June 2, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10646

Russia Maintains Stiff Upper Lip Following Drone Strike On Moscow, But Fissures Emerge

June 2, 2023
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 10646

The May 30, 2023 Ukrainian UAV attack on Moscow was a dramatic event in Russia's war with Ukraine, even for those who supported the war, heralding that the conflict had ceased to be "something on the TV screen", and now may affect even the privileged citizens of the capital. After the original shock abated somewhat, an official line took shape ­– Moscow and Russia can take it, and will not succumb to panic as the Ukrainians and their Western enablers hope.

However, there were those who challenged the official line. A since-deleted tweet cited Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin as criticizing the Russian defense establishment and imploring them to take action. There was mockery of the regime for its refusal to abandon the terminology of a special military operation and call a war a war. When Duma member Andrey Gurulev proposed criminalizing reports of drone strikes, the critics pounced on him as a surrogate for the regime and ridiculed the proposal. There was also an element of schadenfreude around the drone strike appearing to target the housing estates of the elite in the Rublyokva district of Moscow. This prompted an irate and pained reaction by Kremlin mouthpiece and TV presenter Vladimir Solovyov and an acid reply by blogger Anatoly Nesmiyan, who compared the public's view of the elite to the hatred felt towards the Czarist police during the 1917 Russian Revolution.

MEMRI's survey of reactions to the Ukrainian drone strike on Moscow follows below:

Wreckage of drone that attacked Moscow. Heading reads: Attack of drones on Moscow. What is known at the current moment. (Source:

Russia Can Take It

Russian officials displayed a position that the attack could be taken in stride, although given Russia's territorial breadth, it was obvious that future such attacks could not be prevented. Russia would employ its experience in combatting terrorism to overcome this latest example of Western backed terrorism.

Dmitry Peskov, the Presidential Press Secretary responded "The air defense system performed well. It's quite clear that we are talking about the Kyiv regime's response to our very effective strikes against one of their decision-making centers. That strike was on Sunday. This is what I can say. I cannot comment any more on this subject."

Andrei Kartapolov, head of the Duma Defense Committee: "This [strike on Moscow apartments] was possible because we have a very big country and there is always a loophole through which a drone can fly, bypassing the air defense systems [...] largely this is an [Ukrainian] information campaign. It was designed to create a wave of panic. The main thing is to prevent this. This is an act of intimidation aimed at the civilian population."

Alexander Khinstein, head of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy warned the country to gird itself for more of the same:

"Today's repelled raid of a squadron of eight drones on Moscow is a new reality to be grasped. Undoubtedly, Ukraine's sabotage and terrorist attacks will only become more frequent. And defense and security measures need to be radically strengthened, particularly in terms of countering UAVs. This includes finally adopting the necessary laws."[1]

Vadim Samodurov, head of the Agency for Strategic Communications argued that Russia was more vulnerable than the US:

"Russia is not the US, which is located across the ocean, which could before and can still now wage wars virtually anywhere in the world without much fear of being 'hit.'

"The distance between Moscow to Kyiv is less than 800 kilometers. One probably should have taken this into account, starting the war. It is clear that Russia underestimated the threats and risks by starting the SVO. And it [Ukrainian attacks] will not be limited to the [border] Belgorod Oblast.

"Attacks on Moscow are totally predictable. And they will become more frequent and intensified as Kyiv receives new arms.

"Russian society has at some point decided that it is possible to 'sit back' and not even notice the unfolding events. But this is infantilism and stupidity. The 'Chipmunk Nation' has to come out of its burrow."[2]

Sergey Starovoitov, Director at the Regional Federal Expert Network hoped that the strike would kindle further enthusiasm for the special military operation:

"Ukraine has attacked Moscow with UAVs in order to influence public opinion, an attack on a par with the shelling of Belgorod Oblast and the sabotage reconnaissance raids. But we see that public opinion is not reacting the way the Ukrainian regime would like it to. Rather, there is a hardening of society and a rallying around the idea of eliminating the threat, best expressed by the governor of Belgorod, who suggested annexing the Kharkov Oblast to Russia to protect Belgorod residents from shelling. I believe that the SVO has entered its new phase."[3]

The conservative Russian business daily Vzglyad exulted in the Muscovites mature reaction to the attack that caused disappointment in the West.

"'There are no signs of panic in Moscow,' the European press informs readers with surprise. Western journalists seem to have expected a very different reaction from Muscovites to the recent terrorist attack by Ukrainian UAVs on the Russian capital. At the same time, to describe the events that take place, they do not balk at including outright lies.

"The West is displeased with the drone attack on Moscow, but not because it fears a retaliatory escalation in Ukraine. And definitely not because it is concerned with the fate of Muscovites or the safety of architectural monuments. And, of course, neither Western politicians nor the Western press even thought of condemning the terrorist attacks by Ukraine on a peaceful Russian city and its inhabitants.

