(CN) — Russia unleashed a withering attack Monday on Ukrainian cities and power grid, knocking out electricity in many parts of the country, in retaliation for an alleged Ukrainian sabotage attack on a critical bridge connecting Crimea and Russia.
In a television announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday's attack on the Kerch Bridge in Crimea was an act of terrorism that must be punished. He warned that Russia was prepared to pummel Ukraine with even harsher strikes in the future.
“If attempts continue to carry out terror attacks on our territory, Russia’s responses will be tough and by their scope correspond to the level of threats created for the Russian Federation,” Putin said during a meeting with Russia’s Security Council, as reported by Tass, the Russia state news agency. “No one must have any doubts about that.”
Russia launched more than 80 rockets against major power plants in Ukraine and other targets, including in central Kyiv, causing extensive damage. Ukraine said its air defenses intercepted about half of the rockets. Also, Russia deployed attack drones; reportedly, it also used Iranian-made Shaded-136, a kamikaze drone.
Bombs struck targets in Ukraine's largest cities, including Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk and elsewhere. Videos posted showed massive plumes of smoke at several locations. Putin said long-range precision rockets launched by warplanes, naval craft and artillery were shot at energy, military command and communications facilities.
At least 11 people were killed and at least 89 wounded in the strikes, which were condemned by NATO, the European Union and Washington. The massive bombardment caused outrage and panic in Ukraine. Long lines of cars were seen waiting at gas stations, supermarket shelves were emptying out and people were told to reduce their electricity use due to the power grid damage.
There was extensive damage in Kyiv, the capital. Ukrainian officials said dozens of residential buildings, schools, a kindergarten, cultural buildings, healthcare facilities and two administrative buildings were damaged.
Reportedly, the headquarters of Ukraine's secret security agency, the Security Service of Ukraine, was targeted by drones, though details about the attack and damage caused remained unclear. The street where the agency is located, Vladimirskaya Street, was hit. Ukraine's presidential building is not far away.
Putin accused the spy agency, known as the SBU, of being behind the attack on the Kerch Bridge. He's also accused the SBU, the successor of Ukraine's Soviet KGB, of planting a bomb that killed Darya Dugina, a journalist and daughter of Alexander Dugin, a well-known far-right nationalist philosopher. She was killed late August while driving in Moscow, though her father may have been the intended target. The U.S. has distanced itself from both the Dugina killing and the Kerch Bridge blast, but Washington is providing Kyiv with massive amounts of arms, training, advice and intelligence.
Also, a building in central Kyiv housing a German consulate was among those hit, though the consulate has been closed since February. Many countries closed their diplomatic offices in Kyiv as tensions ratcheted up before Putin launched the invasion and after the invasion started.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Ukrainians to remain tough in their fight against Russia.
“We are dealing with terrorists,” Zelenskyy said in a video message. “They want panic and chaos, they want to destroy our energy system. They are incorrigible.”
He said the attacks will not weaken Ukraine's resolve.
“There may be temporary power outages now, but there will never be an outage of our confidence – our confidence in victory,” Zelenskyy vowed. “Why such strikes exactly? The enemy wants us to be afraid, wants to make people run. But we can only run forward – and we demonstrate this on the battlefield.”