The alleged attempt to “assassinate” Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely staged by the Kremlin to justify a future effort to mobilize troops for the war in Ukraine, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
The Russian government on Wednesday issued a statement alleging that two Ukrainian drones had been destroyed near Putin’s official residence in Moscow. The Kremlin said that the drones were attempting to carry out “a planned terrorist attack” by assassinating Putin just before “Victory Day” celebrations on May 9. Ukraine has denied any involvement.
While video of the drones dramatically exploding over Kremlin grounds appeared online soon after the purported attack occurred, the incident immediately raised eyebrows, with a number of experts and commentators suggesting that it may have been a staged “propaganda” event intended to drum up Russian support for the war.
ISW, the U.S.-based think tank, said in a report published on Wednesday night that the Russian government “likely staged” the purported assassination attempt “to bring the war home to a Russian domestic audience and set conditions for a wider societal mobilization.”
The ISW report asserts that “several indicators” suggest the attack was staged, noting that Russia recently enhanced “domestic air defense capabilities” while arguing it was “extremely unlikely” that Ukrainian drones could have thwarted “multiple layers of air defense” and be destroyed “in a way that provided spectacular imagery caught nicely on camera.”
The think tank also surmised that the Kremlin’s response to the supposed assassination attempt would have been “much more disorganized” if it had been a “surprise attack” by Ukraine, speculating that Russian officials would have “scrambled to generate a coherent narrative and offset the rhetorical implications of a clear informational embarrassment.”
“The rapid and coherent presentation of an official Russian narrative around the strike suggests that Russia staged this incident in close proximity to the May 9th Victory Day holiday in order to frame the war as existential to its domestic audience,” the ISW report states.
“Russia is employing an array of measures to frame the war in Ukraine as existential to Russia’s domestic audience and to prepare for wider societal mobilization,” it continues. “The purpose of this false flag attack was to justify increased mobilization measures.”
Newsweek has reached out via email to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.
ISW went on to say that Moscow “may be planning to conduct other false flag operations and increase disinformation” to bolster Russian support for the war before an expected Ukrainian counterattack.
The think tank cited a Ukrainian government report while claiming that Russian troops had recently “received Ukrainian uniforms in order to conduct a false flag operation in border areas,” while also noting that pro-Kremlin military bloggers suggested a Ukrainian invasion of Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region was imminent.