Wednesday, Russia accused Ukraine of attempting to assassinate President Vladimir Putin by launching a drone attack on the Kremlin citadel in Moscow and threatened retaliation.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine stated that Kyiv had nothing to do with the alleged nocturnal incident.
"We don't attack Putin or Moscow, we fight on our territory," Zelenskiy said during a press conference in Finland, referring to the war against Russian occupiers.
A senior aide to Zelenskiy described the accusation as an indication that the Kremlin was planning a significant new attack on Ukraine at a time when Kyiv was preparing to launch a long-awaited counteroffensive.
Ukraine reported alerts for air strikes over Kyiv and other cities shortly after the Kremlin announced.
According to Russia, the Kremlin was the target of two unmanned aerial vehicles.
As a result of "timely actions taken by the military and special services using radar warfare systems," the devices were rendered inoperable, according to a Kremlin statement.
"We view these events as a premeditated terrorist attack and an attempt on the president's life, committed on the eve of Victory Day, the May 9 Parade, where the presence of foreign guests is also planned."
Fragments of drones were dispersed across the Kremlin's grounds, but no injuries or damage were reported.
Putin was not in danger. According to the RIA news agency, he was not in the Kremlin then and worked at his Novo Ogaryovo residence outside of Moscow on Wednesday.
"The Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures when and where it sees fit," the Kremlin added.
The former Russian president and current deputy head of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, stated that the incident "leaves us with no choice but to eliminate Zelenskiy and his gang physically."
Smoke Over Kremlin
Two of the numerous videos published on Russian social media channels depict two objects flying in tandem toward the Senate dome, one of the tallest points in the Kremlin complex. The first appeared to be annihilated with little more than a puff of vapor, while the second appeared to leave a blazing trail of destruction on the dome.
Time and location checks conducted by Reuters indicated that the videos might be genuine; however, some Western analysts speculated that Russia may have staged the incident to blame Kyiv and justify a devastating response.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, stated that the drone allegation, coupled with Russia's announcement that it had apprehended suspected saboteurs in the Russian-occupied region of Crimea, "clearly indicates the preparation of a large-scale terrorist provocation by Russia in the coming days."
White House officials said they were aware of reports that Russia had accused Ukraine of attacking the Kremlin with drones in an attempt to assassinate Putin, but they were unable to confirm the allegations.
According to Russia, its "special military operation" was launched to counter a threat posed by Ukraine's relations with the West. Ukraine and its allies refer to it as an unprovoked war of conquest by Moscow, halted by a thwarted assault on the capital Kyiv early last year and Ukrainian advances in the second half of 2022.
In the past five months, Ukrainian ground forces have maintained a defensive posture, while Russia launched a massive, largely ineffective winter offensive, capturing little new territory.
Kherson Shelled, 18 Killed
18 civilians were killed, and 46 were injured in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson on Wednesday as a result of heavy Russian shelling that targeted a hypermarket, a train station, and residential structures, according to Ukrainian officials.
At least 12 of those slain were in Kherson city, which Russian-occupied regions of Kherson province have repeatedly shelled. Three engineers were killed while attempting to repair damage to the power infrastructure caused by earlier Russian bombardments.
"When the enemy can achieve nothing on the battlefield, it strikes peaceful cities," said Ukrainian military spokesperson Serhii Cherevatyi.
Elsewhere, oil depots were ablaze in southern Russia and Ukraine as both parties escalated their drone war in anticipation of Kyiv's promised spring counteroffensive against Russian forces.
Overnight, Ukraine reportedly fired down 21 of 26 Iranian-made drones.
Ukraine and Russia have been conducting long-range strikes since last week, ostensibly in anticipation of an impending Ukrainian counteroffensive, which Zelenskiy predicted would be aided by Western supplies of sophisticated armaments.
Moscow claims to have struck military targets but has provided no supporting evidence. Without verifying any involvement in incidents in Russia or Crimea, Kyiv asserts the destruction of infrastructure in preparation for its planned ground assault.
Wednesday marked Zelenskiy's fourth documented trip abroad since Russia invaded Ukraine. Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish leaders also attended his visit.
The five Nordic nations endorsed Zelenskiy's stated objectives of bolstering Ukraine's military and securing eventual membership in the NATO alliance.
Later, Blinken reported that the U.S. government authorized an additional $300 million in arms and materiel for Ukraine.