By ADAM SCHRECK and HANNA ARHIROVA
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia retaliated on Monday to an attack on a critical bridge it said was carried out by Ukraine by unleashing its most widespread strikes in months. The deadly barrage against several Ukrainian towns destroyed civilian targets, cutting off electricity and water, smashing buildings and killing at least 14 people.
Ukraine’s emergency services said nearly 100 people were injured in morning rush hour attacks Russia launched from the air, sea and land on at least 14 regions, ranging from Lviv to Ukraine. west to Kharkiv in the east. Many attacks took place far from the front lines of the war.
Although Russia said missiles targeted military and energy facilities, some hit civilian areas as people walked to work and school. One hit a playground in downtown Kyiv and another hit a university.
The attacks plunged much of the country into a blackout, depriving hundreds of thousands of people of electricity until Monday evening and creating a shortage so severe that Ukrainian authorities announced they would halt electricity exports. electricity to Europe from Tuesday. Power outages also often deprive residents of water, given the system’s reliance on electricity to run pumps and other equipment.
Andriy Yermak, senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said the strikes made no “practical military sense” and that Russia’s aim was to cause a “humanitarian catastrophe”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said his forces used ‘precision weapons’ to target key energy infrastructure and military command facilities in retaliation for what he called Kyiv’s ‘terrorist’ actions – a reference Ukraine’s attempts to repel the invasion of Moscow, including an attack Saturday on a key bridge between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula that Putin says was orchestrated by Ukrainian special services.
Putin has promised a “tough” and “proportionate” response if Ukraine carries out further attacks that threaten Russia’s security. “No one should doubt that,” he told the Russian Security Council by video.
The Russian president has come under intense domestic pressure to take more aggressive action to halt a largely successful Ukrainian counter-offensive and to respond forcefully to Saturday’s attack on the Kerch Bridge, whose power he used. construction to cement its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Putin’s increasingly frequent descriptions of Ukraine’s actions as terrorists could portend even bolder and more drastic actions. But in Monday’s speech, Putin – whose partial troop mobilization order last month sparked an exodus of hundreds of thousands of fighting-age men – refrained from turning his “special military operation” into a anti-terrorism campaign or martial law. Zelenskyy has repeatedly called on world leaders to declare Russia a terrorist state over its attacks on civilians and alleged war crimes.
Moscow’s war in Ukraine is nearing its eight-month mark, and the Kremlin is reeling from humiliating reverses on the battlefield in the parts of eastern Ukraine it is trying to annex.
Ukraine’s law enforcement chief said Monday’s attacks damaged 70 infrastructure sites, including 29 critical ones. Zelenskyy said that of the 84 cruise missiles and 24 drones fired by Russia, Ukrainian forces shot down 56.
Explosions hit the capital’s Shevchenko district, which includes the historic old town and 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-clad office tower was extensively damaged, with most of its blue-tinted windows blown out.
Zelenskyy, in a video address, referred to the peak hour timing of Monday’s attacks, saying Russia “chosen such-and-such a time and such-and-such a target on purpose to inflict the most damage.”
The strikes sent residents of Ukraine’s two largest cities – Kyiv and Kharkiv – into bomb shelters, including metro stations.
Zelenskyy’s wife, Olena, posted a video showing people sheltering on the stairs of a Kyiv metro station singing a Ukrainian folk song, “In a Cherry Garden”, the last lines of which are: “Ma dear mother, you are old and I am happy and young. I want to live, to love.
As air raid sirens continued throughout the war, in Kyiv and elsewhere, many Ukrainians ignored the warnings after months of calm.
As traffic picked up on Monday morning, a commuter minibus was hit near Kyiv National University. Nearby, at least one missile landed in Shevchenko Park, leaving a large hole near a children’s playground.
Another target was the Klitschko Pedestrian Bridge – a central Kyiv landmark with glass panels. Video footage showed a huge explosion below deck, with smoke billowing and a man running away, apparently unharmed. The mayor posted a video later as he walked across the bridge, pointing out a crater in a sidewalk below and shards of glass and missiles on the surface of the bridge.
Air raid sirens sounded in all parts of Ukraine, except for Russian-annexed Crimea, for four consecutive hours.
Associated Press reporters saw bodies at an industrial site on the outskirts of Dnipro. Four people were killed and 19 injured in the city, officials said. Witnesses said a missile landed in front of a bus during the morning rush hour, damaging the vehicle but not killing any passengers.
Natalia Nesterenko, a mathematician, saw a missile pass in front of the balcony of her apartment in Dnipro while she was in her kitchen, then she heard two explosions.
“It’s very dangerous. I immediately called my children to see how they were doing because anyone can be affected, women, children,” she said.
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 passed through Moldova’s airspace, the country’s Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu has said.
The attacks have drawn renewed international condemnation of Russia.
The Group of Seven industrial powers have scheduled a video conference on the situation on Tuesday, to which Zelenskyy will respond.
US President Joe Biden said the missile attacks that killed civilians “again demonstrate the utter brutality of Mr. Putin’s illegal war against the Ukrainian people”. He said the United States and its allies “will continue to impose costs on Russia for its aggression, hold Putin and Russia accountable for its atrocities and war crimes, and provide necessary support to the forces Ukrainians to defend their country and their freedom”.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he was “extremely concerned”. UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted that “Russia’s missile fire on civilian areas of Ukraine is unacceptable”.
Some feared Monday’s attacks could mark the start of a new Russian offensive. As a precaution, Ukraine has moved all schools to online learning.
In an ominous move, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko announced on Monday that he and Putin had agreed to create a “regional grouping of troops”. He gave no details.
Lukashenko has repeated his claims that Ukraine is planning an attack on Belarus, raising fears he may take preemptive action. Its defense minister, Viktor Khrenin, later released a video warning Ukraine not to provoke Belarus, but added: “We don’t want to fight.”
Sabra Ayres in Kyiv, Vasilisa Stepanenko in Kharkiv, and Justin Spike and Yesica Fisch in Dnipro contributed to this story.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine