Screams rang out in Russia’s capital, Moscow, early on Sunday morning local time, as explosions rocked the city’s business district.
Russia claims the blasts were caused by a Ukrainian drone attack. It said it had shot down drones targeting Moscow and the Crimean peninsula, but suffered damage to two office towers in the capital, and had to briefly shut down an international airport.
One drone targeting Moscow was shot down over the city’s outskirts and two others were “suppressed by electronic warfare” before crashing into the office complex, the Russian Ministry of Defence said.
Moscow and its environs, lying about 500 kilometres from the Ukrainian border, had rarely been targeted during the war until several drone attacks this year.
Sunday’s reported attack is the latest in a series of recent drone assaults, including on the Kremlin and in Russian towns near the border with Ukraine, that Russia has blamed on Kyiv.
“On the morning of July 30, the Kyiv regime’s attempted terrorist attack with unmanned aerial vehicles on objects in the city of Moscow was thwarted,” the Defence Ministry said.
“One Ukrainian UAV was destroyed in the air by air defence systems over the territory of the Odintsovo district of the Moscow region. Two more drones were suppressed by electronic warfare and, having lost control, crashed on the territory of Moscow-City’s non-residential building complex.”
Mosco-City is a commercial development in the west of the capital, whose mayor Sergei Sobyanin posted on Telegram that the “facades of two city office towers were slightly damaged”. He added that there were “no victims or injured”.
Since then it has been reported that one security guard was, in fact, injured.
Photos from the scene show several windows had been blown out in the corner of the buildings, with mangled steel beams visible and documents strewn on the ground below.
Police officers had cordoned off the area.
The first drone struck shortly after 3am, local time, and the second an hour later.
One of the buildings struck by the drones reportedly houses multiple government departments: the Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the Ministry of Digital, Development, Telecommunications and Mass Media.
Documents from those departments were reportedly strewn on the street afterwards.
Russia reacted to the incident with yet another threat that it could resort to nuclear weapons, echoing earlier rhetoric.
“Our armed forces, repelling the counteroffensive of the collective enemy, protect the citizens of Russia and our land,” said former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, an ally of Vladimir Putin who currently serves on the nation’s security council.
“This is obvious to all decent people. But beyond that, they prevent world conflict. After all, if we imagine that the offensive of the Ukrainians with the support of NATO was successful, and they seized part of our land, then we would have to, by virtue of the rules of the decree of the President of Russia on February 6, 2020, go for the use of nuclear weapons.
“There is simply no other way out. Therefore, our enemies must pray to our warriors.”
The irony of a top Russian official talking about Ukraine “seizing” Russian territory, given Russia previously annexed Crimea and then launched a full scale invasion of Ukraine, will not be lost on observers.
Airport briefly closed
The TASS state news agency reported that the capital’s Vnukovo airport was “closed for departures and arrivals, flights are redirected to other airports”. Within less than an hour, operations appeared to have returned to normal. Earlier this month, a volley of drone attacks briefly disrupted air traffic at the same airport, to the city’s southwest.
The Defence Ministry also said on Sunday that 16 Ukrainian drones were destroyed by air defence fire in an overnight attack on Crimea, a peninsula Moscow annexed in 2014.
“Another nine Ukrainian drones were suppressed by means of electronic warfare and, without reaching the target, crashed into the Black Sea,” the ministry said, adding that there were no victims.
Crimea has been targeted by Kyiv throughout Moscow’s Ukraine offensive but has come under more intense, increased attacks in recent weeks.
Kyiv has repeatedly said it plans to take Crimea back.
The attacks on Moscow come several weeks into a Ukrainian counteroffensive to claw back territory captured by Russia since large-scale hostilities erupted in February 2022.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has said such attacks “would not be possible without the help provided to the Kyiv regime by the US and its NATO allies”.
On Friday Russia said it had intercepted two missiles over its southern Rostov region bordering Ukraine, with at least 16 people wounded by debris falling on the city of Taganrog.
Shortly after, it said it had downed a second S-200 missile near the city of Azov, with debris falling in an unpopulated area.
On the other side of the border, a Russian strike killed two people in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday, authorities there said.
And at least one civilian was killed in a missile attack on the northeastern city of Sumy, according to Ukrainian national police, who added that there were five injured.
In early July, a Russian drone attack hit an apartment building in the same city, killing three and wounding 21.
– with AFP