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Ukraine has the right to “project force” beyond its own borders for self-defence, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said following reports of drone attacks on Moscow.
Russian authorities said drones crashed into three residential buildings in Moscow in the early hours of May 30, causing no casualties and only minor damage.
The Russian Defence Ministry described it as a “terrorist attack” and blamed Ukraine for the incident, but Kyiv denied any involvement.
Asked about the incident at a press conference in Estonia, Cleverly said: “I don’t have details, and I am not going to speculate about the nature of the drone attacks in Moscow. So what I’m about to say are more general points, rather than on that specific incident.”
He went on: “Ukraine does have the legitimate right to defend itself. It has the legitimate right to do so within its own borders of course, but it does also have the right to project force beyond its borders to undermine Russia’s ability to project force into Ukraine itself.
“So legitimate military targets beyond its own border are part of Ukraine’s self-defence. And we should recognise that.
“That is not to say that I have any particular assessment over the attacks in Moscow, but more broadly military targets beyond its own border are internationally recognised as being legitimate as part of a nation’s self-defence.”
Mounting Attacks Inside Russia
It was the second drone attack to target the Russian capital in less than a month.
On May 2, the Kremlin itself was targeted by two combat drones, which failed to cause casualties or significant material damage.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was not at the Kremlin complex at the time of the incident.
While Ukrainian officials likewise denied involvement, Moscow blamed the attack on Kyiv, vowing to retaliate “in the manner, place, and time of its choosing.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine early last year, attacks inside Russian territory—of varying size and intensity—have occurred with increasing frequency.
On May 22, pro-Ukrainian forces staged a large-scale assault, using drones and artillery, on Russia’s western Belgorod region. In March, Russia’s Bryansk region was the target of a similar cross-border attack.
In both cases, the attackers were swiftly repelled by Russian security forces.
Last December, three Russian airbases—all inside Russian territory—were struck by drones, damaging aircraft and killing servicemen. While Kyiv refrained from claiming responsibility, the attacks were celebrated by Ukrainian officials.
‘We Are Prepared’
In his speech in Estonia, the foreign secretary said NATO will be prepared for whatever Russia decides to do next in Ukraine or anywhere else.
Cleverly said he had discussed with his Estonian counterpart Margus Tsahkna the NATO Summit taking place in Vilnius in July.
“We agreed that we must bolster support for Ukraine and ensure that NATO adapts to an increasingly contested and volatile security environment. And I know that we both feel it’s important that Sweden joins us at the table in Vilnius, too, as a fully-fledged member of NATO, and as an important ally to us all. Swedish accession will make us all safer and stronger.”
Cleverly said the UK is “very proud” to lead NATO’s enhanced forward presence in Estonia, adding: “Let’s remind ourselves that in 1726 Britain sent her then Baltic fleet to the coast of Tallinn to deter the Russian fleet from attacking Denmark and Sweden.
“History doesn’t always repeat itself, but it does have a habit of rhyming. Admiral Sir Charles Wager and his fleet’s presence deterred Russia almost 300 years ago. And I hope that our presence here today will continue to do the same.”
He added, “Whatever Russia decides to do next in Ukraine, or indeed anywhere else, we are prepared. And we will continue to cultivate the rich relationship between our two countries.”
Adam Morrow and PA Media contributed to this report.