Spy chief Kirill Budanov and three others have been accused of launching drone attacks on civilian targets in Russia
The Russian Investigative Committee has identified four senior Ukrainian military officials as the masterminds of over 100 "terrorist attacks" involving drones targeting civilian infrastructure.
In a statement on Tuesday, the agency said it has collected enough evidence to charge the four commanders in absentia with terrorism-related crimes. Russia will seek the arrests of the suspects, it said.
The committee named Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kirill Budanov, the commanders of the Air Force and the Navy, Nikolay Oleshchuk and Aleksey Neizhapa, as well as the commander of the 383rd drone regiment of the Air Force, Sergey Purdenyuk, as the culprits. Their alleged offenses took place between April 2022 and September 2023.
Russian officials regularly accuse Kiev of launching fixed-wing kamikaze drones at targets inside Russia. Senior Ukrainian officials publicly call those drones "unidentified," but do little to deny their country's responsibility for the attacks.
The semi-secret drone program was detailed in August by the British magazine The Economist. It explained how competing drone developers sometimes conduct operations that "appear to be PR projects designed to bring a prototype to the attention of procurement bosses, rather than having military value."
There is also an aspect of psychological warfare in delivering "headline-making strikes" on civilian targets such as Moscow's financial center, the article said.
Budanov, who is arguably the most media-engaged official among the four Ukrainians charged, told the same outlet last month that his agency sought to disrupt the Russian economy, including by forcing airports in Moscow and St. Petersburg to close during drone raids. He claimed the strikes caused "zero" civilian casualties in Russia, contrary to local reports.
READ MORE: West enabling Ukrainian attacks on Russian civilian targets ? The Economist
In May, the spy chief acknowledged that his agency was involved in assassinations of Russian public figures.