"The West is much more worried about the fact that the inhabitants of our country were able to maintain their composure in these difficult circumstances and not succumb to panic. This is not at all an idle interest and not an abstract question. The opponents of Russia really want to find some sore point or, if you like, a magic button, that by pressing, you can cause unrest in the country and thereby facilitate the enemy's work." [4]

As an aside, despite the calm the demand for an anti-drone gun skyrocketed in Moscow. Would-be purchasers found themselves in the predicament that purchasing the device did not require any permit, however it was impossible to use it without breaking the law.[5]

Mikhail Rostovsky, Moskovskiy Komsomolets senior commentator, provided a lengthy presentation of the argument that calm and resolve offered the best response. He also incorporated the official message that the conflict had long expanded from a special military operation in Ukraine to a struggle for "reformatting the world".  This explained why Moscow was not immune to such attacks. He wrote: [6]

"One of the features of Russian political life is a pronounced "capital-centrism". The decisive role in terms of shaping the political and emotional climate in the country is played not by what is happening in the outback and on the periphery, but by what is happening in the very heart of the state – Russia's main city.

"A spontaneous and very natural reaction to what happened is to first ask yourself and others the question: 'How can this be?', This is followed by the vociferous demand: "This should not happen again! The authorities must ensure this!"

"Alas, this reaction, which is most understandable and logical in human terms, categorically does not coincide with the reality in which we all now live. In the course of a military conflict, there can be no one hundred percent and absolute guarantees. And Russia is now in a state of not just a serious, but a very serious military conflict. There is a struggle for, as politicians and diplomats put it, "reformatting the world." And if in the course of logging wood chips fly, then in the course of reformatting the world, explosions rumble, terrorist attacks occur and drones."

Rostovsky cited British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin predicting in the 1930s that British cities would be subjected to air attack.

"And here is the modern equivalent of the same statement. My former MK colleague and current chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy Alexander Khinshtein: 'The drone squadron raid on Moscow today is a new reality that needs to be realized. Undoubtedly, the sabotage and terrorist attacks of Ukraine will only increase... The fact that all 8 UAVs, according to the Ministry of Defense, were shot down by an air defense system or suppressed by electronic warfare, is remarkable. But this should not reassure anyone. Don't underestimate the enemy!'

Aleksander Khinshtein (source:

"The purely military aspect is deeply secondary here. But the political and psychological are paramount. It is in this area - the struggle for public opinion - that the main 'great game' will now take place. The first move in this game is obvious: another tightening of Russian legislation.

"The main tasks of the parties are also clear. With the help of 'formative operations' (a term from a recent article by The Financial Times), Ukraine will seek to undermine the level of support for the SVO and the authorities as a whole within Russian society, and to provoke the emergence and growth of internal instability in the country.

"The task of the Kremlin is exactly the opposite: to maintain political stability in Russia, to redirect the negative energy of people to official Kyiv and the collective West behind it."

Russian officials followed this advice. Andrei Krasov, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee likened the response to drone attack to Russia [and Putin's] crushing Muslim terrorist insurgencies in Russia and Syria:

"We acquired this experience in the fight against terrorists in the North Caucasus and in Syria; we have a lot of combat experience. We will apply this experience properly now as well. The terrorist will be destroyed. Our cause is right, the terrorist will be defeated, and victory will be ours."[7]

Grigory Sarbaev, the founder of the "Zakonoved" law firm also referred back to the lessons of the Caucasus:

"The mass terrorist attacks are intended to propagate panic in society and thereby undermine the political situation in Russia. It's clear that despite considerable support on part of the West, a military victory over Russia will not be achieved.

"The only possible scenario for them to achieve the victory, therefore, was and remains a coup in Russia followed by the collapse of the country. In order to achieve it, the level of fear must be raised to the point of one's inability to adequately assess the situation and the authorities must be delegitimized [and seen as] impotent to protect the population from external threats.

"We went through this 20 years ago in Beslan and Nord-Ost, only the methods and nationality of the terrorists have changed, but not their goals. Now, one can witness a better state preparedness (in orders of magnitude) to such a scenario, but both then and now the solution to the problem of terrorism is the same: destroying not only the open enemies but also their internal accomplices, including those in the system of state administration (which is, perhaps, far more important now)."[8]

Denis Pushilin, acting head of the Donetsk People's Republic framed the attack as a sign of Ukrainian hysteria:

"Today's attack of Ukrainian UAVs on Moscow demonstrated three things: the absolute hysteria of the Ukrainian military and political leadership, which has once again demonstrated that it is capable of expending any resources and means for the sake of a direct provocation. The result was not achieved, but the attempt was presented to the West by the Kyiv regime."

Maria Butina, a member at the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, who was imprisoned in the United States for acting as an unregistered Russian agent suggested the threat of retaliation against NATO countries. "NATO member-states, which supply arms to Ukraine, play a very big role in this. They are very well aware that such actions bring the world closer to a possible catastrophe. There is no doubt that our diplomacy, both official, through the Foreign Ministry and via parliamentary diplomacy, will play a huge role in making these people understand that by putting any place on the territory of our country at risk, they are putting any place on their territory at risk as well."[9]

Maria Butina (Source:

Not everybody went along with the official line. Although Igor Strelkov, the former Donetsk People's Republic "defense minister" has criticized Yevgeny Prigozhin, this time he was willing to relay Prigozhin's expletive laden outburst following the attack.The Nezigar Telegram channel reported the following criticisms of the leadership in the wake of the attack:

"You stinking scum, what are you doing? You are bastards! Get your asses out of the offices you were put in to defend this country. You are the Ministry of Defense. You haven't done shit to advance. Why the f*ck would you allow these drones to enter Moscow? I don't give a f*ck if this UAVs would fly into your house on Rublyovka! Let your houses burn. But what are ordinary people supposed to do when drones carrying explosives fly into their windows? So, as a citizen I deeply resent the fact that these scum relax and keep their fat asses in comfort covered expensive creams. And that is why I believe people have every right to question them, these scum.

