President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday people were killed and injured in multiple missile strikes on cities across Ukraine, including the first bombardment of the capital in months. The strikes could signal a major escalation in the.
“Air raid sirens are not subsiding around Ukraine… Unfortunately there are dead and wounded. Please do not leave the shelters,” Zelensky said on social media, accusing Russia of wanting to “wipe us from the face of the Earth.”
The blasts came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Kyiv for massive awith Russia. Crimea is a large Ukrainian peninsula that Russia eight years ago during a previous invasion. The annexation of that territory, like that he declared Russian soil last week, have been condemned as illegitimate and illegal by Ukraine, the United Nations, the U.S. and other Ukrainian partners.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said on social media Monday that, “Ukraine is under missile attack. There is information about strikes in many cities of our country.”
General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said on Twitter that Russia had launched 75 missiles at Ukraine but that “41 of them were neutralized by our air defence.”
Zelenskyy later emerged onto a street in Kyiv to record a selfie video with a message to his people and the world, denouncing Russia for the barrage of missiles which he said had targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, and its civilians.
“They have specifically chosen such a time and such targets to cause as much damage as possible,” the president said. “But we Ukrainians, we help each other, believe in ourselves, rebuild everything. Now the shortages of electricity may occur, but not the shortage of our defiance and our confidence in our victory.”
In Kyiv, reporters for the French news agency AFP heard at least five explosions in two salvos Monday morning, and a BBC News reporter ducked for cover as a massive explosion struck while he was on the air. Some of the missiles hit the center of the capital. Previous attacks largely targeted Kyiv’s outskirts.
Videos posted on social media showed black smoke rising above several areas of the city.
Russia’s last strike on the capital was on June 26.
Other major cities hit by explosions Monday included Lviv, in Ukraine’s far west, which has been a refuge for many people fleeing the fighting in the east.
Witnesses also reported a loud explosion Monday morning in Russia’s Belgorod region, which sits right along Ukraine’s eastern border. One witness told Reuters there was a loud bang and windows shook. The cause of the blast wasn’t clear.
The explosions came a day after Putin said Ukraine was behind an explosion on the Kerch bridge, linking Crimea with Russia, that left three people dead.
“The authors, perpetrators and sponsors are the Ukrainian secret services,” Putin said of Saturday’s bridge bombing, which he described as a “terrorist act.”
Putin spoke during a meeting with the head of the investigation committee he has set up to look into the bombing, Russian news agencies reported. The Russian leader was gearing up for a meeting with his Security Council later Monday, the Kremlin told local news agencies.
“Tomorrow the president has a planned meeting with the permanent members of the Security Council,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The blast that hit the bridge sparked celebrations among Ukrainians and others on social media. But Zelenskyy, in his nightly address on Saturday, didn’t directly mention the incident, and officials in Kyiv have made no direct claim of responsibility.
On Saturday, Russia said some road and rail traffic had resumed over the strategic link, a powerful symbol of the Kremlin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. The bridge has served as a vital supply link between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula during its current invasion of south and eastern Ukraine.
Some military analysts argue the explosion could have a major impact if Moscow sees the need to shift already hard-pressed troops to Crimea from other regions — or if it prompts a rush by residents to leave.
Mick Ryan, a retired Australian senior officer now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said even if Kyiv wasn’t behind the blast, it constituted “a massive influence operation win for Ukraine.
“It is a demonstration to Russians, and the rest of the world, that Russia’s military cannot protect any of the provinces it recently annexed,” he said on Twitter.
Zelenskyy, meanwhile, denounced a, the latest deadly bombardment of the southern Ukrainian city. The attack also wounded 89 people, according to a statement from the president’s office.
Zelenskyy described the “merciless strikes on peaceful people” and residential buildings as “absolute evil” perpetrated by “savages and terrorists.”
Regional official Oleksandr Starukh posted pictures of heavily damaged apartment blocks on social media and said a rescue operation had been launched to find victims under the rubble.
Russian officials, meanwhile, denounced on Sunday what they said was a surge in Ukrainian fire into its territory that had hit homes, administrative buildings and a monastery.
Russia’s FBS, which is responsible for border security, said on Sunday: “Since the start of October, the number of attacks from Ukrainian armed formations on Russia’s border territory has considerably increased.”
More than 100 artillery attacks, concentrated on the western border regions of Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk, had hit housing and administrative buildings, said the statement. The attacks had killed one person and wounded five others.