Russia temporarily shuttered all four major Moscow airports early on Friday morning following an alleged drone strike on the capital city, its civil aviation authority said.
Seven flights were diverted because of the closures of Moscow’s Vnukovo, Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo and Zhukovsky airports, according to Rosaviatsiya, the aviation authority.
Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said Friday that Russian air defenses shot down a drone over the capital city overnight. He said in a post on Telegram that debris from the drone fell into Expocentre, an exhibition center that lies within the wider Moscow city center, about three miles (five kilometers) east of the Kremlin.
He said the drone didn’t cause “any significant damage to the building” and that there were no reports of casualties.
The incident on Friday was the third time in the past month that this district of Moscow has been struck by drone debris.
The Russian Defense Ministry was quick to blame Ukraine for the alleged attack. “The Kiev regime launched another terrorist attack using a drone against facilities in Moscow and Moscow region on August 18 at 4:00 Moscow time,” the ministry said in a statement, using the Russian spelling of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
“The UAV, after being hit by air defense systems, changed its flight trajectory and fell on a non-residential building near Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment in Moscow.”
Ukraine has not commented on the incident. However, Kyiv has previously admitted using drones to strike deep within the Russian territory, as it tries to defend itself against Moscow’s unprovoked aggression.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian security services released to CNN exclusive footage showing the moment in July when they used an experimental sea drone to attack Russia’s bridge to annexed Crimea, providing new details on the attack and warning more such assaults will follow.
Last month, Kyiv said Ukrainian forces carried out a drone strike in Moscow and warned more strikes were to come.
Ukrainian Minister Mykhailo Fedorov, whose Digital Transformation Ministry oversees the country’s “Army of Drones” procurement plan, said last month there would be more drone strikes to come amid Kyiv’s counteroffensive aimed at pushing Russian troops out of Ukrainian territory.
At that time, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “Ukraine is getting stronger, and the war is gradually returning to Russia’s territory, to its symbolic centers and military bases.”
The four airports that were closed on Friday serve the vast majority of international and domestic civilian flights to and from Moscow. Moscow has several other, smaller and military airports, but the seven affected flights were redirected to Nizhny Novgorod, St. Petersburg and to Minsk in Belarus, Rosaviatsiya said.
Air traffic to Russia collapsed following Moscow’s decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Dozens of countries, including EU member states, the UK and the US have all closed their airspace to Russian airlines.
The number of foreign visitors to Russia dropped just over 96% in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to Russian Association of Tour Operators.