"And I have warned them many times before, but no one wants to listen. Because I'm angry and I upset the bureaucrats who enjoy a great life."[10]

The Nezigar Telegram channel reported the following criticisms of the leadership in the wake of the attack:

@boris975 wrote: "The strength of the psychological impact of the Ukrainian raids on Moscow is not in the amount of destruction, but in the fact that the country's leadership promised not war, but special military operations [SVO]."

@rusbrief commented in the same vein. "We are probably close to replacing the inarticulate and protracted SVO with a counter-terrorist operation. Of course, we have no war. "

@scenario13 articulated the claim that the leadership had failed to prosecute the war to the fullest: "What has happened raises questions about the adequacy of the leadership, which so far pretends that war is not happening and that martial law and the transfer of the economy to martial law are unnecessary."

@logikamarkova agreed: "The answer should be to stop pretending that we have a special operation. And finally start a real war."[11]

Nezigar also reported the derisive comments elicited by Duma deputy Andrei Gurulev announcement that he was sponsoring a bill criminalizing the filming of UAVs, as some Moscow residents had done during the attack:

@HUhmuroeutro wrote: "It's been decided: since it's impossible to reach those who launch drones, those who film drone attacks or report on them will be designated responsible.

@vizioner_rf explained the logic: "It's simple: we need to urgently start arresting everyone who informs the wrong people (i.e., the Russian people) about attacks, then we can pretend that they just didn't happen."

@dirtytatarstan concurred: "There are two options. First, Mr. Deputy does not understand the difference between filming the UAV attack and filming air defense, or a UAV hitting a target and the consequences of such an attack. The other option is that Andrey lives by the principle 'if I close my eyes, the problem will disappear.'"

@newizvestya claimed that the authorities were falling back on their tendency to censor everything in lieu of leveling with the people: "Instead of strengthening air defense, they decided to strengthen censorship. Instead of developing communications, they decided to revive 'word of mouth.'"[12]

Solidarity With Rublyovka, Home To Moscow's Elite?

Television presenter Vladimir Solovyov was aghast at the merriment expressed is some quarters over the fact that Rublyovka, home to Russia's high and mighty was targeted. He berated such reactions: "Why are you so happy, 'ah, [you see!] Rublyovka!' Our compatriots live there, isn't that the case? Or are we no longer a united country, no longer one people? So, shake things up a bit and retrieve your 'you deserve it.' Just shove your ego up your ass a little bit and think about the country.""[13]

Vladimir Solovyov appearing on the program that he has anchored since 2012 (Source:

Solovyov's plaint elicited the following sharp rejoinder from Anatoly Nesmiyan (a.k.a. "El-Murid"):

"It turns out that slogans appealing to solidarity do not work. An 'ordinary' Russian citizen does not want to feel his sense of unity with thieves. This is why the propagandist [Solovyov] is 'grieving.' So many years of work, and suddenly you discover that they all went down the drain.

"These people do not know the country which they rob, plunder and cheat. They don't know at all. They live in a make-believe world, in a Russia that they've invented. And when they suddenly encounter reality, it shocks them.

"No matter how many 'Sunday Evening with Vladimir Solovyov' shows you host, you won't be able to create a sense of unity between the gangsters and everyone else.

"Even considering Solovyov's talents, which he undoubtedly possesses, only he has traded them in for service to all sorts of scum.

"No, Vladimir Rudolfovich [Solovyov], it's not our compatriots who live in Rublyovka. They are your compatriots. They are complete strangers to the rest of the country. That's why people are expressing a sense of deep satisfaction, although the occasion is, naturally, not a happy one.

"Likewise, the tsar's policemen who were drowned into the Obvodny Canal in Petrograd [St. Petersburg] in February and March of 1917 were strangers [to the people].

"It seemed that not so long ago, however, that the God-bearing people [in this case Orthodox Russians of the Russian Empire] were united in their love for the anointed one [tsar] and his court. It has always been and always will be so in a country where the government acts as an occupant. And the current one is no different. And how can there be unity with the occupier?"[14]


[1], May 30, 2023.

[2], May 31, 2023.

[3], May 31, 2023.

[4], May 31, 2023.

[5], May 31. 2023.

[6], May 30, 2023.

[7], May 30, 2023.

[8], May 31, 2023.

[9], May 30, 2023.

[10], May 30, 2023.

[11], May 31, 2023.

[12], May 31, 2023.

[13], May 30, 2023.

[14], May 30. 2023.

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