Yesterday, Russia fired cruise missiles on densely populated Ukrainian cities in what the United States described as "horrific strikes," killing civilians and knocking out power and heat in its most widespread air attacks since the beginning of the conflict.
Explosions were recorded in Lviv, Ternopil, and Zhytomyr in western Ukraine, Dnipro and Kremenchuk in the center, Zaporizhzhia in the south, and Kharkiv in the east. Missiles ripped through junctions, parks, and tourist attractions in the capital city of Kyiv.
At least eleven people were murdered and others were injured, according to Ukrainian officials, who banned electricity exports to Europe as they worked to restore power throughout the country.
Thousands of locals rushed to bomb bunkers as daylong air raid sirens wailed. The onslaught of dozens of cruise missiles launched from the air, land, and sea was the largest wave of air attacks to strike behind enemy lines at least since the war's first day, February 24.
President Vladimir Putin said he had ordered "massive" long-range strikes in response to the weekend attack on the bridge connecting Russia to the occupied Crimean peninsula, and he vowed additional strikes if Ukraine attacks Russian territory in the future.
"It is simply impossible to let such actions go unpunished," he continued, alleging additional, unidentified attacks on Russian energy infrastructure.
According to Ukrainian military intelligence, the Russian attacks were ordered around the beginning of October. "Objects of critical civil infrastructure and the central areas of densely populated Ukrainian cities have been identified as targets," the document stated.
President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that they were intentionally timed to kill people and disable Ukraine's electrical grid. His prime minister reported that eleven main infrastructure goals were met in eight regions, leaving portions of the nation without electricity, water, or heat.
Zelensky stated, "They are attempting to destroy us and wipe us off the face of the earth."
The body of a man wearing jeans was discovered in a street at a major Kyiv intersection, surrounded by on-fire automobiles. In a park, a soldier slashed through the clothing of a woman who was attempting to treat her wounds by lying on the grass. nearby, two more women were bleeding.
"These attacks killed and maimed innocent individuals and destroyed nonmilitary sites. They again highlight the extreme severity of Mr. Putin's illegitimate campaign against the Ukrainian people,' said US Vice President Joe Biden in a statement.
The Kremlin was humiliated two days ago when an explosion damaged the bridge it constructed in 2014 after capturing Crimea. Ukraine, which considers the bridge as a military objective supporting Russia's war effort, applauded the explosion without claiming responsibility.
As troops endured weeks of failures on the battlefield, Russian officials faced the first sustained public criticism of the war at home, with commentators on state television calling for even more stringent measures.
Ben Hodges, a former commander of US army operations in Europe, speculated that Russia's strategy to escalate may have been formulated before the bridge was hit based on the magnitude of the strikes.
General Sergei Surovikin, who received praise in Syria, was appointed head of Russian forces in Ukraine by the Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday. A Russian air campaign in Syria assisted the Syrian government in destroying its foes.
Yesterday's explosions created a massive hole near a children's playground in one of Kyiv's most popular parks. Smoking remains of what appeared to be a missile were buried in the mud.
Later in the morning, more volleys of missiles pounded the capital once more. At the entrances of subway stations and in parking garages, pedestrians clustered for refuge.
"This is an unacceptable escalation of the war, and as always, civilians are paying the highest price," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, as the UN's relief agency and others reported disruptions to their work in Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the attacks as "horrific," and he and Vice President Joe Biden reaffirmed US support for Ukraine.
Ukraine's defense ministry reported in a nightly update that Russia had launched at least 84 missiles and aircraft, while Ukraine's air defenses had destroyed 43 cruise missiles and 13 drones. According to the Russian defense ministry, all intended targets had been struck.
The footage from security cameras showed shrapnel and flames engulfing a glass-bottomed footbridge over a wooded valley in the heart of Kyiv, one of the city's most prominent tourist attractions. One pedestrian was observed fleeing the explosion. Later, Reuters spotted a crater beneath the damaged but still standing bridge.
In a further indication of a possible escalation, Putin's closest friend, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, stated that he had ordered the deployment of Belarusian and Russian armies near Ukraine, which he accused of plotting strikes on Belarus with support from the West.
Early on in the conflict, Russia used Belarus as a staging ground, but Lukashenko has not brought in his soldiers.
Within Russia, hawks applauded the strikes. Ramzan Kadyrov, the pro-Kremlin leader of Russia's Chechnya province who previously sought the dismissal of military officers, wrote: "I am completely satisfied with the way the special military operation is being carried out."