Intense Russian Drone Strikes on Ukraine and Moscow: A Significant Turning Point in the Conflict

Moscow came under attack early on Tuesday morning as at least eight drones flew over the city in what has been the most intense campaign of Russian drone strikes on Ukraine since the start of the war. The Kremlin has claimed that air-defence crews shot down or electronically jammed all the drones and that the damage caused to a few apartment buildings was caused by metal shards of the disabled airframes as they fell from the sky.[0] The Russian defence ministry stated on Telegram that at least eight kamikaze drones attacked Moscow last night, claiming that five were shot down and another three “lost control and deviated from their intended targets,” suggesting that they made it through defences before exploding. Although Russian officials have tried to downplay the attacks, some of which seemed to target an upscale neighbourhood, nationalists have expressed concern that the drones were able to reach Moscow unimpeded.[1]

The drone attacks followed an overnight drone attack on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in which at least one person was killed.[2] The Ukrainian air force has declined to comment on the drone attack, but an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Kyiv government was “not directly involved” in the attack.[0] Putin, his aides, and most Russian citizens probably assume that Ukraine launched the drones, but it doesn’t much matter.[0] Regardless of who committed the act, they were successful in doing so, despite the efforts of Russia's rulers to prevent it.[0] Despite assurances that the war would not affect the daily lives of the Russian people, it has now reached their doorstep.[0]

Putin has accused Ukraine of seeking to “frighten” Russians after Moscow was targeted with a large-scale drone attack for the first time in the 15-month war.[3] He said that Ukraine had chosen the path of attempting “to intimidate Russia, Russian citizens [with] attacks on residential buildings” and added that the drone attacks were “clearly a sign of terrorist activity.”

The attacks may have done little physical damage, but explosions were heard, and windows were rattled (a few were shattered).[4] The psychological and potentially political damage can’t be dismissed.[0] Driving the news: Russia's Defence Ministry accused Ukraine of carrying out the “terrorist attack,” but said all eight drones were shot down or had their systems jammed.[1] According to Mykhailo Podolyak, a chief consultant to President Volodymyr Zelesnky of Ukraine, Ukraine was not “directly involved” but was “watching with pleasure.”[5]

The drone flights over Moscow, coming a few weeks after two drone strikes on the Kremlin itself, make it harder for Putin to sustain the fiction that Russia’s skies are impenetrable and that Russian civilians are invulnerable.[0] The new reality undermines the image that Putin has attempted to create through Russia's state-owned mass media, which depicts the war as a terrible but remote phenomenon.[0]

The war between Ukraine and Russia has been going on for 15 months, but the last 48 hours have seen the most intense campaign of Russian drone strikes on Ukraine since the war began. Ukraine claims to have shot down 10 missiles and 25 drones launched by Russia in overnight attacks on the capital of Kyiv, the city of Dnipro, and eastern regions. Officials reported on Friday that targets in the regions of Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk were struck by a number of drones and missiles. At the moment, there is no information regarding any fatalities.[6]

Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin has also launched a tirade against Russia’s elite, blaming the drone attack on senior military officials living in Moscow’s exclusive Rublyovka suburb.[7] Prigozhin has frequently expressed his frustrations with Russia's top military officials, especially Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu.[8] Following Putin's formal military suffering multiple battlefield defeats in the war against Ukraine, his Wagner troops became a major force. As a result, he became increasingly vocal with his complaints.[8]

The attacks have come at a time when the United Kingdom’s former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and former US President Donald Trump discussed Ukraine and “the vital importance of Ukrainian victory”.[9] The Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has also said he spoke with Putin and reiterated his country’s willingness to talk to both sides in the conflict.[9]

The war between Ukraine and Russia has been going on for 15 months, but the latest drone attacks mark a significant turning point in the conflict. The attacks have shown that Russia’s skies are porous and that Russian civilians are vulnerable, which disrupts the image that Putin has tried to fashion in Russia’s state-owned mass media.[0]

0. “Drone strikes on Moscow make it harder for Putin to sell his narrative about the Ukraine war.” Slate, 30 May. 2023,

1. “Moscow targeted in major drone attack” Axios, 30 May. 2023,

2. “‘How Are They Reaching Moscow?!' Russians Panic as Drones Attack” The Daily Beast, 30 May. 2023,

3. “Moscow drone attack: Putin says Ukraine trying to frighten Russians” BBC, 30 May. 2023,

4. “Russia's Putin says drone attack was aimed at ‘civilian targets'” The Jerusalem Post, 30 May. 2023,

5. “Drone Attack On Moscow: Why It May Not Have Been The Ukrainian Government” Forbes, 30 May. 2023,

6. “Russia-Ukraine war at a glance: what we know on day 458 of the invasion” The Guardian, 27 May. 2023,

7. “Russian Officials, Pro-Kremlin Figures Offer Mixed Response to Moscow Drone Attack” The Moscow Times, 30 May. 2023,

8. “Wagner Boss Rails Against Russian Officials After Moscow Drone Attack” Newsweek, 30 May. 2023,

9. “Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 458” Al Jazeera English, 27 May. 2023,

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