Published On: Tue, May 30th, 2023
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Moscow drone attack could ‘backfire’ and ‘cast doubt’ on Putin’s war promises | World | News

The alleged drone attack targeting Moscow in the early hours of Tuesday could “backfire” on Russia, an expert has said. Rather than coming together after experiencing a threat on national soil, Russians may begin to doubt Vladimir Putin‘s reassurances regarding the course of the war in Ukraine – referred to in Russia as “special operation” – following the drone scare, Dr Jennifer Mathers noted. The senior lecturer at Aberystwyth University and expert in Russian politics, foreign policy and security, told “What we have seen with previous attacks within Russia itself is that they contribute to a sense of anxiety and threat, certainly among the population.

“This could be useful as a way of preparing society for another mobilisation (and perhaps of industry as well as to provide the Ministry of Defence with more soldiers), but it could also backfire by creating a sense of panic and casting doubt on one of Putin’s key claims – that the war is under control, everything is going according to Moscow’s plans and they are winning.”

This drone attack, which Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin said caused minimal damage to buildings, is the second Russia said was launched by Ukraine on its capital this month.

Earlier in May, another drone attack was reported by Russian media and described as an assassination attempt against Putin – despite the Russian President not being at the Kremlin when the unmanned aircraft descended on the building.

Dr Mathers continued: “One of the Kremlin’s problems in this ‘special military operation’ is treading the fine line between preventing the conflict from impinging on the everyday lives of most people so much that it creates anti-war feeling, but making sure it is visible and flagged as important enough for the population to take it seriously.”

One way to do this, she explained, is by scattering the Z military symbols across public places in Russia to provide the feeling the support for the war is widespread as well as by staging rallies.

She also said: “So there is emphasis on life continuing as normal despite Western economic sanctions but at the same time talking up the threat posed by ‘the collective West’ and its support for Ukraine, and presenting Ukraine in an alliance with NATO as posing an existential threat to Russia: if Russia loses, it will cease to exist as a country, and so on.

“Claims that the Ukrainians are capable of attacking targets in the heart of Moscow risks tipping that balance and confirming that the Ukrainians are much stronger than they have been presented so far.

“Moscow could be making those claims as the result of a calculated risk: Russia may look weak and its armed forces ineffectual in the short term, but people do tend to support their own countries and governments in response to attack from outsiders.”

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The expert added reports of Ukraine breaching national security could also support the parallels between the ongoing conflict against Kyiv and the one against Germany during World War II being pedalled by the Kremlin.

In the 1940s, Russians underwent “unimaginable hardship and suffering” to defend their country from invasion, Dr Mathers said, noting this threat isn’t present at the time – but further reports of Ukraine stepping into the Russian border could help fuel this narrative.

Reports of drones flying above Moscow and hitting some of its buildings emerged in the early hours of May 30.

The Russian Ministry of Defence attributed this alleged attack to Ukraine and described it as a “terrorist drone attack”.

While officials spoke of eight drones entering Moscow’s skies in total, local reports said there were as many as 32 unmanned vehicles.

Andrei Krasov, first deputy chairman of the State Duma defence committee, also spoke about the drones flying over Moscow, claiming Ukraine had intended to spark fear among Russians – but had failed.

He added: “The Russian Federation has rich experience in conducting counter-terrorist operations. We gained this experience in the fight against terrorists in the North Caucasus, in Syria. We have rich combat experience. We will apply this experience properly now.”

Ukraine denied any involvement in this alleged attack, although Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said to be “pleased” to see an increase in this type of aggression.

Appearing on the Breakfast Show YouTube channel, he said: “Of course we are pleased to watch and predict an increase in the number of attacks. But of course we have nothing directly to do with this.”

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