The editor-in-chief of Russia Today was narrowly missed by a drone in the latest attack on Moscow on Monday morning, with some of the capital’s most exclusive suburbs increasingly coming under fire.
“The drone that was shot down in the Istra district fell on the street next to us,” said Margarita Simonyan, one of the highest-profile Russian media personalities and a staunch supporter of the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s defence ministry reported that two drones were brought down over Moscow, with two injuries in Istra caused by falling debris, the latest in a series of strikes on the capital.
Jailed dissident Alexei Navalny‘s foundation posted images online said to show Ms Simonyan’s multimillion-pound mansion, one of many in an upmarket district 30 miles west of Moscow that is home to its own “Billionaire’s Row”.
“The houses start at $2m (£1.6m) and there are a lot of famous people,” said Misha Starov, a businessman in Moscow who lives nearby. “If you shoot a drone in that direction you will definitely hit someone well known.”
There was little sympathy for Ms Simonyan among Muscovites in the aftermath of the strike. “Shame they missed,” said one, who did not give a name. Elites had involved Russia in the war in Ukraine and should pay the price for it instead of ordinary people, they said.
Istra is not the only Moscow suburb to come under fire. In May, three drones were reportedly shot down over Rublevka to the south, the most exclusive district in the country, full of luxury villas owned by celebrities, oligarchs, and regime officials, including President Vladimir Putin.
Last August, a car bomb attributed to Ukraine killed pro-regime journalist Daria Dugina on the outskirts of Rublevka, in one of the first major attacks inside Russia of the war.
Kyiv rarely claims attacks inside Russia in deference to US policies based on fear of escalation. But President Volodymyr Zelensky warned “the war is returning to the territory of Russia” after a series of drone strikes on Moscow last month.
Ukraine is also conducting a covert campaign of assassinations against high-profile Russian targets, confirmed by intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov, who said his agencies had “successfully targeted quite a few people”.
Targets have included military figures involved in the invasion, such as submarine commander Stanislav Rzhitsky, gunned down in a park in Krasnodar last month, as well as regime-adjacent figures including Miss Dugina and her father Alexander Dugin, a far right philosopher and personal friend of Mr Putin.
Russian media reported claims that security services foiled an assassination plot against Ms Simonyan.
Analysts believe attacks inside Russia are intended to undermine public confidence in the war and regime.
In a recent post, Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, suggested they represent a “political campaign aimed at weakening Russian beliefs in the effectiveness of their own state”.
Attacks on Russian elites in their own exclusive gated suburbs could mark an escalation of that strategy.