US rejects Russia’s ‘ludicrous claim’ it was behind alleged attack on Kremlin as Moscow warns of ‘open-armed conflict’

By Helen Regan and Yulia Kesaieva, CNN

The United States rejected “ludicrous” accusations from Russia that it was behind an alleged drone attack on the Kremlin as Moscow’s deputy foreign minister warned the two powers are on the precipice of an “open-armed conflict.”

Relations between the US and Russia are at their lowest point since the Cold War, but in the aftermath of Wednesday’s purported drone attack on the Kremlin – the official residence of the Russian president – Moscow has dramatically dialed up its rhetoric.

When asked by CNN if Moscow believed the US was behind the attack, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “Undoubtedly, such decisions, the definition of goals, the definition of means – all this is dictated to Kyiv from Washington.”

“We are well aware that decisions on such actions and such terrorist attacks are not made in Kyiv, but in Washington. And Kyiv is already executing what it is told to do,” Peskov said.

Peskov did not provide any evidence to his claims, nor additional details regarding the alleged attack, saying that information would be released later.

Earlier this week, Russia claimed Ukraine launched a drone strike targeting the Kremlin in an attempt to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling it a “planned terrorist attack.” Ukraine has strongly denied any involvement.

John Kirby, the US National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, denied Russia’s “ludicrous” claim the US directed Ukraine to carry out the alleged attack and kill Putin, and accused the president’s spokesperson of lying.

“I would just tell you Mr. Peskov’s lying. I mean, it’s obviously a ludicrous claim. The United States had nothing to do with this. We don’t even know what happened here,” said Kirby.

“But I can assure you the United States had no role in it whatsoever.”

The White House still has no indication who was behind the drone attack and Kirby said the US does not “endorse, we do not encourage, we do not support attacks on individual leaders.”

Russia doubled down on its bellicose rhetoric later Thursday when Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told local media that relations between the US and Russia are on the verge of an “open-armed conflict.”

“We are working to prevent relations with the US from plunging into the abyss of an open armed conflict. We are already standing on the edge, on the edge of this precipice,” Ryabkov told Russia’s Channel One Thursday, according to state media agency TASS.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov delivers a speech during a session of the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on March 2.

Ryabkov also accused US officials of trying to “promote the idea of Washington’s non-involvement” in the purported drone attack, TASS reported.

“Washington has long been a direct party to the Ukrainian conflict and aims to destroy sovereign Russia,” he said, according to TASS.

CNN has reached out to the US State Department and the White House for comment on Ryabkov’s remarks.

Earlier Thursday, Kirby said since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Moscow has been “trying to paint this war as some sort of fight with the West against Russia, NATO against Russia, the United States against Russia.”

“And, of course, it’s not; Russia is the aggressor here,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that Wednesday’s purported drone attack on the Kremlin was a “hostile act” and that his government would respond with “concrete actions.”

“It was clearly a hostile act,” Lavrov said at a press conference in India. “We will not respond by talking about whether it was an incident or not, but we will respond with concrete actions. We have a lot of patience.”

Worst attack in years

The escalating war of words comes as Russia launched its most forceful air bombardment on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in a year, the Kyiv City Military Administration said Thursday.

All Russian missiles and drones “were destroyed in Kyiv airspace” by Ukrainian air defense forces on Thursday, avoiding civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure, the capital’s military chief said.

Meanwhile in the southern port city of Kherson, Russian shelling of the city and its surrounding villages killed at least 23 people, the regional military chief said Thursday. Moscow struck Kherson at least 16 times, firing over 80 shells at Pryvokzalna Square, a railway station and crossing, a gas station, two stores, a factory and a car repair shop, the regional military administration said.

And in southeastern Zaporizhzhia, concerns have once again been raised about the safety of a Ukrainian nuclear power plant that is currently under Russia’s control.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate accused Russia of placing weapons, explosives and military equipment in one of the power plant’s units. The Inspectorate said it received the information during its weekly meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency representatives a day earlier.

Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian-appointed military-civilian administration in occupied Zaporizhzhia, called the claims “a lie,” adding that, “we do not use the nuclear power plant as a military facility.”

CNN’s Allie Malloy, DJ Judd, Arlette Saenz, Jennifer Z. Deaton and Mariya Knight contributed to reporting.

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