Russia, Ukraine Accuse Each Other of Terrorism Following Drone Strikes

Russia, Ukraine Accuse Each Other of Terrorism Following Drone Strikes
Drone attack causes damage in Moscow high-rise on July 30, 2023. (Stringer/Reuters)
Andrew Thornebrooke

Authorities in Russia and Ukraine are accusing one another of terrorism following a weekend of drone attacks in both nations.

Moscow claims it shot down three drones on July 29, one in Odintsovo District near Moscow, and two more in an upscale area of Moscow proper.

Russian authorities claim the attacks did not result in any casualties and caused only insignificant damage. Photos and video of the aftermath, however, show a corner of a single floor of a highrise in the Moscow City Complex completely destroyed.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed the attacks were evidence that Ukraine was engaged in “terror attacks on civilian infrastructure” following the stalling of its counteroffensive, according to Russian state media.

Conversely, Ukrainian news outlet The Kyiv Independent cited independent Russian media to say that the highrise contained offices belonging to the Russian Ministries of Economic Development, Trade, and Digital Development, as well as several other agencies.
A spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters he had no information on what types of drones were used in the attacks, according to Russian state media. Authorities closed Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport following the incident.

Strikes on Urban Centers Accelerated

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged the drone strikes in Moscow during a speech, saying that it was fair the war should come to the homeland of “Russian terrorists.”
“Ukraine is getting stronger,” Mr. Zelenskyy said, according to an official transcript of the speech. “Gradually, the war is returning to the territory of Russia—to its symbolic centers and military bases, and this is an inevitable, natural, and absolutely fair process.”

Mr. Zelenskyy did not specify whether the strikes were conducted by Ukrainian forces.

The incident echoes a similar event in early June. At that time, several drones struck a wealthy Moscow neighborhood and appeared to be targeting key Russian intelligence officials.

The Russian Defense Ministry also claimed over the weekend to have thwarted an attempt by 25 Ukrainian drones to swarm infrastructure in occupied Crimea, which Russia first invaded, then annexed in 2014.

Russian forces have routinely targeted civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, including apartment complexes, hospitals, food stores, and water and energy plants.

To that end, Russia is launching strikes against the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih in apparent retaliation for the strikes in Moscow.

Several Russian strikes on apartment complexes, beginning July 31, have killed four and injured 44 more, said Ukraine State Emergency Services chief Serhiy Kruk in a Twitter post.

Ukrainian Counteroffensive Stalls

The escalation in long-range strikes by both Russia and Ukraine comes as both nations struggle to make gains in war-torn eastern Ukraine.

Russian forces face low morale and widespread supply shortages with which to fend off Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive. That counteroffensive, however, has been largely stymied by massive Russian minefields placed over the course of the first 500 days of the war.

U.S. military leadership acknowledged that Ukraine’s long-planned counteroffensive was not going as planned earlier in the month.

Some sputtering in Ukraine’s advance was expected, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said during a July 18 meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group, a 54-nation alliance providing Ukraine with weapons for its self-defense.

“Real war is not predictable,” he said. “It is filled with fear and fog and friction. Real war is brutal.

“That’s the difference between war on paper and real war.”

The general added that much of the slowdown was due to Russia’s creation of expansive minefields throughout eastern Ukraine, which continue to kill Ukrainian service members and destroy vehicles, as well as strategically placed hunter-killer teams which aim to attack Ukrainian forces while they are bogged down in the minefields.

“[The Russians] had a lot of time to prepare,” Gen. Milley said.

“[The Ukrainians are] working their way through it. It is far from a failure… there’s a lot of fighting left to go.”

US Fears Russian False Flag Attack

The United States is also warning that Russia could use its own sea mines in a false flag operation to justify the ongoing targeting of civilian grain vessels in the northern Black Sea.

The White House’s warning came just days after Moscow announced it would not renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative. That deal allowed ships to carry grain to and from Ukraine, provided they were inspected by a third party to ensure they were not being used to smuggle weapons. It enabled Ukraine to ship millions of tons of grain exports through the international waters of the Black Sea.

Ukraine is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of wheat and a major exporter of corn, sunflower seeds, and vegetable oil.

Since the deal ended, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said Russia has begun targeting civilian infrastructure in Ukrainian port cities in an apparent effort to destroy Ukraine’s food supply, including its capacity to import and export grain. Russian forces are also placing sea mines around Ukrainian ports, he said.

“Russia has already announced publicly that all ships proceeding to Ukrainian ports in Black Sea waters will be considered potential carriers of military cargo, even though they are simply trying to pick up food that will feed people around the world,” Mr. Kirby said.

In addition to targeting civilian grain ships, Moscow has also declared it will track any such ships entering Ukrainian ports and their flag countries as parties to the war on the Ukrainian side.

Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.
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