Updated May 3, 2023, 12:01pm EDT

Ukraine denies Russia’s claim that it tried to kill Putin with Kremlin drone attack

A still image taken from video shows a flying object exploding in an intense burst of light near the dome of the Kremlin Senate building during the alleged Ukrainian drone attack in Moscow, Russia, in this image taken from video obtained by Reuters May 3, 2023. Ostorozhno Novosti/Handout via REUTER
Ostorozhno Novosti/Handout via REUTERS

Sign up for Semafor Principals: What the White House is reading. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

Ukraine denied Russia’s claim that it attempted to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin after Moscow said it had shot down two alleged Ukrainian drones aimed at the Kremlin.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Nordic leaders in Helsinki on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country “didn’t attack Putin,” adding that it should be left to a tribunal. “We fight on our territory, we are defending our villages and cities,” Zelenskyy said.

Title icon

Know More

Moscow claimed the unmanned drones were preparing to kill Putin before they were intercepted. “The Kyiv regime made an attempt to strike with unmanned aerial vehicles on the Kremlin residence of the President of the Russian Federation,” the government said, according to a statement published by Russian state-affiliated news agency Tass.

Speaking to BBC Ukraine, Serhiy Nikiforov, a press secretary for Zelenskyy, said Ukraine has no information about the ”so-called night attacks" on the Kremlin. He said Ukraine uses its forces to liberate its own territories, not to attack others.

Unverified videos circulating on social media, purporting to show the incident, depicted an object flying over the Kremlin, followed by a small explosion and what appears to be smoke. Semafor could not immediately verify the source of the videos being shared by Russia correspondents, or whether they were recorded on Wednesday.


Some commentators expressed skepticism about the Russian narrative on the alleged strikes.

The Kremlin stressed that it sees the incident as a terrorist attack and “reserves the right to respond to an attempted strike on the Kremlin where and when it sees fit.”

Moscow is currently preparing for Victory Day celebrations, an annual event on May 9 marking the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. The Russian government has indicated it will proceed with the plans in spite of the threat on Wednesday, while the mayor of Moscow announced a ban on unauthorized drone flights over the capital.

In his comments on Wednesday, Nikiforov, the Ukrainian press secretary, said Russia was “inciting the situation before May 9.”

Title icon

The View From The White House

Speaking at an event hosted by The Washington Post on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed he had seen reports of the Kremlin drones, but said he “cannot validate them.” He added: “We simply don’t know ... I would take anything coming out of the Kremlin with a very large shaker of salt.”

Blinken said it was difficult to comment on the situation without knowing “what the facts are.”

Title icon


  • As the war progresses, drones may offer Ukraine a chance to hit back at Russia without long-range weaponry. The Economist reported that Ukraine is on the brink of attaining “high-tech capacity” over the coming weeks and months.