The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force has again criticised the Russian military and political elite following the drone attack on Moscow that injured two people, damaged property and left some furious the Kremlin had not better protected the capital city.
In an expletive-drenched statement posted on Telegram by his press service on Tuesday, Yevgeny Prigozhin – whose mercenary fighters have played a key role in the war in Ukraine – blamed the drone attack on out-of-touch officials living in Moscow’s affluent suburb of Rublyovka.
“You, the Defence Ministry, have done nothing to launch an offensive,” Prigozhin said in the statement.
“How dare you allow the drones to reach Moscow?”
“And what do ordinary people do when drones with explosives crash into their windows?”
Focusing his ire on powerful residents of the upmarket Rublyovka area in Moscow’s western suburbs, Prigozhin spoke of the “scum” and “swine” who sat quietly while Moscow was attacked.
In a post on Telegram after the attack on Tuesday, Alexander Khinshtein, a prominent member of Russia’s parliament from the ruling United Russia bloc, said three of the eight drones had been downed over three Rublyovka villages, one of which is located just 10 minutes drive from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s residence at Novo-Ogaryovo.
Rublyovka, a patchwork of elite gated communities in the forests west of Moscow, which once boasted some of the world’s highest real-estate prices, is home to much of Russia’s political, business and cultural elite. Former President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin have been reported to own homes in Rublyovka, alongside many of Russia’s richest business figures.
Wagner boss Prigozhin, known for his blunt and often foul language, has repeatedly cast Rublyovka’s residents as an out-of-touch elite insufficiently committed to the war in Ukraine and has blamed the top brass for Russian failures on the battlefield.
Russian military blogger Igor Girkin – whom a Dutch court found guilty of the murder of 298 people who were killed when flight MH17 was shot down over Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine in 2014 – also criticised Rublyovka residents on Tuesday who, he said, had “never thought about the country”.
He also chided Putin for continuing to state the war in Ukraine was a “special military operation”, despite drone attacks on the Russian capital, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote on Wednesday.
Following the drone attacks, Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of the Russian province of Chechnya, urged the Kremlin to declare martial law nationwide and use all its resources in Ukraine “to sweep away that terrorist gang”.
The ISW, a Washington, DC-based think tank, said that Kadyrov also warned European countries over supplying Ukraine with weapons, stating that “if they continue to supply Ukraine with weapons, they will not have the weapons needed to defend themselves when Russia ‘knocks on their doors’”.
Some Kremlin watchers noted that Putin’s calm reaction to the drone attack contrasted starkly with angry statements from Russian hawks and appears to reflect his belief that the Russian public will not be unsettled by the attack.
Putin said it was clear that Moscow’s air defences need to be improved against what he described as Ukrainian “terrorism”.
Russia’s envoy to the United States said on Wednesday that Washington was encouraging Kyiv to carry out such attacks by not speaking out against the drone raid on Moscow.
The White House said it did not support attacks inside of Russia and that it was still gathering information on the incident.
“What are these attempts to hide behind the phrase that they are ‘gathering information’?” Russian ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said in remarks published on the Telegram messaging channel.
“This is an encouragement for Ukrainian terrorists,” he said.
Though not commenting specifically on the Moscow drone attacks, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Tuesday that Ukraine had the right to attack targets on Russian territory for the purpose of self-defence.
“Ukraine does have the legitimate right to defend itself,” Cleverly said during a press conference with his Estonian counterpart Margus Tsahkna in Estonia’s capital Tallinn.
“It has the legitimate right to do so within its own borders, of course, but it does also have the right to project force beyond its borders to undermine Russia’s ability to project force into Ukraine itself,” he said. “So legitimate military targets beyond its own border are part of Ukraine’s self-defence. And we should recognise that,” he added.
Ukrainian forces shelled a Russian town close to the border for the third time in a week on Wednesday, damaging buildings and setting vehicles on fire, the governor of the region said on Wednesday.
At least one person was injured during the artillery strike on Shebekino, Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.
A Ukrainian drone also sparked a fire at the Afipsky oil refinery in southern Russia on Wednesday, the governor of Russia’s Krasnodar region said.
The fire was soon extinguished and there were no casualties, Governor Veniamin Kondratyev said on the Telegram messaging app. The Afipsky refinery is not far from the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, near another refinery that has been attacked several times this month.