Several indicators suggest that a drone strike against the Kremlin on May 3 was internally conducted and purposefully staged by Russia, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest update.
Russian authorities have recently taken steps to increase Russian domestic air defense capabilities, including within Moscow itself. "It is extremely unlikely that two drones could have penetrated multiple layers of air defense and detonated or been shot down just over the heart of the Kremlin in a way that provided spectacular imagery caught nicely on camera," reads the analysis.
Geolocated imagery from January 2023 shows that Russian authorities have been placing Pantsir air defense systems near Moscow to create air defense circles around the city.
"A strike that avoided detection and destruction by such air defense assets and succeeded in hitting as high-profile of a target as the Kremlin Senate Palace would be a significant embarrassment for Russia," the ISW said. The Kremlin’s immediate, coherent, and coordinated response to the incident suggests that the attack was internally prepared in such a way that its intended political effects outweigh its embarrassment.
The Kremlin immediately accused Ukraine of conducting a terror attack, and Russian official responses coalesced rapidly around this accusation, according to the ISW.
"If the drone attack had not been internally staged it would have been a surprise event," the ISW said, adding that the Kremlin has notably failed to generate a timely and coherent informational response to other military humiliations not of its own making, including the falls of Balakliya and Kherson in September and November 2022.