A day after blaming Ukraine for a mass drone strike on Moscow, some Russian officials have seized on the aerial assault as an example of what the Kremlin deems a spiralling proxy conflict with Nato.
The claims came as Russian authorities said Ukrainian drones had attacked two oil refineries in the Russian region of Krasnodar and that four people had been injured by shelling in the border region of Belgorod, the latest reports of Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil.
Although western governments initially focused their military support on bolstering Ukrainian defences against Russian aggression, the desire to hasten the Kremlin’s defeat and end the war has led to growing deliveries of offensive weapons to Kyiv. In public, the western governments have also largely declined to criticise cross-border raids and strikes on Russian territory.
President Vladimir V. Putin called the drone strike a “terrorist attack” perpetrated by Ukraine. Kyiv, which has a policy of deliberate ambiguity over attacks on Russian soil, denied involvement.
Some Russian officials on Wednesday seized on comments by American and UK officials on the Moscow strike, saying they were evidence of their governments’ tacit support for Ukrainian military operations inside Russia.
Following the drone strike, the UK’s defence secretary James Cleverly said Ukraine has “the right to project force beyond its borders”.
The White House’s response was more circumspect, but it also stopped short of criticising the first military strike to have hit civilian areas in the Russian capital since the start of the invasion.
“As a general matter, we do not support attacks inside of Russia,” the White House said in a statement on Tuesday, though it noted that Moscow had struck civilian areas in Kyiv for the 17th time on Tuesday. It added that the White House was still gathering information on the attack.
The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, on Wednesday, said that Russia “would have preferred to hear at least some words of condemnation” of the drone attack from western capitals. “We will calmly and deliberately think how to deal with this.”
New York Times News Service