Moscow (CNSNews.com) – Russia conducted a large-scale missile strike against Ukrainian critical infrastructure following the weekend explosion on the bridge linking Russia to annexed Crimea, a highly symbolic target closely associated with President Vladimir Putin.
More than 80 cruise missiles and two dozen kamikaze drones were deployed on Monday morning local time, hitting energy supply plants, governmental buildings, and communication facilities in cities across Ukraine. The bulk of the strikes targeted Kyiv, but explosions were also reported in at least eight other Ukrainian regions.
Another Russian missile barrage occurred in the afternoon. In total, Ukrainian officials estimate that 11 people were killed and 89 injured as a result of the attacks.
Ukraine’s Emergency Services reported that five regions — Lviv, Kharkiv, Poltava, Sumy, and Ternopil — were suffering power outages following the missile strikes. The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned about the risk of rolling blackouts nationwide and urged Ukrainians to cut back on their electricity usage.
“The United States strongly condemns Russia’s missile strikes today across Ukraine, including in Kyiv,” President Biden said in a statement.
“These attacks only further reinforce our commitment to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he added.
The missile barrage came just two days after a truck explosion partially damaged the Crimean Bridge. Built in 2018 and personally inaugurated by Putin, the bridge provides a rail and road connection between southern Russia and the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.
Since the start of the Ukraine conflict, the bridge has served as an important route for Russian troops and weapons headed to the frontlines.
Saturday’s blast caused two eastbound parts of the bridge’s road section to collapse into the water, and a nearby train carrying fuel tanks caught fire. Despite the damage, rail and automobile traffic was mostly resumed later in the day.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has accused Ukrainian security services of carrying out the explosion. Kyiv publicly denied responsibility, but anonymous Ukrainian officials told media outlets that Ukrainian intelligence had indeed organized the attack.
During a meeting with his Security Council on Monday, Putin called the bridge explosion a “terrorist act” and accused Ukrainian security services of previously attempting to sabotage a nuclear power plant in Russia’s Kursk region and destroy a natural gas pipeline to Turkey.
“If attempts to carry out terrorist attacks on our territory continue, our responses will be severe and proportional to the threats posed to the Russian Federation,” he said. “No one should have any doubts about this.”
There is also some indication that Monday’s strikes were partially influenced by recent personnel changes in the Russian military.
On Saturday, Putin appointed General Sergei Surovkin as the top commander of Russian forces in Ukraine. Nicknamed “General Armageddon” by pro-government media, Surovkin served as the commander of Russia’s Aerospace Forces since 2017. He previously led Russian forces in Syria and is widely credited with helping the Assad regime achieve its biggest battlefield successes.
Some Russian political insiders have described Surovkin as a “proponent of launching wide-scale missile strikes on infrastructure, including civilian infrastructure” in Ukraine, according to Meduza, a liberal opposition media outlet.
It remains to be seen whether Monday’s missile strikes will have a serious impact on Ukraine’s military capabilities in the long run, however.
Igor Strelkov, a retired Russian intelligence officer who led pro-Russian rebel forces in eastern Ukraine in 2014, wrote on Telegram that even if Russia successfully knocked out Ukraine’s remaining electrical power plants, it would take at least a few weeks before the damage to Kyiv’s energy system began to visibly undermine its military performance.
In the meantime, he predicted that the Ukrainian armed forces would likely attempt one or two large-scale offensives into Russian-held territory before the end of October.
“Now every day without an enemy offensive is working to our benefit since the flow of mobilized troops arriving at the front is growing every day, and the time remaining before the preparation and commissioning of urgently formed reserves is shortening,” Strelkov said, referring to the Kremlin’s decision last month to call up 300,000 reservists for military service in Ukraine.
Zakhar Prilepin, a hawkish Russian writer and politician, warned that Monday’s missile strikes would likely lead to retaliatory Ukrainian attacks against Russian cities.
“Such pressure cannot be stopped and just look at the [Ukrainian] reaction,” he wrote on Telegram. “The escalation will only grow. Zelenskyy is already sitting and thinking how to answer.”