Russia launches missile strikes across Ukraine, hitting mostly civilian targets

Russia launches missile strikes across Ukraine, hitting mostly civilian targets

Michael Weiss and James Rushton report:

Ukrainians across the country awoke Monday morning to a barrage of Russian missile and kamikaze drone attacks on civilian infrastructure in cities stretching from Kharkiv in the east to Lviv in the west. Kyiv, for the first time since the Russian invasion began in late February, took the brunt of the assault, with almost all confirmed impact targets being civilian, not military, in nature. According to Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Russia launched 75 missiles, 41 of which were shot down by Ukraine’s air defenses.

Ukraine’s National Police said at least five people were killed in Kyiv, with 12 more injured, although the final toll for fatalities and casualties is likely to be much higher. A number of cars in the streets of the capital are now gnarled hunks of burning metal. Passersby, including elderly women, have been shown bleeding from their heads, with Ukrainian first responders tending to their wounds. One young woman was recording a selfie video when a rocket hit perilously close to her, illuminating the wall behind her in a fiery red.

In both Kyiv and Lviv, the explosions shattered months of relative calm far from the frontlines, where Ukrainian forces have been steadily pushing back the Russian advance. The last missile strike that hit the Ukrainian capital was a relatively minor attack in June, and the city had been slowly but unmistakably returning to something resembling normalcy. Shops, bars and restaurants have reopened, and refugees have been returning from western Ukraine and beyond. Lviv, which lost power from Monday’s bombardment, has become a major hub for Western weapons flowing into Ukraine and for housing the internally displaced from other parts of the country. To date, however, not a single Western arms shipment imported overland from the Polish border and through Lviv has been reportedly destroyed by the Russians.

One of the first missiles hit outside the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, by the park named for Ukraine’s national hero, a popular destination for locals with children and dogs. The explosion took out a number of civilian cars at an intersection, killing an unknown number of people. There was charred wreckage and bodies in cars, and glass blown out in buildings hundreds of yards away. Residents were left with the unmistakable feeling that the attack was deliberately timed to hit during rush hour — not least because Kyiv is still under military curfew, leaving the streets entirely empty of civilian traffic between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. [Continue reading…]

Andrew Roth and Pjotr Sauer write:

When Putin led a session of his security council on Monday, he presented the attack as a case of Russia demanding action following the explosion that rocked the Crimean Bridge, a symbol of Russian prestige and of his control of the peninsula.

“It was impossible to leave this kind of crime without any response,” Putin said in televised remarks, blaming the blast on Ukrainian intelligence.

Ukrainian officials quickly pointed out that Russia had been launching strikes against civilian infrastructure since the beginning of the war. Russia’s strike on Monday was the largest barrage against cities since 24 February, but not a fundamental change to the war.

“No, Putin was not ‘provoked’ to unleash missile terror by ‘Crimea Bridge’,” wrote Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister. “Russia had been constantly hitting Ukraine with missiles before the bridge, too. Putin is desperate because of battlefield defeats and uses missile terror to try to change the pace of war in his favour.”

In his short speech, Putin claimed the strikes were made at the “request of the defence ministry”. If true, that would make it one of the first decisions enacted by Gen Sergei Surovikin, the new unified Russian battlefield commander who has been dubbed “General Armageddon” for his hardline and unorthodox approach to waging war.

“I am not surprised to see what is happening this morning in Kyiv. Surovikin is absolutely ruthless, with little regard for human life,” a former defence ministry official who has worked with him told the Guardian. “I am afraid his hands will be completely covered in Ukrainian blood.” [Continue reading…]

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