No safe haven. Ukrainian drones reach mansions of Russian elite in Moscow
Никита Сологуб
No safe haven. Ukrainian drones reach mansions of Russian elite in Moscow
30 May 2023, 21:13

Photo: AP

Today, Moscow was subjected to another drone attack. In the beginning of May, the Kremlin was targeted; this time, according to the flight paths of the intercepted drones, the prestigious gated communities along the Rublyovo-Uspenskoe highway, the infamous Rublyovka, were the target. Residential houses in southern Moscow were also hit by drones. Despite the unprecedented scale of this attack, the Ministry of Defense downplayed the number of drones involved in the attack, with official rhetoric crediting the air defense system for effectively handling the situation.

How many drones?

The first reports of the drone attack on Moscow emerged around 4:30 am. The Ministry of Defense claims that only eight aircraft-type drones participated in the attack and were “hit”: three drones fell victim to electronic warfare systems and diverted from their targets, while another five were downed by the “Pantsir-S” air defense missile system in the Moscow region. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu accused Kyiv of carrying out a “terrorist act in the Moscow region,” targeting “civilian facilities.” He promised a “maximally harsh response” from the Russian army.

State-affiliated media reports about the number of drones differ significantly from the official account. Baza reports that about 25 drones participated in the attack, while Shot mentions 32, although noting that the number could be lower due to eyewitnesses mirroring emergency services. A journalist from Channel One cited “media reports” in the early morning broadcast, suggesting there might be “around 20” drones. But three hours later, in another broadcast, he revised this figure down to the official number, calling the information about dozens of drones “rumors” that “multiplied on the internet.”

The Moscow Prosecutor's Office has already advised “media representatives and bloggers to refrain from spreading unreliable information” which could result in criminal or administrative liability, and suggested using only official sources for publications.

What did they hit? Moscow

At least three drones struck residential buildings in Moscow. Residents of a building in Novaya Moskva district, at Atlasova 11, were the first to report an explosion on the 25th floor. The blast blew out windows in several nearby apartments. About an hour later, a drone hit a 16th-floor apartment window on Profsoyuznaya Street, 98, in southwestern Moscow, with its fragments falling into the courtyard. Residents from three sections of the building were evacuated. Later, a drone hit a building at Leninsky Prospekt, 92, building 1. The explosive part entered the bedroom of two student girls living in a 16th-floor apartment, their neighbor told Mash: “They didn’t even wake up. They were sitting later, saying they needed to go to church. They say they didn’t even understand what this was lying there. It broke the window and flew into the room.” The main part of the device lost its wings upon impact and fell onto a parking lot.

Following the drone impacts, two people sought medical attention, reported Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. At around noon, residents of the buildings on Leninsky Prospekt and Profsoyuznaya Street were allowed to return to their apartments. A TASS correspondent at the scene later reported that one resident of the building on Atlasova Street did receive a minor cut.

Moscow outlets have interviewed residents of the affected buildings, most expressing fear. “I got up to feed the cat and saw that half of the mosquito net on the window was bent inward, and only now I understood that it could have been the shock wave. It’s alarming, I feel sorry for the beautiful house,” shared a resident of the building on Atlasova. “Now it’s unclear where it’s safer: at home, in a bunker, or on the street,” a mother from the house on Profsoyuznaya Street, where fragments fell near a children’s playground, said.

What did they hit? Rublyovka

In the affluent neighborhoods of Rublyovka, an area concentrated along the Rublyovo-Uspenskoe Highway near Moscow, a series of drones were shot down, according to a list published by State Duma Deputy Alexander Khinshtein. Some of the drone hits were also documented in eyewitness videos.

Ilyinskoye, the village mentioned by Khinshtein where a drone explosion was caught on camera, is adjacent to the exclusive residential neighborhood of Zhukovka XXI, a 50 houses community designed for Russia’s ultra-wealthy. The area has been home to figures like Oleg Novikov, president of AST, the largest book publishing house in Russia, and oligarch Sergey Kurchenko, wanted in Ukraine for large-scale embezzlement. Further south, Zhukovka has been home to several high-ranking officials during Vladimir Putin’s first presidential two terms, including Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin’s erstwhile political operator, Nikolai Patrushev, former FSB chief and now Secretary of the Security Council, and Sergei Shoigu.

