At least five people were killed, and at least a dozen others were injured in the strikes, Ukraine’s national police reported on its Telegram channel.
Explosions were reported across other major Ukrainian cities on Monday, including in Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Kharkiv and Lviv, as Moscow unleashed a barrage of missiles.
In Kyiv, the strikes came in waves, the first attack on the city since June. But even when Russian forces were on the outskirts of the capital in the early months of the war, no attack had hit so directly in the city center.
Suddenly, the gleeful taunts that characterized Ukraine’s national elation over the fireball on the Crimean Bridge, were replaced on Monday by fury and outrage, charges of terrorism against Moscow, and redoubled resolve to overcome the aggression and defeat the invaders.
In a parallel to the first days of the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a video of him standing in the center of Kyiv, outside of the presidential office, to address citizens.
“The morning is tough,” Zelensky said. “We are dealing with terrorists.”
“Always remember,” he added, “Ukraine existed before this enemy appeared, and Ukraine will exist after it.”
In Moscow, where he convened a meeting of his security council, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted of a “massive attack” using high-precision weapons in retaliation for the bridge explosion, and he warned of further strikes if Ukraine continued to hit Russian targets.
“In the event of continued Ukrainian acts of terrorism on Russian territory, our response will be harsh and in terms of its scale will correspond to the level of threats,” Putin said.
Russia’s strikes in the heart of the capital raised questions about the strength of Ukraine’s air defenses, which officials have been pushing Western countries to bolster through additional security assistance. Ukraine’s military reported that its air defenses had knocked down 43 of the 83 missiles launched at the country on Monday.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Kyiv was reaching out to its Western allies to organize a response to Monday’s strikes. “I am in constant contact with partners since early morning today to coordinate a resolute response to Russians attacks,” Kuleba posted on Twitter. “I am also interrupting my Africa tour and heading back to Ukraine immediately.”
The strikes appeared to be retribution for Saturday’s attack on the bridge across the Kerch Strait, which has partially reopened, including to rail traffic. The Crimean Bridge is a strategic link between mainland Russia and Crimea and a symbol of Putin’s ambitions to annex Ukrainian territory.
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Putin blamed Ukrainian special services for the attack.
“There is no doubt that the attack was aimed at destroying critical civilian infrastructure of the Russian Federation,” Putin said in a video released by the Kremlin on Sunday. The 12-mile span, while used by civilians, is a crucial military logistics conduit for Russia’s military, the only direct road and rail route from mainland Russia to Crimea, which the Kremlin invaded and illegally annexed in 2014.
“And now the answer has arrived,” Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of state-owned channel RT, wrote on Twitter. “The Crimean bridge from the very beginning was that red line. It was obvious.”
Putin has been under pressure to up the ante in what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine after a succession of recent battlefield failures. In the past six weeks, Ukraine has routed Russian forces from the northeast Kharkiv region, and pushed them back in the eastern Donbas region and southern Kherson region.
But while hitting Kyiv might please Russian hard-liners who have been calling for more attacks on the capital, it will not reverse Russia’s core strategic programs, including losses of soldiers and equipment, flagging morale, and repeated logistical failures.
The attacks followed Russia’s announcement on Saturday that Gen. Sergei Surovikin had been named overall commander of the war in Ukraine. Surovikin is a veteran officer who led the Russian military expedition in Syria in 2017, which featured indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas.
Moscow’s longtime proxy leader of Crimea called the barrage of strikes across Ukraine “good news.”
“Good news from the early morning: approaches to conducting the special military operation have changed,” the regional chief, Sergey Aksyonov, wrote on Telegram. “I’ve said from the first day of the operation that if such actions aimed at destroying the enemy’s infrastructure have been taken every day, then we would have finished everything in May and the Kyiv regime would have been defeated.”
“I hope that now the pace of the operation will not slow down,” Aksyonov said.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechnya region in the in the North Caucasus who has repeatedly called for an escalation of the war in Ukraine and sent hundreds of fighters to the front line, said he is now “100 percent satisfied” with Moscow’s war strategy.
Monday’s strikes shattered the sense of relative peace that Kyiv has experienced since April, when Ukrainian troops pushed Russian forces to retreat from the northern edges of the region.
Reports of explosions occurring throughout the country over several hours harked back to the first day of the war, when Russia attempted to wipe out Ukrainian military installations to set the stage for the invasion. On Monday, however, the targets appeared to be mostly civilian.
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About 90 minutes after the first explosions rocked the capital, emergency workers and military personnel were arrayed around an intersection that was hit in central Kyiv. The site is next to a major university complex and Taras Shevchenko Park, which is popular with families. One of the missiles landed in the park’s playground.
The burned-out hulls of several cars remained, and at least one body bag was visible on the pavement. Glass from shattered building windows littered the sidewalk.
Another missile hit a glass pedestrian bridge in downtown Kyiv that had been a popular site for tourists.
Kyiv has returned to somewhat normal life in the months since Russia failed to seize the capital and topple the government. People routinely ignored air-raid sirens while sitting at outdoor cafes and walking around town.
After the war’s initial onset prompted many foreign governments to evacuate their embassy staff, embassies gradually reopened. The United States reopened its embassy in May. It was unclear whether Monday’s barrage would prompt those countries to reconsider.
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In the western city of Lviv, a refuge for thousands of displaced Ukrainians because it is far from the front line, missiles struck a power plant and knocked out electricity and hot water in some places, the mayor, Andriy Sadovyi, said on Twitter.
“They are trying to destroy us and wipe us off the face of the earth,” Zelensky said on Telegram. “Destroy our people who are sleeping at home in Zaporizhzhia. Kill people who go to work in Dnipro and Kyiv.”
Khurshudyan reported from Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine. Kostiantyn Khudov in Kyiv and Mary Ilyushina in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.
War in Ukraine: What you need to know
The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, following staged referendums that were widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.
The response: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions on Russia, in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said Friday that Ukraine is applying for “accelerated ascension” into NATO, in an apparent answer to the annexations.
In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on Sept. 21 to call up as many as 300,000 reservists in a dramatic bid to reverse setbacks in his war on Ukraine. The announcement led to an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly men who were subject to service, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.
The fight: Ukraine mounted a successful counteroffensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.
Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.
How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.
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