KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Moscow unleashed another massive missile barrage in Ukraine on Monday, hitting homes and buildings and killing civilians, hours after the Kremlin claimed Ukrainian drones struck two airbases deep inside inside Russian territory.
The unprecedented attack in Russia threatened a major escalation in the nine-month war because it hit an airfield housing bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. President Vladimir Putin threatened to use all available means to defend his country, a remark that many interpreted to include nuclear weapons.
Russia has launched almost weekly bombardments on Ukraine in retaliation for another audacious attack – the October 8 truck bombing of a vital bridge linking its mainland to the Crimean peninsula.
On Monday, Putin tried to show that his country could recover from this embarrassment by driving a car over the partially repaired bridge.. Putin personally opened the 19-kilometre (12-mile) bridge in 2018 as part of a costly effort to cement his claim to Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
In Monday’s retaliatory barrage, missiles destroyed basic services in several Ukrainian regions as part of Moscow’s strategy to inflict more suffering as winter approaches. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said four people were killed in Monday’s roadblock.
The Ukrainian Air Force claimed to have shot down more than 60 of the 70 missiles, and Zelenskyy again showed defiance, praising the workers who immediately tried to restore power.
“Every Russian missile shot down is concrete proof that terror can be defeated,” Zelenskyy said in his evening speech.
Ukraine said early indications showed Russia had fired 38 cruise missiles from aircraft carriers in the Caspian Sea and from the southern Rostov region. In addition, 22 Kalibr cruise missiles were fired from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and long-range bombers, fighter jets and guided missiles were also involved, he added.
Electricity supplier Ukrenergo said its facilities were hit, causing power outages, although the Prime Minister later said electrical installations were only damaged in three areas, not as widespread as during the previous attacks.
In the capital of Kyiv, dozens of people quickly filled the central Zoloti Vorota metro station after air raid warnings. There was no immediate sign that the town or surrounding region had been hit.
Ukrainian media reported explosions south of Kyiv, in Cherkasy, Krivyi Rih and Odessa. Officials said water, electricity and central heating had been cut in many parts of Odessa.
“The enemy is again attacking the territory of Ukraine with missiles!” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the office of the President of Ukraine, wrote on Telegram.
In neighboring Moldova, the Interior Ministry said on its Facebook page that Border Patrol agents found a rocket in an orchard near the northern town of Briceni, near the border with Iran. Ukraine. A team of deminers went to the scene, but it is not immediately known when the rocket fell or who fired it.
Detailing attacks on airbases, the Russian Defense Ministry said it shot down two Ukrainian drones. He said three Russian servicemen were killed and four others injured by debris, and two planes were slightly damaged.
The attacks on the Engels base in the Saratov region on the Volga and the Dyagilevo base in the Ryazan region in western Russia were part of Ukraine’s efforts to reduce long-range bombing force of Russia, the ministry said.
Engels Air Base is home to nuclear-capable bombers and is located more than 600 kilometers (over 370 miles) east of the border with Ukraine. Dyagilevo Air Base, home to tanker planes used to refuel other planes in the air, is about 500 kilometers (over 300 miles) northeast of the Ukrainian border.
The attacks showed the vulnerability of some of Russia’s most strategic military sites, raising questions about the effectiveness of their air defenses if drones could get so close.
The ministry did not say where the drones came from, but Russian military bloggers said they were likely launched by Ukrainian scouts.
Russian news agencies had previously reported explosions at both sites, giving slightly different details than the Defense Ministry about casualties.
Zelenskyy’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, trolled the Russians about the drone attack on Engels, stopping short of claiming responsibility.
“If something is launched in the airspace of other countries, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to the starting point,” Podolyak tweeted.
In other developments, Zelenskyy’s office said three rockets hit his hometown of Krivyi Rih in south-central Ukraine, killing a factory worker and injuring three others. In the northeastern region of Kharkiv, one person was killed in S-300 missile strikes on civilian infrastructure in the city of Kupyansk, he added.
The war that began with Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine has displaced millions from their homes, killed and injured tens of thousands, and shaken the global economy, driving up prices and reducing availability of food, fertilizer and fuel which are main exports of Ukraine and Russia.
Western countries on Monday imposed a price cap of $60 a barrel and a ban on on certain types of Russian oil, as part of new measures to increase pressure on Moscow over the war.
The Kremlin rejected this decision and Zelenskyy criticized it as insufficient.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, in charge of energy, warned on Sunday that Russia would not sell its oil to countries trying to enforce the price cap.
“We will only sell oil and oil products to countries that will work with us on market terms, even if we have to cut production to some extent,” Novak said.
In another measure that came into effect on Monday, the European bloc of 27 countries imposed an embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea.
Russia, the world’s second-largest oil producer, relies on oil and gas to support its economy, which is already under sweeping international sanctions.
Eduardo Castillo in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, and Andrew Katell in New York contributed.
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