Another village, Timoshkino, bordered by the prestigious Chateau Sovereign residential development, was also hit. The estate, initially bought by 13 Moscow families, soon turned into a settlement of 75 houses, “in which one can fully live after leaving active business or service,” according to Niyaz Askhanov, CEO of the developing company. Rapper Dzhigan is currently trying to sell his house in this village for 200 million rubles (about 2.6 million dollars).

Romashkovo, another village on the list, is just a few kilometers west of the famed Barvikha, an unofficial meeting place for Kremlin officials and ministers, frequently visited by Putin himself. Razdory is known for having been home to presidents Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, and now, for example, hosts FSO (Federal Protective Service) General Mikhail Mikheev. The Greenfield settlement, albeit located further north, doesn’t lag behind its southern neighbors in terms of luxury, with Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller built a palace there worth 240 million dollars.

A Barvikha resident told Mediazona that although no evacuation took place, explosions were heard throughout the morning. Victor Bondarenko, an icon collector and another Barvikha resident, posted on Instagram about waking up to loud explosion sounds around 6:30 am. Ballerina Anastasia Volochkova also complained about waking up to “terrifying explosions.”

Not far from the areas mentioned by Khinshtein, Vladimir Putin’s residence in Novo-Ogaryovo is located. In late January, it was reported that an air defense system, resembling the “Pantsir-S1”, was installed 10 kilometers (about six miles) from the residence.

What drones?

Russian and Ukrainian authorities have yet to reveal the model of drones used for the attack. Dmitry Kornev, founder of MilitaryRussia, speculated that the machines used were of a “relatively new type,” slow-moving, and nearly homemade. Aleksei Rogozin, head of the “Center for the Development of Transport Technologies,” identified several models in eyewitness photos which seemed to follow a Canard wing configuration, featuring an internal combustion engine and wingspans of at least four meters. Military analyst Rob Lee echoed these findings, noting that the drones used today resembled those deployed in the attack on Krasnodar on May 26. Another military analyst, Yuri Fedorov, believes that the drones could have flown from Ukraine to Moscow undetected, as Russia lacks “territorial air defense.”

The drone that flew into an apartment on Leninsky Prospect carried a cumulative charge KZ-6, similar to the device found on a drone that crashed into a house on Profsoyuznaya Street, according to Shot and RBC. This is a Soviet factory-made charge containing 1.8 kilograms (about four pounds) of explosives, designed to penetrate armor or reinforced concrete, but not to harm personnel. When these projectiles hit the houses, they did not explode.

Kremlin and Duma Responses

Russian President’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the capital’s defenses and the targets of the drones that fell near Rublyovka. He did not elaborate on their origin. He called the attack a response by Kiev to “effective strikes on one of the decision-making centers” on Sunday—on that night, 54 drones attacked Ukraine, predominantly the Kyiv region.

Putin later described the air defense work as “routine, satisfactory,” but added that “there is still work to be done.” He called the attack by Russian forces on the headquarters of Ukrainian military intelligence a strike on a “decision-making center.” The Ukrainian side did not report such an attack.

Andrey Kartapolov, head of the State Duma Defense Committee, said the attack was possible because Russia is a large country and there will always be a “loophole where a drone can fly.” Alexander Khinshtein, head of the Committee on Information Policy, noted that the attack is a “new reality that needs to be recognized,” and remarked that similar attacks from Ukraine “will only escalate.” MP Andrey Gurulev promised to raise the issue of criminal liability for filming drone flights.

Sources close to the presidential administration told Meduza that after the attack on the Kremlin, a repeat raid was expected and achieved more of a “psychological effect.” “Much will depend on the reaction of the top leadership — how to present it and so on. The damage is not terrible so far,” a source assured.


Following the attack, police in Novaya Moskva are “patrolling the streets with anti-drone guns,” selectively stopping cars for document checks. Moscow is experiencing GPS glitches. According to Baza, police and special services personnel in the Moscow region are being dispatched to search for debris from the fallen drones and explosive parts, scouring forests in the Odintsovsky and Krasnogorsk districts.

The Investigative Committee has initiated a criminal case under the article “Terrorism.” According to a source in the security forces speaking to Kommersant, the attack was organized by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Ukrainian special services, and possibly their supporters in Russia. Nevertheless, the source stated that the investigation assumes that the drones most likely reached the capital from Ukrainian territory.

Editor: Dmitri Treschanin

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