Ukrainian law students and young lawyers are reporting for JURIST on developments in and affecting Ukraine. This dispatch is from Yulii Kozub, a law student from Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv. He files this from Vienna.
On Tuesday, May 30, there was a mass aerial drone strike on Moscow. Drones have fallen in Russia before and have even hit strategic targets, but it was the first time such a significant, multi-pronged attack had taken place on Russia’s capital city.
The capital in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes usually occupies a very large place in a state’s domestic politics. In such states, everything is built on the nomenklatura, which sits in the capital. Non-democratic states are highly centralized.
Moscow differs from any region of Russia in all socio-economic indicators, as if it were even not part of Russia. This centralization has always been there, ever since the days of the Russian Empire, but the capital finally assumed overwhelming importance in the days of Soviet power. Even when famine was raging throughout the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and people in Ukraine, the Kuban, and the banks of the Volga River were dying by the hundreds of thousands from starvation, Moscow was full of food.
Such centralization has its own significant advantage – when all the power and all the interests are concentrated within the radius of the Kremlin, you are deeply indifferent to the problems in the outskirts of the empire. Recent events in the Belgorod region demonstrate this very clearly. You don’t care about what’s going on in the border towns – as long as everything is the same in Moscow.
For the past year, the typical news from any Russian region bordering on Ukraine has been about artillery shelling, drone attacks, the invasion of a sabotage group, a bomb falling from your own plane, the explosion of railroad tracks, etc. And what is the typical news from Moscow? Mayor Sergei Sobyanin opening a subway, a Ferris wheel, a hospital or a park. If you compare Moscow news and federal news, you get the impression that we are talking about two different countries.
It is obvious to Ukrainian generals that in order to put pressure on the Russian authorities and to bring chaos to their actions, it is much more effective to drop one drone on Moscow blowing out three windows than to enter Belgorod. The Ukrainian military leadership understands that the Russian authorities can ignore many things, including a direct invasion supported by tanks if this much happens more than 100 kilometers from Moscow. But now we are talking about Moscow; it will have to be defended at all costs, and any air defense forces, even the most important areas, will have to be redeployed. When they hit Moscow, everyone can see it, they can see how weak this government has become, how incapable of dealing with the consequences of what it itself has started, for whatever reason. At such moments, even the most ardent supporters of the war must wonder about the incompetence of the current Russian government.
As for this attack, it was literally a “pilot project”. Different types of drones flew for a reason, not out of poverty, and some were serially produced in Ukraine. This was a test and a test of efficiency. The UAVs flew hundreds of kilometers. Understandably there are questions about the ones that flew into the apartments of suburban Moscovites. I am sure none of this was an accident, but a deliberate first test launch.