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Kremlin uses outdated tools and ideologemes that now yield minimal effect

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The attack of a pair of drones on Putin’s Kremlin residence is a false flag operation that has the opposite effect, similar to the consequences of the 1987 incident involving the landing of a Cessna-172 on Red Square.

On May 3, two unidentified drones allegedly attacked the Senate Palace, which is part of the Kremlin complex in the heart of Moscow. Both were downed above the building’s roof without causing any damage to the Palace. The Kremlin press service said there were no casualties as a result of the incident.

There are a number of inconsistencies in Russian coverage of the incident:

1. Videos showing the moment the drones were intercepted emerged on social media. The first UAV was downed at 02:27 local time and the second was destroyed 16 minutes later. The circumstances of the video recording of the overnight attack point to a staged act. In reality, shooting such videos given the surprise effect and the specified time period would be impossible.

2. The drone attack on the Kremlin surpasses in its significance the effect of Matthias Rust’s light aircraft landing on Red Square in May 1987, after which the disgraced minister of defense and air defense commander were sacked. No one was fired following the drone attack, although the incident publicly confirmed the embarrassing weakness of Russia’s air defense systems and Moscow’s vulnerability to air strikes. As a result, Moscow suffered international image losses.

The public reaction of the Kremlin’s press service shows that the incident is indeed perceived as sensitive. However, this reaction did not full correspond to the level of concern.

3. The lack of personnel reshuffles confirms the assumption of a staged act since the goals of the entire operation would be more significant than PR mishaps.

4. Since 2016, observers have reported regular failures of navigation systems around the Kremlin, which was believed to be due to active e-warfare interference. Critical failures in GPS operations have been reported, which makes the approach of a UJ-22 type UAV (the main version pursued by the Russians) into the access denial area highly unlikely. So any effort by unmanned aerial vehicles to penetrate the airspace over the Kremlin would face massive EW challenges almost impossible to tackle.

5. Thus, the incident over the Senate Palace looks like it was Russia’s pre-planned psyop. Its main focus is on mobilizing society, rallying people around President Putin, as well as increasing the population’s mobilization readiness and preparing citizens for the introduction of martial law. The operation’s style points to Nikolai Patrushev as its possible ideologist. It was he who developed the “Ryazan Sugar” operation on the eve of the Chechen war.

There are doubts that the operation will yield the result sought by the Kremlin. It is obvious that the mobilization efforts undertaken by Moscow are both belated and ineffective. On the contrary, they have rather the opposite effect, demonstrating the regime’s weakness and its inability to not only achieve gains in Ukraine but also to protect their own territory. This is also facilitated by some internal rows, such as Yevgeny Prigozhin’s newly escalated conflict with the Ministry of Defense and General Staff. Thus, we can conclude that the psyop, carried out by Putin’s entourage, is a variation of similar operations run in the late 1990s. It is obvious that the Russians have not evolved since that time and continue to use outdated tools and ideologemes, which today have minimal effect.

It is likely that there are additional tasks that the Kremlin is trying to solve by launching that drone attack. First of all, this creates grounds for absolving Putin of the need to appear in public in the wake of his health problems. Also, Kremlin is getting more room to make changes to the schedule of public events, citing risks to the president’s life.


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6. The attack on the Kremlin launched the flywheel of calls on the part of Moscow hawks for deploying nuclear weapons. Such a scenario is unlikely, and the threats more likely come as the initiative of Russian politicians who seek to boost their public image at Putin’s expense as the latter seems to have become a less resolute figure due to his restrained reaction to the incident. This indirectly confirms the staged act hypothesis: Putin is aware of the false flag attack so he doesn’t raise the degree of tension by voicing any nuclear threats. However, the radical wing of Putin’s entourage is exploiting the attack factor to put pressure on the West – and Kyiv – in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive. It’s in this context that the allegation of U.S. involvement in the strike’s planning should be perceived. Probably, the masterminds behind the stunt planned to use this as an argument in their efforts to disrupt arms supplies to Ukraine by shaping a negative attitude in Western Europe and the United States towards such assistance within discourse on the risks of a nuclear conflict.

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