Russian nationalist commentators said Tuesday that the first mass drone attack to strike Moscow highlights the government’s inability to prepare the population for a prolonged conflict that is steadily crossing the nation’s borders.
The flurry of drones that targeted the Russian capital on Tuesday morning caused minimal damage, shattering some windows in three residential buildings and lightly injuring two residents, according to local officials. The attack’s biggest impact, however, is likely to be psychological, forcing Muscovites to confront the reality of Russia’s war in Ukraine, which many have worked hard to block from their daily lives.
“If the goal was to stress the population, then the very fact that drones have appeared in the skies over Moscow has contributed to that,” wrote Mikhail Zvinchuk, a pro-war Russian military blogger who posts under the moniker Rybar and has more than a million followers on the Telegram messaging app.
The head of the country’s Wagner paramilitary group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, said the attack highlighted Russia’s technological lag in drone warfare, which he has previously said is shaping the conflict in Ukraine. He also used it to step up his attacks on Russian defense officials, whom he has long accused of incompetence.
“What should common people do when explosives-laden drones are crashing into their windows?,” he said in an audio message posted on Telegram on Tuesday after the Moscow attack. Using at least six different expletives to describe Russian defense officials, he added: “The people have full right to ask them these questions.”
The fact that some of the drones crashed in upscale neighborhoods gave particular resonance to Mr. Prigozhin’s broadside. “Let your homes burn,” he said, referring to military and political elites.
Pro-Kremlin propagandists tried to portray the muted public response to the drone strike as a show of Muscovites’ grit, and as being merely the latest in a long history of attacks suffered in the Russian capital throughout its history. Commentators, including Andrei Medvedev, a state media journalist and local Moscow lawmaker, argued that previous attacks have ended with Russian victories.
The Kremlin’s spokesman said only that the Defense Ministry had “acted well” in responding to the attack, declining to comment further in his daily call with reporters on Tuesday. Russian officials mimicked the Kremlin’s line, with a governing party lawmaker, Andrei Gurulev, saying that Muscovites were more likely to get hit by an electric scooter than a drone in the city center.
The muted response added to a sense of what the Russian government’s critics on the right have called a leadership vacuum after increasingly brazen attacks on Russian territory. President Vladimir V. Putin, for example, has not commented on last week’s raid on the Belgorod region, which led to at least two days of heavy fighting.
“The strength of the psychological blow caused by the drone attack on Moscow is not in the scale of destruction, but in the fact that the nation’s leadership has promised us not a war, but a special military operation,” wrote Igor Girkin, a former paramilitary leader who had long called for an escalation of the war in Ukraine.
“Instead of an honest conversation with a nation, we get blurry consolations about Napoleon’s conquest of Moscow: Don’t worry, everything is going to plan,” he wrote on Telegram on Tuesday. “What is the real plan then?”
Tatiana Stanovaya, a Russian political scientist based in Paris, said that a lack of wartime leadership was becoming increasingly glaring. “Everything is built on his often voiced idea of a ‘patient nation’ that understands everything and will endure anything,” she wrote on Telegram on Tuesday, referring to Mr. Putin. “Let’s see.”