Putin admits Russia air defenses need “work” after drone attacks


Following the Tuesday morning attack in Moscow by drones, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “there is still work to be done” in regard to the city’s air defense systems.

Russian authorities said Moscow was hit with drone strikes at around 4 a.m. local time. While the Kremlin maintains only eight unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were involved in the incident, local Telegram channels reported around 30 drones participated in the attack which resulted in damage to residential buildings but no known casualties.

The Kremlin quickly blamed Kyiv for the attack, but Mikhailo Podolyak—a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—denied his country’s involvement.

President Vladimir Putin congratulates military personnel and veterans of the Border Guards Service on Border Guard’s Day in Moscow on May 28, 2023. Putin said Moscow’s air defense systems need “work” following a drone attack during the early hours of Tuesday.
Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP/Getty

The Russian state media outlet Tass wrote that Putin discussed the drone strikes with Svetlana Chupsheva—head of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI)—during a visit to Moscow’s Zotov Cultural and Educational Center.

The Russian leader at first described Moscow’s air defense system as working “normally, satisfactorily” in its response to the attack.

“Although there is work to be done,” he added, according to Tass.

Putin then reportedly drew parallels between the Moscow incident and a previous drone attack on Khmeimim Air Base. The airfield, which is located in Syria but operated by Russia’s military, was targeted in drone strikes in early 2018.

“In general, it is clear what needs to be done to seal the air defense of the capital,” Putin said.

He also stated that he believes the purpose of the drone strikes was “to provoke a response from Russia.”

Before Putin made his comments, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke with members of the press about the drone attack.

“The president’s working day started very early today. He received direct information both via the Defense Ministry and via the relevant departments,” Peskov said, according to Reuters.

Peskov also defended Moscow’s defenses

“Everything worked properly, worked well. The air defense system also worked well. It is quite clear that we are talking about the Kyiv regime’s response to our very effective strikes on one of the decision-making centers…on Sunday,” he said while making reference to the weekend’s bombardment of Ukraine by Russian forces.

Not all Russian officials downplayed the strikes. Alexander Khinstein—a deputy of the State Duma—for one, warned that “sabotage and terrorist attacks of Ukraine will only increase.”

“It is necessary to radically strengthen defense and security measures, especially in terms of countering drones,” the Russian lawmaker said, according to Reuters. “The fact that all 8 UAVs, according to the Ministry of Defense, were shot down by the air defence system or suppressed by electronic warfare is remarkable. But this should not reassure anyone. Do not underestimate the enemy!”

Northwestern University political science professor William Reno told Newsweek that other drone strikes in Russia before Tuesday’s attack had already shown “that Russia’s best air defenses aren’t sufficient to buffer Russian people from the effects of fighting a war in Ukraine.”

“Putin downplays the attack, claiming that Russian forces saw this sort of thing in Syria,” Reno said. “All of that suggests that Ukrainian planners have identified Putin’s political vulnerabilities and are trying to use these minor attacks as a tool to influence politics inside Russia.”

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via email for comment.


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