Days after Ukraine struck a strategic and symbolic blow by bombing Russia’s only bridge to Crimea, Russia retaliated with a dozens of air strikes on targets in at least 11 cities throughout Ukraine. Russia launched at least 84 cruise missiles and two dozen Iranian-made drones in the Monday assault, its largest and widest-reaching single barrage since the invasion began. Ukrainian authorities say they intercepted 43 of the missiles, but at least 12 people were killed and more than 80 wounded. Most of the strikes hit in places far from the front lines, including Kyiv and Lviv.
One missile that apparently missed its target struck severely damaged an office tower in Kyiv. It had been months since any successful Russian air strikes on the Ukrainian capital. Now the city is once again pocked with fresh craters, including one next to a children’s playground in a popular park.
Many Kyiv residents who spoke with reporters Monday responded defiantly to the new attacks.
The barrage was meant as a message to both Ukraine and Russia following weeks of demoralizing defeats and setbacks for Russian forces in Ukraine. Russian president Vladimir Putin, who said over the weekend that Ukraine’s attack on the Kerch Bridge was terrorism, celebrated Monday’s air strikes in a televised speech in which he not only emphasized that the assault was retaliation for Ukraine’s attack on the bridge but also threatened more “harsh” retaliation if Ukraine’s “terrorism” continues. The air strikes were the kind of tactic that flummoxed Russian hard-liners have been clamoring for in recent weeks.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday that Russia was the terrorist as the timing and targets of the barrage “were specially chosen to cause as much damage as possible” and reflected Russia’s inability to defeat Ukraine on the actual battlefield.
Following the Russian onslaught, Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian leaders and advocates immediately called for Kyiv’s western allies to supply more air-defense systems to the country — and according to analysts who spoke with the New York Times on Monday, it’s likely Ukraine’s wish will be granted.
This post has been updated.