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Russia claims Ukraine drones tried to assassinate Putin at Kremlin


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Fragments of two Ukrainian drones fell into the Kremlin, causing a fireball near the roof of one building early Wednesday, the Russian government said in a statement. Kyiv denied any involvement.

The statement said no one was injured in what it described as a “terrorist act,” and it threatened retaliation for what was characterized as an assassination attempt on the country’s leader. Russian President Vladimir Putin was at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow at the time, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti.

“Last night, the Kyiv regime made an attempt to strike with unmanned aerial vehicles on the Kremlin residence of the President of the Russian Federation,” the statement said. The fragments struck the Kremlin after the drones were shot down by Russia’s military, the government said. 

Videos showed one flying object exploding over the Kremlin around 2:30 a.m. and a second one 15 minutes later detonating as it approached a domed building. There was no evidence Ukraine was linked to either incident.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was meeting with Nordic leaders in Helsinki, denied any role.

“We don’t attack Putin or Moscow,” he said at a news conference. “We fight on our territory. We’re defending our villages and cities.”

The incident comes as Russia prepares to mark Victory Day on May 9 − its annual celebration of its victory in World War II. The day is usually marked with a parade on Red Square.

Russia has staged false-flag operations to try to justify assaults on Ukraine. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak dismissed Wednesday’s claim as a Russian ruse “to justify massive strikes on Ukrainian cities, on the civilian population, on infrastructure facilities” in coming days.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration is aware of the reported attack but “unable to confirm the authenticity.” At a press freedom forum hosted by the Washington Post, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “I would take anything coming out of the Kremlin with a very large shaker of salt.” 

Developments:

∙ Zelenskyy said 21 civilians were killed and 48 were injured Wednesday by massive Russian shelling in the southern Kherson province. “A railway station and a crossing, a house, a hardware store, a grocery supermarket, a gas station − what unites these places? The bloody trail that Russia leaves with its shells,” Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram.

∙ The European Union announced plans to ramp up the production of ammunition for Ukraine.

∙ In Helsinki, Zelenskyy said Ukraine’s counteroffensive is coming “very soon.” This year “will be decisive … for victory,” he said.

∙ A massive blaze broke out at a Russian oil depot in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region east of the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, according to Krasnodar Gov. Veniamin Kondratyev. No cause for the fire was released.

In denying Ukraine was behind the drone attacks, Zelenskyy said this is Putin’s latest attempt at mustering support for a war he’s losing. The White House said this week the pace of Russian personnel losses has accelerated, with 100,000 casualties − including more than 20,000 deaths − since December.

“He can no longer motivate his society and just send the military to their deaths,” Zelenskyy said. “He has no victories on the battlefield. The second army of the world has lost. … And now he needs to do something drastic − assassination attempts, drones, some geese that bombed them … That is, they will come up with some steps every day.”

The Vatican secretary of state confirmed Wednesday the existence of a “mission” to end Russia’s war in Ukraine, days after Pope Francis made a reference to such an operation, though both countries deny knowing about it.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin said both governments have been informed, adding, “you know how it is, in bureaucracies it could be that communications that are supposed to arrive don’t arrive,” the Vatican News reported.

On his way back Sunday from spending three days in Budapest, where he met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán — who has maintained relations with Moscow — and with the former foreign envoy of the Russian Orthodox Church, Francis told reporters he would do anything in his power to stop the war.

He then added: “Also, there is a mission going on now, but it is not public yet. Let’s see how … When it is public I will talk about it.”

Francis has expressed support for Ukraine during the conflict while trying not to antagonize Russia.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday the latest military aid package for Ukraine, valued at $300 million and including ammunition for long-range rocket artillery known as HIMARS, as well as conventional artillery cannons and shells. 

The Pentagon has provided Ukraine with more than $35 billion in military assistance since the Russian invasion began in February 2022.

“We will continue to stand with our Ukrainian partners as they defend themselves from Russia’s war of aggression,” Blinken said in a statement.

−Maureen Groppe and Tom Vanden Brook

The Kremlin reportedly distributed a manual instructing Russian state media on how to cover an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive. If true, that might indicate the Kremlin is trying to prepare the public for Ukrainian successes.Russian opposition outlet Meduzareports the manual instructs state media to “not lower the expectations of the announced Ukrainian counteroffensive” or claim that Ukraine is not ready to conduct one. The guide says media outlets should emphasize that Western countries are providing Kyiv with weapons.

“If the offensive is a failure, (Russian authorities) will be able to say that the army adeptly repelled an extremely powerful attack. The value of this victory will increase significantly,” the guide says, according to Meduza. “If Ukraine, with the help of weapons from the U.S. and Europe, is successful and takes territory, the loss will be explainable, too; after all, the West has focused a tremendous amount of effort on the front, but its successes (will) have been very modest. In other words, overall, the Russian army has held its own.”

Damage in Ukraine from Russian strikes indicates a possible shift from targeting Ukraine’s electrical power network, the British Defense Ministry said in its most recent assessment of the war. A least two strikes, on April 2 and May 1, probably were focused on Ukraine’s military, industrial and logistical infrastructure, the assessment says. Both strikes used smaller numbers of missiles than seen in earlier attacks, which is likely because of Russian attempts to rebuild its stockpiles of cruise missiles, the ministry says.

The attack May 1 injured at least 34 people, but Ukraine air defense systems shot down 15 out of 18 missiles, the Ukraine military said.

Contributing: The Associated Press



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