Unprecedented Aerial Strikes on Moscow and Kyiv Escalate Tensions in Ongoing Conflict

Unprecedented Aerial Strikes on Moscow and Kyiv Escalate Tensions in Ongoing Conflict
A security guard points at a multistorey apartment building after a reported drone attack in Moscow. Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP

MOSCOW/KYIV — On Tuesday, Ukraine launched drone strikes targeting affluent neighborhoods in Moscow in what Russian officials have characterized as the most severe assault since the Second World War. These attacks happened alongside another wave of air strikes on Kyiv, marking the third such occurrence within 24 hours.

Since Russia's military incursion into Ukraine in February of last year, the conflict has predominantly occurred within Ukraine's borders. Despite this, Russia has reported instances of attacks on its territory, including alleged attempts to assassinate President Vladimir Putin.

The drone assault on Moscow took place in the early hours of Tuesday, hitting high-profile areas including residences of Putin and Russian elites. Putin was subsequently briefed on the situation at the Kremlin, his spokesperson revealed.

Russia's Defense Ministry announced the interception or diversion of eight drones attributed to Kyiv that were aimed at civilians. However, Baza, a Telegram channel associated with the security services, indicated over 25 drones participated in the assault. The strike led to minor injuries and temporary evacuation of several apartment blocks. Witnesses reported loud explosions and a smell of petrol, with some capturing footage of a drone being shot down and a resultant smoke plume.

Maxim Ivanov, a Russian lawmaker, labelled this the most significant attack on Moscow since the Nazi era, underscoring a "new reality" for every Russian citizen.

Despite Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak refuting direct involvement in Tuesday's attacks, he admitted that Ukraine is "pleased to watch" and predicted further assaults.

The ongoing conflict, mostly deadlocked for much of 2023 with Russian forces entrenched in eastern Ukraine, has caused severe damage. Tens of thousands have been killed, millions displaced, and cities laid to waste, resulting in significant global economic disruption.

In response to Tuesday's air strikes, Kyiv reported four fatalities and 34 injuries, including two children. Ukrainian officials claimed they intercepted more than 20 Iranian-made Shahed drones, with 11 individuals injured as a result.

A 33-year-old woman tragically lost her life when debris from a destroyed Russian projectile struck her apartment in Kyiv. Two upper floors of the building were annihilated, with fears of individuals trapped under rubble and the top of the building ablaze.

In what appears to be a tactic to undermine morale, Russia has launched 17 attacks on Kyiv this May using drones or missiles, predominantly during nighttime. However, Ukraine asserts that US-supplied Patriot anti-missile defenses have achieved a 100% interception rate.

On the issue of alleged annexations, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin claimed that almost 1.5 million people in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions have received Russian passports. Despite Moscow's claim of annexation, it lacks full control over these regions, and these annexations have not been internationally recognized.

The rapidly escalating conflict has led to heightened rhetoric from both sides, and the possibility of a counter-offensive by Kyiv, bolstered by Western weaponry, threatens to further intensify the situation.