Russia strikes Kyiv, several Ukrainian cities; many casualties

Russia unleashed a deadly barrage of strikes on several Ukrainian towns on Monday, destroying civilian targets, including downtown Kyiv, where at least eight people were killed amid burned cars and destroyed buildings, bringing back the focus of attention is the grim reality of war after months of easing tensions in the capital.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces invaded neighboring Ukraine on February 24, said the strikes were retaliation for what he called Kyiv’s “terrorist” actions – a reference to Ukraine’s attempts to repel the invading force from Moscow and cripple their supply lines.

The actions he referred to include an attack last weekend on a key bridge between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula, which is prized by the Kremlin.

The intense, hours-long attack marked a sudden military escalation by Moscow in its attack on Ukraine. It came a day after Putin called Saturday’s explosion at the huge bridge linking Russia with its annexed territory of Crimea a “terrorist act” orchestrated by Ukraine’s special services.

At least eight people were killed and 24 were injured in just one of the Kyiv strikes, according to preliminary information, said Rostyslav Smirnov, an adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.

Putin, speaking in a video call with members of the Russian Security Council, said the Russian military had launched ‘precision weapons’ from the air, sea and ground to target key energy facilities and military command.

The missile strikes marked the largest and most widespread Russian attacks in months. Putin, whose partial mobilization order earlier this month sparked an exodus of hundreds of thousands of fighting-age men from Russia, refrained from declaring martial law or a counter-terrorism operation as many had expected .

But the sustained barrage on major cities has hit both residential areas and critical infrastructure, presaging a major surge in the war amid a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in recent weeks and raising questions about the “accuracy of targeting Russia.

Moscow’s war in Ukraine is approaching its eight-month milestone, and the Kremlin is reeling from humiliating battlefield setbacks in the parts of eastern Ukraine it is trying to annex.

Explosions hit the capital’s Shevchenko district, a large area in central Kyiv that includes the historic Old Town as well as several government offices, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

Some of the strikes hit near the government quarter in the symbolic heart of the capital, where the parliament and other major landmarks are located. A glass tower housing offices was badly damaged, most of its blue-tinted windows blown out.

Residents were seen on the streets with blood on their clothes and hands. A young man in a blue jacket sat on the ground as a doctor wrapped a bandage around his head. A woman with bandages around her head had blood all over the front of her blouse. Several cars were also damaged or completely destroyed. Air raid sirens sounded repeatedly across the country and in Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces had launched dozens of Iranian-made missiles and drones against Ukraine.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said 75 missiles were fired at Ukrainian targets, 41 of which were neutralized by air defenses.

The targets were civilian areas and energy facilities in 10 cities, Zelenskyy said in a video address. “(The Russians) purposely chose such a time and such targets to inflict the most damage,” Zelenskyy said.

The morning strikes sent Kyiv residents back into bomb shelters for the first time in months. The city’s subway system shut down rail services and made stations available again as places of refuge.

As air raid sirens continued throughout the war in major Ukrainian cities across the country, in Kyiv and other areas where there were months of calm, many Ukrainians began to ignore their warnings and go about their normal business.

That changed Monday morning. The attacks arrived in Kyiv at the start of the morning rush hour, as commuter traffic began to pick up. At least one of the vehicles hit near Kyiv National University appeared to be a commuter minibus, known as a “marshrutka” and which is a popular if often crowded alternative to the city’s bus and metro lines. town.

Nearby, at least one strike landed in popular Shevchenko Park, leaving a large hole near a children’s playground.

Among the targets hit was a pedestrian bridge known as the Klitschko Bridge – a landmark in central Kyiv with its glass panels. CCTV footage shared by an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister showed a huge explosion as the bridge was apparently targeted. A man seen on the bridge just before the explosion is seen running away after the explosion.

Lesia Vasylenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, tweeted a photo showing that at least one explosion occurred near the main building of Kyiv National University in central Kyiv.

Elsewhere, Russia targeted civilian areas and energy infrastructure as air raid sirens sounded in all parts of Ukraine, except Russian-annexed Crimea, for four straight hours.

Associated Press reporters in Dnipro saw the bodies of several people killed at an industrial site on the outskirts of the city. Windows in the area had been blown out and glass littered the street. A telecommunications building was hit.

Ukrainian media also reported explosions in a number of other locations, including the western city of Lviv, which served as a refuge for many people fleeing fighting in the east, as well as in Kharkiv, Ternopil, Khmelnytskyi , Zhytomyr and Kropyvnytskyi.

Kharkiv was hit three times, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said. The strikes cut off electricity and water supplies. Energy infrastructure was also hit in Lviv, regional governor Maksym Kozytskyi said.

Three cruise missiles launched against Ukraine from Russian ships in the Black Sea have crossed Moldova’s airspace, complained the country’s Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu.

The day before, Putin had described the attack on the Kerch bridge towards Crimea as a terrorist act perpetrated by the Ukrainian special services. In a meeting on Sunday with the chairman of the Russian investigative commission, Putin said “there is no doubt that this was a terrorist act aimed at the destruction of civilian infrastructure of a critically important”.

The Kerch Bridge is strategically important to Russia, as a military supply route to its forces in Ukraine, and symbolically, as an emblem of its claims to Crimea. No one has claimed responsibility for damaging the 19 kilometer long bridge, the longest in Europe.

Amid the assault, Zelenskyy said on his Telegram account that Russia is “trying to destroy us and wipe us off the face of the earth”.

The attacks looked set to bring a new wave of international condemnation to Russia.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, said the Group of Seven industrial powers will hold a video conference Tuesday on the situation to which Zelenskyy will respond. Germany currently chairs the G-7.

The attacks sparked a chorus of outrage in Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “extremely concerned because the strikes caused civilian casualties” and renewed his promise to increase military aid to Ukraine.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted that “Russia’s missile fire on civilian areas of Ukraine is unacceptable”.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba halted his Africa tour and returned to Ukraine, tweeting that the attacks represented “terror on peaceful Ukrainian cities”.

Some feared Monday’s attacks were just the first salvo in a new Russian offensive. The Ukrainian Ministry of Education has announced that all Ukrainian schools must switch to online lessons at least until the end of this week.

In an ominous move, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko announced on Monday that he and Putin had agreed to deploy a joint “regional grouping of troops” amid escalating fighting in Ukraine. He did not provide any details as to where the task force will be deployed, when and why.

Lukashenko has repeated his claims that Ukraine is planning an attack on Belarus, sparking fears the stage may be set for pre-emptive action from Minsk.

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