May 4, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Russia’s Medvedev calls for assassination of Ukrainian president after Kremlin drone strike

Institute for the Study of War

May 4, 2023

Russia conducted another Shahed-131/136 strike against Ukraine on May 4. Ukrainian military sources reported that Russian forces launched 24 Shahed-131/136s at Ukraine from the direction of Bryansk Oblast and the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov and that Ukrainian air defense destroyed 18 of the drones above northern, central, and southern regions of Ukraine. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command noted that Russian forces launched 15 of the Shaheds at Odesa Oblast, 3 of which struck an educational institution. Russian milbloggers claimed that the drones struck military facilities throughout Ukraine. The Kyiv City Military Administration reported that Russian forces attacked Kyiv overnight with Shaheds and unidentified missiles for the third time in the last four days, noting that Kyiv has not experienced such a high intensity of air attacks since the beginning of 2023.

Russian sources continued to respond to the May 3 drone strike on the Kremlin. The Russian Investigative Committee announced that it opened a criminal case “on the fact of a terrorist attack in connection with an attempt to strike the Kremlin” and further amplified the claim that Kyiv is to blame for the strike. Russian President Vladimir Putin will reportedly hold a Security Council meeting to discuss the incident on May 5. Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev called for the “physical elimination” of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in retaliation for the strike. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov baselessly claimed that the US is behind the attack. Several Russian authorities, including the heads of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Leningrad, and Pskov oblasts introduced bans on drone launches and flights. State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Khinshtein sent an appeal to the Russian Ministry of Transport and Federal Air Transport Agency to introduce a total temporary moratorium on drone use due to the increased threat of drones associated with the “special military operation.” Russian media aggregator Baza, citing unidentified internal sources, claimed that residents of Moscow suburbs noticed the drones flying at very low altitudes well in advance of the moment of contact with the Kremlin Senate Palace building on May 3 but that authorities ignored their reports as “drone hysteria.” Another Russian source amplified this report and noted that if it is true, it demonstrates how impenetrable the Russian bureaucratic apparatus is. The milblogger praised the Kremlin’s response as being thoughtful and logical and dismissed other voices in the information space for being irrational and hysterical.

Russian officials are likely using the May 3 drone strike on the Kremlin to expand cancellations of parades for the May 9 Victory Day holiday. Russian sources reported that Russian officials have canceled May 9 parades in 21 cities in Russia and occupied Crimea either without offering official justification or citing security reasons. Russian officials in several cities claimed that they were canceling May 9 events and parades out of concern for participants of the “special military operation.” ISW has previously assessed that the Kremlin will use the May 3 strike to cancel May 9 events and augment its informational effort to frame the war in Ukraine as an existential threat to Russia. The Kremlin likely hopes to limit typical May 9 events to conceal the degradation of the Russian military because such events demonstratively showcase advanced Russian military equipment, much of which is either critical to Russian operations in Ukraine or has been destroyed in 14 months of attritional fighting. The Kremlin also likely hopes to curb May 9 events out of fears that celebrations honoring deceased servicemembers could become a potential source of domestic backlash for Russia’s high casualty figures in Ukraine. Russian officials have canceled immortal regiment memorial events in recent weeks likely for such reasons.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russia conducted another Shahed-131/136 strike against Ukraine on May 4.
  • Russian officials are likely using the May 3 drone strike on the Kremlin to expand cancellations of parades for the May 9 Victory Day holiday.
  • The Kremlin is reportedly continuing its overhaul of domestic security organs.
  • US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines stated that Russian forces are likely unable to conduct a “significant offensive” in 2023 due to munitions and manpower shortages regardless of the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
  • Russia and India reportedly suspended efforts to trade in rupees.
  • Russian sources claimed that Russian forces made territorial gains south of Kreminna.
  • Ukrainian forces likely conducted a limited counterattack southwest of Bakhmut.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut and along the Avdiivka–Donetsk City line.
  • Russian sources claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian forces in Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • The Kremlin is attempting to increase the production quotas of military supplies despite reportedly lacking the necessary manpower.
  • Russian occupation authorities continue to announce new security measures in an effort to prevent partisan attacks in occupied territories.
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