Multiple explosions rocked Kyiv and several other Ukrainian cities reported blasts and power outages on Monday morning, as Russia lashed out with a massive wave of violent airstrikes that carried echoes of the initial days of its invasion.
At least 11 people were killed in the strikes, while 64 were wounded, the Ukrainian emergency services said.
Moscow fired at least 84 cruise missiles toward Ukraine on Monday, the Ukrainian military said, 43 of which were neutralized by missile defense systems. Twenty-four Russian attack drones were also used in the salvo, 13 of which were destroyed.
The assault appears to be the heaviest bombardment of missile and rocket attacks seen in most of Ukraine since February, targeting power plants, bridges, civilian infrastructure and other locations.
It comes two days after an eruption damaged a crucial bridge to Crimea and dealt a strategic blow to the Kremlin. A wounded Vladimir Putin, who has also seen weeks of Russian losses on the battlefield, had been under pressure to respond with force following the explosion, which Putin on Sunday blamed on Kyiv and described as an act of terror.
“It is simply impossible to leave such crimes unanswered,” Putin said in a brief television appearance on Monday. “If attempts to carry out terrorist attacks on our territory continue, responses from Russia will be tough and will correspond in scale to the level of threats to the Russian Federation.”
At least four explosions were heard in Ukraine’s capital during rush hour on Monday morning. A children’s playground was among the sites hit by a rocket or missile, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, who tweeted images of a smoldering crater in the ground next to the site.
In the western city of Lviv, mayor Andriy Sadovyi said an explosion hit “a critical infrastructure facility.”
“Part of the city is without electricity. A third of the traffic lights do not work,” Sadovyi said on Telegram, warning civilians to stay inside.
Authorities in Sumy, in the northeast of Ukraine, said there were power outages across the region after missile attacks, reporting that “two missiles hit an infrastructure facility” in Konotop. Officials in Kharkiv also reported attacks.
For several hours on Monday morning Kyiv’s subway system was suspended, with underground stations serving as bunkers. But the air raid alert in the city was lifted at midday, as rescue workers sought to pull people from the rubble caused by the strikes.
Demys Shmygal, Ukraine’s Prime Minister, said Monday that as of 11 a.m. local time, a total of 11 “crucial infrastructure facilities” in eight regions had been damaged.
As of Monday afternoon, the electricity supply had been cut in Lviv, Poltava, Sumy, and Ternopil, said the Ukrainian State Emergency Services. Electricity was “partially disrupted” in the rest of the country.
The blasts will be accompanied by concerns that Putin may seek to escalate the conflict in Ukraine, after Moscow’s stuttering ground campaign and the damage to the Crimean bridge dealt a major blow to the Russian President.
Putin held an operational meeting of his Security Council on Monday, a day after he called the explosions on the Crimea bridge a “terrorist attack” and said the organizers and executors were “Ukrainian special services.”
Kyiv has not claimed responsibility for the blast on the enormous 19-kilometer (about 12-mile) bridge, which was built after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, an annexation regarded by the West as illegal. The crossing was opened by Putin himself in 2018, and Ukrainian reaction to the explosion has been gleeful and triumphant.
The Russian-appointed head of annexed Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, said he had “good news” Monday, claiming that Russia’s approaches to what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine “have changed.”
“I have been saying from the first day of the special military operation that if such actions to destroy the enemy’s infrastructure had been taken every day, we would have finished everything in May and the Kyiv regime would have been defeated,” he added.
Monday’s explosions reverberated across central and western Ukraine, far away from the battlefields in the northeast, east and south where a powerful Ukrainian counter-offensive has liberated towns and pushed Russian troops back in recent weeks.
Ukraine’s defense intelligence agency alleged that Russia had been planning Monday’s missile attacks since early last week, before the blast on the bridge. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the strikes showed Putin is “is desperate because of battlefield defeats and uses missile terror to try to change the pace of war in his favor.”
“They are trying to annihilate us and wipe us off the face of the earth,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram on Monday as the scale of the attacks became clear. “That’s it, in a nutshell. They are trying to slaughter our people who are sleeping in their homes in Zaporizhzhia. They are trying to kill people who are on their way to work in Dnipro and Kyiv.”
“All over Ukraine, the air raid sirens will not abate. Rockets continue to strike. Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded. I ask you: do not leave your shelters. Stay safe and take care of your families. Let’s hang in there and be strong,” Zelensky added.
Ukraine’s Western allies doubled down on their support for Kyiv following the strikes, with EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell Fontelles tweeting that “additional military support from the EU is on its way.”
US President Joe Biden said Monday’s strikes “once again demonstrate the utter brutality of Mr. Putin’s illegal war on the Ukrainian people.”
“These attacks only further reinforce our commitment to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Biden wrote in a statement. “Alongside our allies and partners, we will continue to impose costs on Russia for its aggression, hold Putin and Russia accountable for its atrocities and war crimes, and provide the support necessary for Ukrainian forces to defend their country and their freedom.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the attacks “another unacceptable escalation of the war and, as always, civilians are paying the highest price.”
The G7 group of nations will hold an emergency meeting via video conference on Tuesday, the office of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed to CNN, and Zelensky said on Twitter that he would address that meeting.