President Vladimir Putin has said Russia’s response to any further Ukrainian attacks would be “severe”, as Moscow’s forces carried out retaliatory missile attacks across multiple Ukrainian cities following an explosion on a bridge linking Crimea with Russia.
“It was not possible to leave [Ukrainian attacks] unanswered. If attempts at terrorist attacks continue, the response from Russia will be severe and correspond to the level of threat,” Putin said on Monday at the start of a televised meeting of his Security Council.
“Let there be no doubt about it,” he said.
Putin’s remarks come after a huge blast on Saturday damaged a key bridge in Crimea, Putin’s flagship project and a vital transport link between Russia and the peninsula Moscow annexed in 2014.
In response to the attack, Putin said Russia carried out “a massive strike with high-precision, long-range weapons … on energy, military command and communications facilities in Ukraine”.
Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement the series of attacks “have achieved their objectives. All targets have been hit.”
Putin also accused Ukraine of launching three attacks on the Kursk nuclear power plant in Russia, about 85km (53 miles) from the Ukrainian border, and of attempting to hit the TurkStream gas pipeline running from Russia to Turkey under the Black Sea.
Ukraine’s Emergency Service said a total of at least 11 people were killed and 64 were wounded in the morning attacks across Ukraine – the biggest and broadest since the early days of the war.
Ukraine’s capital Kyiv was hit by multiple Russian missiles early on Monday – the first since late June.
Blasts hit the capital’s Shevchenko district, a large area in the centre of the city that includes the historic old town as well as several government offices, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Some of the Russian missiles hit near the government quarter in the symbolic heart of the capital, where parliament and other major landmarks are located. A glass tower housing offices was significantly damaged, most of its blue-tinted windows blown out.
Residents were seen on the streets with blood on their clothes and hands, while several cars were also damaged or destroyed. Air raid sirens sounded repeatedly across the country.
Russia’s former President Dmitry Medvedev said the attacks were only the “first episode” and that Russia’s goal should be “the complete dismantling of Ukraine’s political regime”.
Russia also launched attacks on several other cities across Ukraine, particularly targeting energy infrastructure.
Electricity cuts were reported in several regions, including Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv and its surrounding region, plus the northeastern Sumy region, Zhytomyr region in the north and Khmelnytskyi region in the west.
The sustained barrage on major cities also hit residential areas, portending a significant surge in the war amid a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in recent weeks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces launched dozens of missiles and Iranian-built drones against Ukraine.
His prime minister said 11 major infrastructure targets were hit in eight regions, leaving swaths of the country with no electricity, water or heat.
The General Staff of the Ukraine Armed Forces said 75 missiles were fired against Ukrainian targets, of which 41 were neutralised by air defences.
The targets were civilian areas and energy facilities in 10 cities, Zelenskyy said in a video address.
“[The Russians] chose such a time and such targets on purpose to inflict the most damage,” he said.