KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russia unleashed a barrage of deadly attacks against several Ukrainian cities Monday, destroying civilian targets including downtown Kyiv in which at least eight people were killed.
The hours of intense attacks marked a sudden military escalation by Moscow. It came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin cited Saturday’s explosion on a large bridge linking Russia to the Crimea annexed territory. a “terrorist act” masterminded by Ukrainian special services.
At least eight people were killed and 24 injured in just one attack in Kyiv, according to preliminary information, said Rostyslav Smirnov, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry.
The continuous barrage of major cities hit residential areas and critical infrastructure facilities, signaling a major escalation in the war amid Ukraine’s counter-offensive in recent weeks. It comes hours before Putin is due to hold a meeting with his security council, as Moscow’s war in Ukraine approaches its eight-month milestone and the Kremlin reels from humiliating battlefield setbacks in the areas it is trying to annex.
The explosion occurred in the Shevchenko district of the capital, a large area in central Kyiv that includes the historic old city as well as several government offices, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Several strikes took place near the government area in the symbolic heart of the capital, where Parliament and other major landmarks are located. A glass tower housing office was badly damaged, most of the blue windows shattered.
Residents were seen on the streets with blood on their clothes and hands. A young man wearing a blue jacket sits on the ground as medics wrap his head in bandages. A woman with a bandage wrapped around her head had blood all over the front of her blouse. Several cars were also damaged or completely destroyed. Air raid sirens sounded repeatedly across the country and in Kyiv.
The Kyiv subway stopped running as people took cover at its station. Power and water supplies were cut off in many areas.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces launched dozens of Iranian-made missiles and drones into Ukraine.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said 75 missiles were fired at Ukrainian targets, with 41 of them neutralized by air defenses.
The targets were civilian areas and energy facilities in 10 cities, Zelenskyy said in a video speech. “(Russia) chose such timing and targets on purpose to inflict the most damage,” Zelenskyy said.
Lesia Vasylenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, posted a photo on Twitter showing that at least one explosion took place near the main building of the Kyiv National University in central Kyiv.
Elsewhere, Russia targeted civilian areas and energy infrastructure as air raid sirens sounded in every part of Ukraine, except for Russian-annexed Crimea, for four straight hours.
Associated Press reporters in downtown Dnipro saw the bodies of several people killed at an industrial site on the outskirts of the city. The windows in the area were shattered and glass strewn across the street. A telecommunications building was hit.
Ukrainian media also reported explosions in a number of other locations, including the western city of Lviv which has become a refuge for many people fleeing fighting in the east, as well as in Kharkiv, Ternopil, Khmelnytskyi, Zhytomyr and Kropyvnytskyi.
Kharkiv was beaten three times, said Mayor Ihor Terekhov. The strike cut off electricity and water. Energy infrastructure has also been affected in Lviv, said Regional Governor Maksym Kozytskyi.
The day before, Putin called the attack on the Kerch Bridge to Crimea a terrorist act carried out by Ukrainian special services. In a Sunday meeting with the chairman of the Russian Investigative Committee, Putin said, “There is no doubt that it was a terrorist act directed at the destruction of very important civilian infrastructure.”
The Kerch Bridge is of strategic importance to Russia, as a military supply line for its troops in Ukraine, and symbolically, as a symbol of its claim to Crimea. No one has claimed responsibility for the damage to the 12-mile-long bridge, Europe’s longest.
Amid the onslaught, Zelenskyy said on his Telegram account that Russia was “trying to destroy us and wipe us off the face of the earth.”
“Please don’t leave the (bomb) shelter,” he wrote. “Let’s survive and be strong.”