Ukraine vowed Monday, Oct. 10, it would not be intimidated by a wave of deadly missile strikes from “terrorist state” Russia as Moscow stoked fears of further retaliation with threats of more “severe” attacks.
The heaviest bombardment of Ukraine in months, which killed 11 and wounded more than 80, came in response to an explosion at the weekend that damaged a vital bridge from Russia to the Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula.
“Ukraine cannot be intimidated. It can only be more united. Ukraine cannot be stopped,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a defiant video, vowing to make the “battlefield even more painful” for Russian troops.
Kyiv said Russian forces had fired more than 80 missiles on cities across the country — including the capital — and that Russia had used Iranian drones launched from neighbouring Belarus, spurring panic and damaging energy facilities.
“Let there be no doubt,” Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said in televised comments addressed to his security council, “if attempts at terrorist attacks continue, the response from Russia will be severe.”
Kyiv’s ambassador to the United Nations denounced Russia during an urgent General Assembly meeting to discuss Moscow’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions.
“Russia has proven once again, that this is a terrorist state that must be deterred in the strongest possible ways,” said Sergiy Kyslytsya, speaking hours after the assault.
Ahead of the session, and with tensions at a boiling point, UN chief Antonio Guterres described Russia’s attacks as an “unacceptable escalation of the war,” his spokesman said.
US President Joe Biden said the strikes “demonstrate the utter brutality” of Putin’s “illegal war.”
Biden pledged to “continue providing Ukraine with the support needed to defend itself, including advanced air defence systems” during a call with Zelensky, the White House said.
Zelensky described the call as “productive” in a tweet in which he asserted air defence as “the number 1 priority” for Ukraine.
– ‘Killing civilians’ –
Ksenia Ryazantseva, a 39-year-old language teacher, told AFP she was awoken by the blasts.
“We saw the smoke, then the cars, and then we realised we didn’t have a window anymore,” she added. “There’s no military target or anything like that here. They’re just killing civilians”.
Zelensky said the strikes aimed to take down Ukrainian energy infrastructure and regional officials across the country confirmed widespread disruption.
Russia’s defence ministry meanwhile confirmed it had targeted Ukrainian energy, military command and communications facilities, claiming the strikes had been a success and “achieved their aims”.
Kuleba said the attacks had not been “provoked” and that the onslaught was Moscow’s response to a series of embarrassing military losses in eastern Ukraine.
“Putin is desperate because of battlefield defeats and uses missile terror to try to change the pace of war in his favour,” he wrote on social media.
With Putin’s actions in the spotlight, UN debate will open on a draft resolution denouncing what has been widely seen in the West as Russia’s illegal seizure of Ukrainian land.
The decision to bring the annexation matter before the General Assembly, where the 193 UN members have one vote each — and no one wields veto power — was taken after Russia used its veto in a Security Council meeting September 30 to block a similar proposal.
Zelensky said he had spoken with the leaders of France and Germany and urged them to “increase pressure” on Russia.
Black smoke –
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged “unwavering economic, humanitarian, and security assistance” to Ukraine as the national police service put the nationwide death toll from the Russian assault at 11.
Ukrainian officials said downtown Kyiv was hit and that a university, museums and the philharmonic building had been damaged.
An AFP journalist in Kyiv said a projectile landed near a playground and saw smoke rising from a large crater at the impact site. Trees and benches were charred by the blast and a number of ambulances were at the scene.
In the western city of Lviv, mayor Andriy Sadovyi said electricity and hot water services were disrupted after critical infrastructure was bombarded.
AFP photographers there saw plumes of black smoke rising above the town’s skyline.
Moldova, west of Ukraine, said several Russian cruise missiles targeting Ukraine had crossed its airspace, and that it had summoned Moscow’s envoy to demand an explanation.
The ex-Soviet country, which is a candidate to join the European Union, has a small breakaway region, Transnistria, which is armed and supported by Russia.
– Crimean bridge attack –
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, meanwhile claimed that Ukraine was preparing an attack on his country.
He said Russia and Belarus would “deploy” troops together, without specifying where.
The autocratic leader also accused Ukraine, alongside neighbouring Poland and Lithuania, of training Belarusian militants to carry out attacks at home.
The strikes across Ukraine came a day after Moscow blamed Kyiv for the blast that damaged a bridge linking Crimea to Russia, leaving three people dead.
The blast that hit the bridge — a symbol of the Kremlin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea — sparked celebrations by Ukrainians, although officials in Kyiv have made no direct claim of responsibility.
The 19-kilometre (12-mile) bridge is also a vital supply link between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula.
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