The New York Times verified the videos, but it was unknown who was behind the drone attacks.
On May 3, 2023, a viral video showed smoke rising from the Kremlin, while in another, an aerial object appeared to crash and explode on one of the building's famous domes. Rumors spread that these videos were evidence of Ukraine using drones to attack Russia.
One Twitter user shared the video of the aerial object, writing, "Drone attack on Kremlin which Russia said was assassination attempt on Putin."
In the caption for another video showing smoke rising from the Kremlin, another Twitter user wrote, "At night, Ukrainian formations used drones to attack the Kremlin residence of the President of Russia. The sound of the explosion was also reported by local residents on Serafimovich Street in Moscow."
In another video, a small fire was visible on the surface of the dome.
The Russian government released a statement accusing Ukraine of attacking the Kremlin:
Tonight, the Kyiv regime made an attempt to strike with unmanned aerial vehicles on the Kremlin residence of the President of the Russian Federation.
Two unmanned aerial vehicles were aimed at the Kremlin. As a result of timely actions taken by the military and special services with the use of radar warfare systems, the vehicles were put out of action. As a result of their fall and the scattering of fragments on the territory of the Kremlin, there were no victims or material damage.
We regard these actions as a planned terrorist act and an attempt on the President, carried out on the eve of Victory Day, the May 9th Parade, at which the presence of foreign guests is also planned.
As a result of this terrorist act, the President was not injured. The schedule of its work has not changed, it continues as usual.
The Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures where and when it sees fit.
But there's been no independent reporting confirming who was responsible for the attack.
The New York Times said it verified two videos, one of which showed "what appears to be a drone flying toward and exploding over the Kremlin Senate, which houses the president's executive office; another video shows the dome of the Senate building on fire." It is likely that these are the same videos circulating on social media. Times reporters did not confirm who was behind the attack. The Times described how it verified the footage:
By synchronizing the footage, Times reporters were able to confirm that two videos filmed from different angles captured the same explosion over the building, which houses the president's executive office.
The Associated Press (AP) described how a video showing smoke rising from the site was published overnight on a local Moscow news Telegram channel. Accompanying text on the video said residents in a nearby apartment reported hearing bangs and seeing the smoke around 2:30 a.m. local time. But AP stated it was unable to verify the authenticity of the video. The BBC also described the footage as "unverified."
According to Al Jazeera English, the video showing smoke rising behind the Kremlin Palace appeared to be shot from across the river, and was originally posted on a group for residents of the neighborhood facing the Kremlin from across the Moskva River and picked up by Russian media.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials denied responsibility. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, while on a trip to Finland, said, "We don't attack Putin or Moscow," he told TV2, a Nordic broadcaster. "We fight on our territory. We're defending our villages and cities. We don't have enough weapons for these."
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, told The New York Times, "Ukraine definitely has nothing to do with the drone attacks on the Kremlin."
In a Twitter post, he added that Ukraine's war actions were "exclusively defensive" and the Russian claims were "predictable." He said the Russians would use the drone incident to prepare "a large-scale terrorist attack."
Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian minister of internal affairs, claimed that Russian partisans were likely perpetrators of the attack.
Podolyak told The Associated Press that it made no sense for Ukraine to launch such an attack:
We do not attack the Kremlin because, first of all, it does not solve any military problems. Absolutely. And this is extremely disadvantageous from the point of view of preparing our offensive measures. [...] And most importantly, it would allow Russia to justify massive strikes on Ukrainian cities, on the civilian population, on infrastructure facilities. Why do we need this?
U.S. officials offered no more information on the purported drone strike and claims from Ukraine and Russia, saying they had not yet determined what actually happened.
A string of drone attacks and one car bombing have recently hit Russian territory from unknown perpetrators. While Ukraine denied involvement in the car bomb, U.S. intelligence officials said they believed the bombing had been authorized by parts of the Ukrainian government. Meanwhile, Russian drones targeted Kyiv for three of the last six nights.
Because both sides of the war offered differing accounts of who was responsible for the drone attacks, and no independent reporting had confirmed the sources, we have rated this claim as "Research in Progress." We will update this story when we learn more.