claimed that Russian forces conducted a ground attack south of Kreminna.
  • The tempo of Russian and Ukrainian offensive operations in the Bakhmut direction remains low as of May 30.
  • Russian forces made marginal advances amid continued ground attacks on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks along the southern axis.
  • Russian officials are establishing domestic veteran support programs which likely aim to advertise the perks of military service in Russia.
  • Russian occupation officials continue to deport Ukrainian children to Russia under the guise of providing pediatric healthcare.
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