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Drones over Kremlin controlled manually, launched from outside Moscow, may have used restricted frequencies, says UAV expert

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The drones that attempted to attack the Kremlin on May 3 were not launched from Ukraine, but at most from the Moscow region, as evidenced by their size and the likely absence of an attached munition or charge, Sergei Tovkach, CEO of the company Avianovatsii, a UAV developer, told The Insider. According to Tovkach, the UAVs were manually controlled and could have used restricted frequencies to carry out maneuvers.

“The UAVs didn’t fly over from anywhere [too far], they were launched from somewhere near Moscow at most. Two things testify to this: first, the size of the drones – they couldn't have flown from Ukraine due to their size; and second, the charge. They did not have a charge, it was something made of pyrotechnics. It was not a mine, it was not a munition that could do any damage. It was something that could be made from improvised means in Russia [itself].
Accordingly, it is likely that the operator was located remotely. The Ukrainians have known how to use remotely piloted drones for a while now. The operator is sitting somewhere, the repeater is coming through Starlink, or Starlink is installed on the drone – if it’s a heavy drone.”

Tovkach believes that the electronic warfare systems in central Moscow let the drones reach the Kremlin as it is extremely difficult to jam them if repeaters and non-standard frequencies are used.

“They let the UAVs through because either there was a Starlink repeater that looks up into the sky and uses fairly non-standard frequencies, so it's extremely difficult to jam it. A repeater from any internet to a non-standard frequency could've also been used. In other words, imagine a module connected to the Internet on a windowsill, which is then connected to a remote, and transmits the control signal. The operator could’ve been located anywhere – even in Kyiv.
The Ukrainians have done this before. For instance, the Ukrainian ‘Leleka’ drone now flies on frequencies about 400 mHz, the ‘Shark’ flies on 450 mHz – all these are non-standard frequencies. This means that the usual standard drone frequencies, which are designed for drones and which operate in civilian authorized bands, don’t work on these UAVs. This means the [Russian Federal Protective Service] guy on the roof can't guess what frequency the drone’s operating on, either. He most likely used an anti-drone jammer, and it didn't work [on the incoming drone].
There’s also the option of getting on a government communications frequency or an ambulance frequency – that is, the restricted frequencies, which no one in their right mind would use in normal circumstances, unless the goal is to hit the Kremlin. Accordingly, if one gets up on these frequencies, the electronic warfare operator won’t turn on the jammer by default. Even if he sees that there’s some nonsense going on on that frequency, he’ll at least take time to coordinate the jamming of this signal. As the drone isn’t flying from far away, it has time to do its dirty work before the electronic warfare service even decides to jam these frequencies.
The Kremlin has a very powerful jamming system, [it has] about eight jamming points. That is, even the Kometa, a GPS module used in the Ka-52 helicopters, lost its satellite connection when it neared the Kremlin. This means that some makeshift drone, dragged over in the trunk of a car across the border, couldn’t overcome these jammers. So there was no navigation there at all; it could have been launched from somewhere in the surrounding territory. Probably from some park, maybe from a clearing or a construction site. In reality, it could have been launched by two people, who were simply told: ‘[Dude], push this button and don't touch anything else.’ The cameraman was on a remote site and was controlling the drone by a camera image via the internet. That’s my opinion after watching the video and [looking at] the characteristics of these drones.”

The expert does not rule out that attacks similar to the one that recently took place in Moscow will happen again.

“Most likely there will be more of these attacks, because in fact there are no barriers to hitting either Kyiv and Moscow. No country is immune to terrorist methods of fighting, such as stealth attacks. Attempts to fly to Moscow have been made before. All these drones that were falling in the Tula region, near Moscow, were all headed for Moscow. But they were either brought down by electronic warfare systems, air defenses, or trees. The most common cause of Ukrainian drones crashing was due to them colliding with a tree – the ‘pine air defenses,’ as they're called.
Actually, there were attempts [to reach Russia's capital], but none were able to make it [to Moscow] – the distance is pretty big. Even the ‘Geran’ [drones] are launched from a much closer distance, they’re not launched from Moscow. And the ‘Geran’ is after all a serious and sufficiently specialized machine, a very well designed drone, one with a good jamming GPS receiver. These converted Migun [drones] are child’s play, really. So for them, the task of flying from Ukraine to Moscow is practically impossible – this has been proven. Launching a drone from close range worked, and maybe it’ll work again. It all depends on whether or not these saboteurs are caught and how badly they are punished. That’ll determine how many more [people] will be willing to take part in this.”

Russia’s Investigative Committee – a body that handles major crimes – launched a criminal investigation after two drones attempted to attack the Kremlin on May 3. After the incident, the Kremlin’s press service claimed that the Russian side “reserves the right to retaliate when and where it sees fit.” Pro-Russian bloggers and officials called for strikes against Kyiv.

On the same day, Russian troops shelled Kherson and the Kherson region, killing 23 people and wounding 46 others. Ukraine denied the Kremlin’s claims that Kyiv was involved in the attack – President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Kyiv is solely defending its territories, and will not attack Moscow or Putin. For his part, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin argued that “the attack on the president is an attack on Russia.” The UN called on both sides to refrain from rhetoric and actions that could lead to escalation.

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