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Moscow has come under repeated drone attacks since May

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Russian authorities are investigating recent drone attacks on a skyscraper in Moscow that houses government ministers. Now, no injuries reported, but the incident was not a one-off event because the city has come under repeated drone attacks since May. The Kremlin is blaming Kyiv, and while Ukrainian leaders aren't officially claiming responsibility, they are issuing thinly veiled threats. Last weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, quote, "Gradually, the war is returning to the territory of Russia." For more on what this means for the war, we're joined now by Bob Hamilton, head of Eurasia Research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and a former U.S. Army colonel.

So, Bob, do you believe Ukraine is behind these attacks on Russian soil?

BOB HAMILTON: Yeah. Good morning, A. I think it's quite likely that the Ukrainians are behind it. And, of course, they haven't denied it, and they've made veiled references to the fact that they have the capability to do this, and attacks like this will increase in Russia.

MARTÍNEZ: If it's likely, what would you say the evidence would be to make it likely?

HAMILTON: Well, if you look at the targets, they're mostly symbolic and economic targets - Russian government and military facilities. So this is unlikely to have a major effect on the Russian economy or the defense sector, but it does send a message that the Kremlin has unleashed a war choice that it now can't fully protect Russia from the impact of. And we know the Ukraine has the capability, the Indigenous capability to produce these types of drones. The New York Times has reported that there are at least three different types of drones produced in Ukraine capable of reaching targets in Russia. So the evidence of capability and then the type of targets that are being hit, as well as the statements of Ukrainian officials, sort of do point to the high likelihood that these are Ukrainian attacks on Russian government and military targets inside Russia.

MARTÍNEZ: So it's a flex then, right? It's a flex for Ukraine.

HAMILTON: (Laughter) Yeah, I think you could say that. You know, but these are legitimate targets. And as you said - right? - the latest attacks on the building in Moscow were - that building houses the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Digital Ministry. So this may be Ukraine responding to Russia's attempts to destroy Ukraine's economy, most recently by leaving the grain deal, the deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain, and attacking Ukrainian grain storage facilities and infrastructure critical to grain exports. You probably saw last night there was an attack against a port in the Odesa region that the Ukrainians were using to ship grain out on rivers, since they're no longer able to ship it out on the Black Sea. So this looks to be a Ukrainian strike-back at Russian economic targets and ministries that govern the economy in response to Russia's attempt to destroy Ukraine's economy.

MARTÍNEZ: How does this play inside Russia? How does Vladimir Putin sell this or try to define this?

HAMILTON: Well, the Russians are using the language they normally use, which is terrorism, Kyiv regime, fascism, all these monikers and descriptions of the Ukrainian government that they've been using since before the war started. So how it plays inside of Russia for just - for ordinary citizens, I think it's early to say. You know, none of the attacks have been against civilians, right? So I think we need to be clear here. There's no targeting of civilians in Russia as there is by the Russians in Ukraine. These targets have all been against legitimate economic or military targets - attacks on oil storage facilities, on military logistics facilities, on government ministries. So it doesn't appear that it's having a direct effect on the Russian people, but I would assume that many Russian people are questioning why the government has unleashed a war that it didn't need to unleash and now can't protect itself fully from.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And as we said, no injuries reported on that skyscraper attack in the capital of Russia. How do these attacks, though, fit into the larger push the Ukrainians are trying to achieve, considering that, you know, the counteroffensive has not, at least from what we've seen, produced a major breakthrough yet?

HAMILTON: Right. So these are just a way to expand the war into other domains, right? So the counteroffensive on the ground is making slow, incremental progress, and I think that's what many people expected to happen. I mean, the Russian defensive belts, the minefields, the obstacles, these are belts that are between three and 15 miles deep. So it was never going to be an easy thing for Ukraine to punch a hole in them and punch a hole in the Russian lines and exploit that. But this is a way to take the war to the air inside of Russia. There have been reports that Ukrainian sea drones attempted to attack Russian ships, so also in the maritime domain. It's a way to move the war off just the ground war and move it into the air, move it to the sea, and move it inside of Russia.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Bob Hamilton, head of Eurasia Research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Bob, thanks.

HAMILTON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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