Several U.S. officials pushed back on Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s accusation that Washington coordinated drone attacks on Moscow with Ukraine, emphasizing that the United States had no involvement in the Wednesday morning attack.
“I can assure you that there was no involvement by the United States. Whatever it was, it didn’t involve us,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on MSNBC when asked about Peskov’s comments. “We had nothing to do with it. Peskov is just lying there, pure and simple.” On CNN soon after, he called it a “ludicrous claim.”
The allegations are “completely false,” Defense Department spokesperson Lt. Col. Garron Garn told POLITICO. “The U.S. was in no way involved.”
The Biden administration still doesn’t have a leading theory on who was behind the drone attack or why it occurred, and the U.S. is still unclear how the event will change the war, if at all, a U.S. official told POLITICO.
“We still don’t know what happened here,” another U.S. official said. Both officials were granted anonymity to discuss sensitive internal intelligence matters.
But finding out the source of the attack isn’t a priority, Kirby said Thursday evening. “I don’t think we’re going to try to investigate,” Kirby said during an interview on CNN. “Whether it happened or not, it’s not the kind of thing that I think we’re going to invest a lot of time in investigating.”
Though U.S. officials would like to learn more, “we’re not on a big fact-finding mission here,” Kirby added.
Peskov’s accusation came after two drones struck Moscow at around 2 a.m. Wednesday in what Russia immediately characterized without evidence as an assassination attempt on Russian President Vladimir Putin by Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denied the accusation, and U.S. officials said they had no advanced knowledge of the attacks. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he’d take any claims coming from the Kremlin with a “large shaker of salt.”
“We don’t attack Putin or Moscow,” Zelenskyy told the Nordic broadcaster TV2 during a trip to Finland on Wednesday. “We fight on our territory. We’re defending our villages and cities. We don’t have enough weapons for these.”
Peskov reportedly said during a press conference earlier Thursday that “attempts to disown this, both in Kyiv and in Washington, are, of course, absolutely ridiculous. We know very well that decisions about such actions, about such terrorist attacks, are made not in Kyiv but in Washington.
“Kyiv only does what it is told to do,” Peskov said.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a Senate panel Thursday the intelligence community lacked information to make an independent assessment of Russia’s claims during an exchange with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
“Big if true, as the kids say today,” Cotton quipped of Russia’s claims at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “Perhaps some grounds to think that maybe these claims are exaggerated.”
Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, suggested Russia’s claims sounded like misinformation. Haines agreed that Putin does not often spend the night at the Kremlin, while Berrier agreed video footage of the incident did not suggest the drones involved could do serious damage.
Kirby said on MSNBC that the U.S. doesn’t encourage or enable Ukraine to strike within Russian borders, saying that “we certainly don’t dictate the terms by which they defend themselves or the operations they conduct.”
Senior administration officials told POLITICO Wednesday they are working to confirm whether the suspected strike was ordered by Kyiv, conducted by a rogue pro-Ukraine group, or a false flag operation by Russia.
During a surprise trip to the Netherlands on Thursday, Zelenskyy reiterated his plea for a special tribunal to hold Putin accountable for war crimes.
“We all want to see a different Vladimir here in The Hague,” Zelenskyy said. “The one who deserves to be sentenced for these criminal actions right here, in the capital of international law.”
The International Criminal Court, which is based in the Hague, in March issued an international arrest warrant against Putin over the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia since the war began. While the court doesn’t have the authority to prosecute the crime of aggression, Zelenskyy said the rules need to change.
“If we want true justice, we should not look for excuses and should not refer to the shortcomings of the current international law but make bold decisions that will correct that shortcomings that unfortunately exist in international law,” Zelenskyy said in a speech.
Alex Ward, Anthony Adragna and Lara Seligman contributed to this report.
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