US officials have picked up chatter among Ukrainian officials blaming each other for a drone attack on the Kremlin earlier this month, contributing to a US assessment that a Ukrainian group may have been responsible, sources familiar with the intelligence told CNN.
The intercepts include some members of Ukraine’s military and intelligence bureaucracy speculating that Ukrainian special operations forces conducted the operation.
The chatter, combined with other intercepted communications of Russian officials blaming Ukraine for the attack and wondering how it happened, has led US officials to consider the possibility that a Ukrainian group was behind the incident on May 3. On that morning, two drones flew up toward the Kremlin’s Senate Palace and struck the top of the building.
However, the US has not been able to reach a definitive conclusion on who was responsible and only assesses with low confidence that a Ukrainian group may have been behind the incident, officials said. US officials also still believe it is unlikely that senior Ukrainian government officials, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, ordered the attack or knew about it beforehand.
Recent US intelligence reports have assessed that Russian officials have speculated privately, as they have publicly, that Ukraine was behind the attack, leading officials to believe that the incident was likely not a state-sponsored false-flag operation intended to give Russia a pretext to further escalate its war on Ukraine.
The Kremlin has also made some internal security changes in response to the attack, one source familiar with the intelligence said, declining to go into detail. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said publicly following the episode that the city’s air defenses would be tightened.
The drones that hit the Kremlin appeared small, with a relatively light payload, which is probably why they didn’t trigger Russian air defenses, sources told CNN. It is unclear whether they would have had sufficient range to be flown from Ukraine to Moscow.
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