US thinks Ukraine was behind Kremlin drone attack

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United States intelligence agencies believe that a drone attack on the Kremlin this month was likely orchestrated by Ukrainian spies or military intelligence, the New York Times says.

The newspaper said the attack appeared to be part of a series of covert operations that have made officials in the United States — Ukraine's biggest supplier of military equipment — uncomfortable.

The US assessment was based on intercepted Russian and Ukrainian communications, the paper said.

The United States intercepted Ukrainian conversations in which officials said they believed their country was responsible for the attack, and also tapped into Russian communications which indicated it was not some sort of false-flag operation by Russia, it added.

"We immediately said that the Kyiv regime was behind this," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked about the report.

"In the end, it doesn't make much difference which of the units of the Kyiv regime was behind this. The Kyiv regime was behind this, we know this, we are aware of it, and we shall proceed from this as we go forward."

US officials said they do not believe Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signs off on all covert operation, the paper said. It is unclear to what extent he is aware of such operations in advance, the officials were quoted as saying.

Russia accused Ukraine of trying to kill Russian President Vladimir Putin in the attack. Zelenskiy promptly denied any Ukrainian involvement.

The Kremlin has also said the United States was behind the drone attack, a view Washington dismissed as ridiculous.

Meanwhile, Russia's internal spy agency said on Thursday it has detained two Ukrainian saboteurs accused of plotting to blow up the power lines of two nuclear power stations to shut down the reactors and embarrass Russia on the eve the Victory Day holiday earlier this month.

The Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said that the saboteurs working for Ukrainian foreign intelligence had laid explosives on a total of 11 pylons of the Leningrad and Kalinin nuclear power stations.

"The plan of the Ukrainian special services was to prompt the shutdown of the nuclear reactors, disrupt the operation of the nuclear power plants and cause serious economic and reputation damage to the Russian Federation," the FSB said in a statement.

The attacks were due to take place on the eve of the May 9 anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany, the FSB said. It did not say when the men had been arrested.

The Leningrad station is Russia's biggest atomic power plant. It is located on Gulf of Finland close to St Petersburg. The Kalinin nuclear power station is 350 km north of Moscow.

The FSB said the saboteurs were recruited in 2022 by Ukraine's foreign intelligence service (FISU) and received special training at camps in Kyiv and the Mykolaiv region. They entered Russia via Poland and Belarus, the FSB said.

Two Russian accomplices were also detained, the FSB said.

In Bakhmut, Russia's Wagner mercenary group has started withdrawing its forces from the city and transferring its positions there to regular Russian troops, its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video published on Thursday.

"We are withdrawing the units from Bakhmut. From today at five in the morning, May 25 until June 1, most of the units will rebase to camps in the rear. We are handing our positions to the military," he said.

The video was posted on Telegram by his press service, and showed Prigozhin dressed in battle gear and standing beside a war-damaged residential block.

Prigozhin announced the capture of Bakhmut on Saturday after the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

In the latest video Prigozhin, who has repeatedly voiced public criticism of senior Russian defence officials, said his forces would be ready to return to Bakhmut if the regular army was unable to manage the situation.