Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and several other major cities have been hit in a barrage of missile attacks that hit civilian targets and killed several people, according to Ukrainian officials.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country had launched long-range missiles against Ukrainian energy, military and communications infrastructure. He said the barrage of missile fire on Monday was a response to “terrorist attacks” on Russian territory and warned an even harsher “response” could come.
Missiles tore into Kyiv, the most intense strikes on the city since Russia abandoned an attempt to capture it in the early weeks of the war that started in late February. Explosions were also reported in Lviv, Ternopil and Zhytomyr in Ukraine’s west; Dnipro and Kremenchuk in central Ukraine; Zaporizhzhia in the south; and Kharkiv in the east.
In the capital, attacks struck in the heart of the busy city centre during the rush hour in the morning. The body of a man in jeans lay in a street at a major intersection, surrounded by flaming cars. In a park, a soldier cut through the clothes of a woman who lay in the grass to try to treat her wounds. Two other women were bleeding nearby.
A huge crater gaped next to a children’s playground in a central Kyiv park. The remains of an apparent missile were buried, smoking in the mud.
More volleys of missiles continued in the capital later in the morning as pedestrians huddled for shelter at the entrance of metro stations and inside parking garages.
Initial reports from officials in Kyiv put the toll to at least five people killed and dozens wounded, but there were fears the numbers would rise.
“Kyiv hasn’t experienced anything like this in months; people stopped paying attention to the air raid sirens, so it’s a very, very different reality this morning,” our reporter said.
“In fact, I would say nothing like this has happened since the start of the war, and even at the beginning of the war, there weren’t as many centr[al] strikes as have taken place today,” Challands also said.
“They are trying to destroy us and wipe us off the face of the earth,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on the Telegram messaging app. “The air raid sirens do not subside throughout Ukraine. There are missiles hitting. Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded.”
“There’s no doubt here in Kyiv that this is Putin’s revenge for the Crimea bridge, and he’s taking it out on some of the softest targets there are, which are civilians”.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted: “Putin’s only tactic is terror on peaceful Ukrainian cities, but he will not break Ukraine down. This is also his response to all appeasers who want to talk with him about peace: Putin is a terrorist who talks with missiles.”
Kuleba also said he was cutting short a trip to Africa following the strikes to return to his country.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko posted on social media: “The capital is under attack from Russian terrorists! The missiles hit objects in the city centre (in the Shevchenkivskyi district) and in the Solomyanskyi district. The air raids sirens are going off, and therefore the threat, continues.”
“The central streets of Kyiv have been blocked by law enforcement officers, rescue services are working,” the mayor added.
He later said important infrastructure had been hit.
‘Forty-one missiles shot down’
Ukrainian forces shot down at least 41 missiles that were fired at Ukraine by Russia, according to the country’s top general.
“This morning, 75 missiles were launched. 41 of them were neutralised by our air defence,” General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Moldova’s foreign minister said Russian cruise missiles targeting Ukraine had crossed its airspace, and summoned Moscow’s envoy to demand an explanation.
Putin on Sunday had called an explosion damaged the only bridge over the Kerch Strait to the Crimea peninsula “an act of terrorism aimed at destroying critically important civilian infrastructure”.
“This was devised, carried out and ordered by the Ukrainian special services,” he said in a video statement.
Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the blast on the bridge but has celebrated it. Senior Russian officials demanded a swift response from the Kremlin ahead of a meeting of Putin’s security council on Monday.
Commentators on Russian television have increasingly been calling for massive retaliation against Ukraine, with the military leadership facing public criticism for the first time as Russian forces have been beaten back on the battlefield.
The bridge, which Putin personally opened, is a major supply route for Russian forces in southern Ukraine and a symbol of Russia’s control of Crimea, the peninsula it proclaimed annexed after its troops seized it in 2014.
Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said ahead of the council meeting that Russia should kill the “terrorists” responsible for the attack.
“Russia can only respond to this crime by directly killing terrorists, as is the custom elsewhere in the world. This is what Russian citizens expect,” he was quoted as saying by state news agency TASS.
Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, said on Sunday a vehicle had exploded on the bridge, having travelled through Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, North Ossetia and Russia’s Krasnodar region.
Meanwhile, in southeastern Ukraine, Russian shelling overnight destroyed another apartment building in the city of Zaporizhzhia, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said early on Monday. At least one person died and five were injured in the attack, a city official said.
The predawn strikes were the third Russian missile attack against apartment buildings in four days in the city, the Ukrainian-held capital of one of four partially occupied regions Russia claims to have annexed this month.
Putin responded to the losses by ordering a mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of reservists, proclaiming the annexation of occupied territory and threatening repeatedly to use nuclear weapons.
Russia has faced major setbacks on the battlefield since the start of September, with Ukrainian forces bursting through the front lines and recapturing territory in the northeast and the south.