Video Producer/Editor: Shohini Bose
Kyiv was attacked while other Ukrainian cities also faced a stepped-up Russian offensive, two days after the massive explosion on the Kerch Strait Crimean bridge, which Russian President Vladimir Putin called “an act of terror.”
Putin said that long range missiles struck Ukraine’s energy, military, and communication facilities. Referring to the attack on the Crimean Bridge, Putin said that in event of “further attempts to carry out terrorist acts on our territory, Russia's response will be harsh.”
Among the targets hit overnight were the city of Zaporizhzhia, which was struck for the third day in a row, and the port city of Mykolaiv. Explosions also shook the cities of Lviv, Ternopil, and Dnipro.
Retaliation for 'Attack' on Crimean Bridge
Russia’s strikes on bustling city centers are being widely seen as Putin’s response to the Crimean Bridge explosion. Combined with constant losses on the battlefield, experts suggest that a desperate Putin chose to terrorise ordinary Ukrainians as proof that Russia will not admit its slipping grip over the seven-month-old war that it started.
The Guardian say that in part, Putin wants to silence anger from Russian hardliners who have often accused him of being unable to wage an all-out war against Kyiv.
Cadres of Russian war pundits have grown critical lately, but were pretty happy to see Russian-launched missiles plunge into the heart of Kyiv, causing widespread damage and killing scores of innocent men, women, and children.
Colonelcassad, a Russian military blogger who amasses over 8,00,000 subscribers on Telegram said, “It was a good morning in Kyiv.”
“Look how much better Kyiv has gotten under Surovikin,” wrote another, likely in reference to the newly installed Russian military commander Sergey Surovikin.
Civilians: Putin's Soft, Simple Targets
It was civilians who were overwhelmingly targeted by Russian missiles and drone strikes, some of which reportedly flew in from Belarus, while others crossed Moldovan airspace from the Black Sea. Eight Ukrainians died on account of the missile fire.
Putin’s strikes in Kyiv on Monday show that he acted in retaliation.
Firstly, to silence increasingly loud voices of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who have long called the Russians’ invasion “soft."
Secondly, it depicts various options that the Russians have for Ukraine; in this case, it was to brutally strike civilians.
Vladimir Putin’s response to the attack on the Krech Strait draws similar lines to explosions at Russian apartment blocks that led to the second Chechen war.
The explosion at the apartment blocks were used as a response to legitimise asymmetric brutality against a region. For Putin, the Crimean bridge appears to be a similar justification to his violent response in Ukraine.
The Damage in Ukraine
Apart from Zaporizhzhia and Mykolai, explosions also shook the cities of Lviv, Ternopil, and Dnipro.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the wave of missile attacks had targeted energy supplies and people, and were chosen with an aim to cause maximum damage to Ukrainian civilians. In a statement after missiles hit the Ukrainian cities, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said,
"The morning is difficult. We are dealing with terrorists. Dozens of missiles, Iranian “Shahids”. They have two targets. Energy facilities – throughout the country. They want panic and chaos, they want to destroy our energy system. The second target is people. Such a time and such targets were specially chosen to cause as much damage as possible.”
Russia’s strikes, several of which have already left large cities without water and electricity, also hit a popular pedestrian bridge, and a children’s playground.
According to Ukraine’s top general Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, at least 41 of the 75 claimed missiles that Russia fired were shot down by Kyiv’s air defence.
“This morning, 75 missiles were launched. 41 of them were neutralised by our air defence,” Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, wrote on Twitter.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent Rory Challands, reporting from Kyiv, said that the death tool is likely to “go up considerably.”
“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,” Challands said.
“There’s no doubt here in Kyiv that this is Vladimir Putin’s revenge for the Crimea bridge, and he’s taking it out on some of the softest targets there are, which are civilians,” he added.
A New General In Town
General Sergei Surovikin is a veteran Russian commander and air force general accredited to leading Putin’s military campaign in Syria in 2017, where he was accused of overseeing the brutal bombardment that destroyed the city of Aleppo.
In the army, Surovikin’s mates reportedly gave him the nickname of “General Armageddon,” owing to his unorthodox and hard-line approach towards waging war.
A former defence minister who worked with the general said, “I am not surprised to see what is happening this morning in Kyiv. Surovikin is absolutely ruthless with little disregard for human life.”
“I am afraid his hands will be completely covered in Ukrainian blood,” the minister told The Guardian.
Experts say that Surovikin’s main goal in Ukraine will be to solve the Russian military’s structural problems. He has been well-renowned for his over watch and streamlining of various branches of Russia’s army over the years.
“He is very cruel but also a competent commander. But he won’t be able to solve all the problems. Russia is short on weapons and manpower,” Gleb Irisov, a former air force lieutenant who worked with Surovikin up to 2020, said.
(With inputs from The Guardian and Al Jazeera)