Russia rained rockets across Ukraine on Monday, delivering a bloody dose of deja vu to the invaded nation, sapping power in some cities and signaling the widening of a seven-month war that had been mostly confined to the country’s south and east in recent weeks.
The air attacks — which came with the Russian Army struggling on the battlefield — upended the morning rush hour in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, where locals scrambled to safety in bomb shelters or in the subway. In the second-largest city, Kharkiv, strikes on infrastructure left neighborhoods in the dark after night fell.
At least 14 people died in the attacks and 97 were wounded, according to the Ukrainian government, which also reported damage to dozens of buildings. The nation’s state emergency service said the strikes reached a dozen regions and set more than 30 fires in Kyiv.
The onslaught spanned from Ukraine’s east to its west and arrived after Moscow blamed Ukraine for a weekend blast on the bridge between Russia and the occupied Crimean peninsula. Russia described the Saturday explosion as a terrorist attack.
The damage to the bridge may have offered President Vladimir Putin a welcome pretext for escalation. The Russian leader has ramped up his rhetoric in recent days and faces pressure from several angles in Russia over the costly war he has waged on Ukraine since Feb. 24.
The Monday attacks came as a shock in Kyiv, where life had largely returned to normal after the Ukrainian military turned back Russia’s late-winter drive to take the city. Residents in the capital held a stiff upper lip on Monday — singing patriotic words as they sheltered in the subway — but roads and buildings were devastated, autos burned and many were shaken.
“There is such an unpleasant silence in the city,” Mirona Zulgarina, 30, a Kyiv designer, told the Daily News. “Everyone is a bit nervous about what is happening.”
“It’s definitely flashbacks,” she added.
President Biden, who pelted Russia with sanctions on Sept. 30 over the Kremlin’s claimed annexation of four provinces in southern and eastern Ukraine, issued a sharply worded four-paragraph statement in response to the Monday morning attack.
“These attacks killed and injured civilians and destroyed targets with no military purpose,” Biden said in the statement, which did not detail further sanctions, but condemned “the utter brutality of Mr. Putin’s illegal war on the Ukrainian people.”
A meeting between Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the leaders of the G7 countries — a squad of some of the globe’s most economically muscular nations — was expected Tuesday, perhaps setting the stage for fresh sanctions on Moscow.
Zelenskyy also had a phone call Monday with Biden, and the pair focused on Ukraine’s air defense capabilities, according to both of their offices.
The strikes, which may have been far more damaging if not for defense efforts that intercepted dozens of missiles, appeared intended to create blackouts as weather chills in Ukraine’s north.
Power was said to be down in most of the western city of Lviv, where the temperature was 45 degrees on Monday night.
“They want panic and chaos — they want to destroy our energy system,” Zelenskyy said in a brief video address delivered by selfie near his office. “There may be temporary power outages now, but there will never be an outage of our confidence.”
Liz Truss, Britain’s prime minister, spoke by phone with Zelenskyy and tweeted that the “appalling attacks on civilian areas in Kyiv and elsewhere are a clear sign of Putin’s desperation.”
The Ukrainian Army has been on the march in the northeast, clawing back territory that Russia seized earlier in Europe’s largest military conflict since World War II.
The losses on the battlefield have put pressure on Putin, who faces discontent among his hard-line nationalist cheerleaders, public opposition to a military draft he has ordered and fraying support from China.
Backed into a corner, Putin has dispensed nuclear threats that have sent shivers through the West.
At a fund-raiser in New York last week, Biden described a threat unseen since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, adding that Putin is “not joking” about using nuclear weapons.
“I don’t think there’s any such thing as an ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon,” Biden said.
But on Monday, Putin reached for one of his more well-worn tactics, albeit one that put innocent citizens at risk far from the battlefields of Russia’s brutal war.
The windows in one high-rise building in Kyiv were blown out. The city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said six school buildings in the city were damaged.
Some missiles soared over the city’s center. A popular pedestrian bridge was apparently rocked by a blast, but the glass crossing remained intact.
Olivia Milton, an IT worker who lives in a high-rise apartment building in the Dniprovsky district of Kyiv and fled the city with her son after the invasion but has since returned, said she saw two rockets fly over the city and explode near a major energy facility.
The facility continued to work, Milton said. But Kyiv was left on edge, and many residents brought air mattresses down to bomb shelters, she said, adding that she was not sure if her family would sleep in a shelter.
“In the morning, it felt like the war started once again,” said Milton, 33. “I’m still worried. But it’s just silent in the city. It’s really silent.”
With Dave Goldiner