Kyiv missile attack: Playgrounds and office blocks among civilian targets hit in dangerous new escalation

Cruise missiles rained down on civilian targets including a playground, pedestrian bridge and university in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv during the morning rush hour on Monday in a dangerous escalation of the war in response to the attack on Crimea’s Kerch Bridge.

Seventy five missiles were fired against Ukrainian targets with 41 neutralised by air defenses, Ukraine’s Armed Forces General Staff said. Air raid sirens were reported across all regions of the country with electricity and water infrastructure targeted in several areas including Lviv, Ternopil and Zhytomyr in western Ukraine, Dnipro and Kremenchuk in central Ukraine, Zaporizhzhia in the south and Kharkiv in the east.

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In Kyiv, precision-guided weapons hit targets including a playground, a museum, a pedestrian glass bridge and an office block that had been home to the German embassy, during strikes that took place as the city filled with morning commuters.

The Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, reported explosions in the city’s Shevchenko district, which is home to historic monuments and government buildings. At least ten people have been killed, the Ukrainian authorities said, with reports of up to 60 injured across the country.

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In a televised address, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the strikes had targeted “energy, military, and communication infrastructure.” He implied they were a response to the attack on Kerch Bridge in Crimea on Saturday, and threatened a “harsh response” to further “acts of terrorism.”

Damage from the strikes left several cities without power. Ukrainian Prime Minister Shmyhal said that 11 infrastructure sites had been hit across the country. Photos circulated showing power plants in Kyiv and Lviv on fire.

Germany reported that its consulate in Kyiv had been struck by a missile. Foreign diplomats stationed at embassies in the city were being evacuated, the Kyiv Post reported.

The attacks led the International Committee of the Red Cross tp temporarily halt work in Ukraine for security reasons, a spokesperson said Monday. The Norwegian Refugee Council also said that it had halted its aid operations there until it is safe to resume.

Cars burn after Russian military strike, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in central Kyiv, Ukraine October 10, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Scenes of destruction in Kyiv following Russian missile strikes. (Photo: Reuters)

Ukrainian officials sent a message of defiance as President Zelensky called for a G7 meeting following the attack. “Beaten by the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the battlefield, coward Putin responds with terror against peaceful Ukrainian cities and civilians,” the government’s official account tweeted. “We will not waver.”

Defence consultant, Konrad Muzyka, said the strikes were an escalation of an existing strategy. “As Russia cannot influence the frontline it is resorting to strikes against civilian targets,” he told i. “This has been happening for months already but on a much smaller scale and near frontline areas.”

The targeting of Ukraine’s capital might also have been intended as psychological warfare.

“Probably the key motivation (was) to demonstrate capability if not the intent to obliterate Kyiv,” said Professor Sergey Radchenko of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “There is an implied nuclear threat behind each conventional strike into the heart of the Ukrainian capital.”

Previous escalatory moves from Russia have not succeeded in intimidating Ukraine and its supporters. The purported annexation of four Ukrainian regions was followed by further Ukrainian advances into the territory and the announcement of further military aid from abroad.

The missile barrage will strengthen Ukraine’s claim for more advanced air defences, suggests security analyst Edward Lucas.

“Ukraine says it shot down around 40 missiles – how many more could it have been if we had supplied air defences?” he says. “This will increase the pressure on the West to provide them.”

Ukraine retains the initiative on the battlefield, Mr Lucas added. But he suggested that this could make the Kremlin more dangerous and lead to further missile barrages on Ukrainian cities as it seeks to compensate for losses elsewhere.

More on Russia-Ukraine war

Mr Putin may also be responding to pressure from hardliners within his military who have been lobbying for escalation. He appointed General Sergey Surovikin to lead the war effort on Sunday in a tacit recognition of military failures that have led to mounting criticism of commanders.

If the missile blitz was intended to appease hardliners, there were signs it had succeeded. “Now I am 100% satisfied,” wrote Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on Telegram.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that a meeting of G7 countries had been convened to discuss their response.

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