Kyiv, UKRAINE — President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday unleashed a wide-ranging series of missile strikes against cities across Ukraine, hitting central Kyiv and other areas far from the front lines. Russian invasion.
Mr Putin said the airstrikes on more than a dozen cities were in retaliation for an explosion that destroyed part of a bridge connecting Russia with Crimea. war.
Putin has denounced the embarrassing blow to the Kremlin-built bridge as a “terrorist attack” and threatened more attacks if Ukraine hits Russian targets again.
“No one should doubt about it,” he said.
On the battlefield where Russia had been outnumbered for weeks, the offensive had changed little to nothing, while neighborhoods across Ukraine were battered and bloody.
Buildings collapsed, windows were blown out, and flames spewed out. With sirens blaring warning of approaching cruise missiles and so-called kamikaze drones, civilians on their morning commute rushed to every shelter they could find. At least 14 people were killed, 89 were injured, and power and water were cut off in many cities, Ukrainian officials said.
“There is no safe place,” said Alla Rohatnyova, 48, a Ukrainian living in Kyiv, who fled to the capital after her home in the Kharkiv region was destroyed, but is under attack again. At the moment we don’t know where they will attack, they could be anywhere.”
Targeting civilian areas drew condemnation from Western leaders.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was “shocked and appalled by the vicious attacks on Ukrainian cities.” It is brutality and terror.”
“These attacks only further strengthen our commitment to stand by the people of Ukraine,” Biden said.
Even countries that have generally refrained from voicing criticism of the Kremlin since Russian forces surged across their neighbor’s borders on February 24 have spoken out.
“Every country deserves respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said. “India is deeply concerned about the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine,” said an official in New Delhi.
Russia, which has repeatedly claimed to limit its attacks to military targets, has detonated more than 80 cruise missiles and 24 self-destructing drones in almost every city in the country, wreaking havoc. There was no evidence of that on Monday.
Oleksiy Arrestovich, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in an interview that “with all these attacks across Ukraine, they did not hit a single military target, but only civilian ones.” Stated.
Ukrainian officials said they were able to intercept some of the rockets but slipped through many more.
Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valery Zaruzhny said: “We must repel these attacks using Soviet-era weapons, which we have inadequate quantities. said on Twitter.
Zelensky said he had a phone call with Biden on the eve of the virtual Group of Seven (G7) meeting and urged the president to provide Ukraine with a more advanced air defense system.
Despite all the missiles finding their targets, experts agreed that it was the Ukrainian military’s war-making capabilities that did not appear to have been seriously damaged in the attack. We have recaptured one town after another.
In fact, Monday’s Russian attack could backfire, says Rochan Consulting military analyst Konrad Muzyka.
“I don’t think they have a strategic impact unless they are talking about boosting morale on the Ukrainian side and speeding up the delivery of some of the military equipment from the West,” he said.
Even if Ukrainian soldiers were saved, civilians were not. The attacks ranged from Lviv in the west to Mykolaiv in the south and Kharkiv in the northeast. In Kyiv, a Russian ordinance hit playgrounds, museums and a popular footbridge in the city centre.
But as the days went on, the purpose of the attacks seemed to become clearer. Moscow was intent on knocking out critical infrastructure and depriving Ukrainians of light and heat as winter approached.
By Monday afternoon, power was cut in four regions: Lviv, Poltava, Sumy and Kharkiv, officials said. In Kharkov, electric trolleys, buses and trams slipped to a halt. Trains heading west from Kyiv never left the station. Overall, 11 infrastructure sites were reportedly attacked.
“Today the enemy is testing us,” said Kharkiv mayor Ihor Terekhov. “Invaders take out their anger on civilians.”
Ukrainian officials have warned citizens to prepare for blackouts, saying they will rely on rolling blackouts to avoid overloading backup power lines.
By Monday evening, electricity had been reconnected to most of Kharkov, the State Emergency Service announced in a Facebook post. Electricity in the city of Lviv has also been largely restored, and Mayor Andriy Sadvy said in a Twitter post that all residents should expect water supplies by morning.
According to Zelensky’s adviser Arrestovitch, most of the targets are the infrastructure that provides heat and electricity to civilians. The Ukrainian army will not be affected, he said. “They don’t count on the normal power grid,” he said. “They have generators and have their own means of producing electricity.”
The tactic of subjugating Ukrainians is not new. The Kremlin has been studying Ukraine’s energy network for years and has tried to manipulate prices and cut natural gas supplies to influence politics. Russia has twice so far cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine in the middle of winter.
Now pursuing the same goal with bombs.
The approach may be unlikely to bring Ukrainians to the negotiating table, experts said.
“Artillery fire is very weak and usually only resolves,” said Michael Coffman, director of the Russian Studies Division at CNA, a defense research agency based in Virginia.
But as Russian forces struggle on the battlefield, such an attack on infrastructure targets could put pressure on the Ukrainian economy and crush the hopes of normalization brought about by Ukraine’s recent military successes, thereby threatening the Kremlin. It may allow the war to be extended indefinitely.
Putin is also waging war on two fronts, only one of which is in Ukraine. Another is Moscow, where he has been unusually vocally criticized by pro-war Russians who argue that Ukraine should be attacked more violently. It may also help explain the many civilian targets attacked on Monday.
But in the Russian capital, there seemed to be little awareness of what happened on Monday morning. I was in a hurry to go to work or to an appointment.
Asked by a New York Times reporter their reaction to the strike, most said they hadn’t seen the news.
Vladimir, a 37-year-old construction veteran, called the recent destruction in Ukraine a “little warning shot” and said he hoped more damage would follow. But Russia’s real enemy, he said, is America.
“The point is not to attack Ukraine, but to attack the United States directly, because Ukraine is a dependent country and has not committed many crimes.” is.”
But on Tuesday Ukraine came under attack again and again.
In Kyiv, the target of Putin’s early invasion, many were relaxing as the fighting shifted east and south of Ukraine. Weeds were starting to grow from the sandbags used to protect the capital’s monuments and statues from the blast. Young people crowded bars on a recent Saturday night, many toasting the previous bridge attack that enraged the Kremlin.
At that moment, the air raid sirens began to sound.
Michael Schwartz Reported from Kyiv, Ukraine. Andrew E. Kramer Originally from Kriviy Ry, Ukraine. Megan Spacia Originally from Kyiv.When Eric Nagany from New York. Valerie Hopkins Contributing to the report from Moscow, Eric Schmidt When Michael D. Shear Originally from Washington.