Putin and the Kremlin, spited by the explosion of the Kerch Bridge on Saturday, have turned their attention to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, for the first time in months. This comes only days after Russian missile strikes killed 13 and wounded dozens more in the south-eastern city of Zaporizhzhia, one of the four regions of Ukraine unlawfully annexed in the referendums that took place just over two weeks ago.
These “merciless strikes on peaceful people” in Ukraine’s south, as described by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, may have factored into the Kerch Bridge explosion.
The multibillion-dollar bridge linking the Crimean peninsula to Russia was opened in 2018, four years after Russia annexed Crimea in violation of international law. It stood as both a critical supply route for Moscow’s forces in Ukraine as well as a symbol of Russian imposition.
This physical tie between the Crimea and Russia was severed on Saturday by an explosion that tore through two sections of the bridge, killed three civilians, and reportedly set seven rail tankers on fire, apparently forcing Russian troops to flee the peninsula via ferry.
After the Kerch bridge explosions the invaders are panicking. Russian soldiers flee Crimea to the Russian Federation on the highway through Berdyans'k and Mariupol'. Russian colonists flee Crimea via ferry and the single-lane bridge. Collaborators flee Kherson region to Crimea. pic.twitter.com/lQgKgE2uJx
— Michael MacKay (@mhmck) October 10, 2022
There are differing accounts of what caused this explosion. Russian officials were quick to blame a white vehicle that was reportedly carrying a bomb. However, professionals who have since examined the footage believe the explosion came from underneath the bridge, perhaps caused by the small vessel spotted next to one of the bridge supports moments before the explosion.
This version of events would be more plausible given that, as a former British army explosives expert explained, “bridges are generally designed to resist downwards loads on the deck and a certain amount of side loading from the wind. They are not generally engineered to resist upward loads.”
The organisers of this strike are perhaps less mysterious than the explosion itself, though it has not been claimed by Ukrainian officials.
Putin was quick to assign blame, stating that the strike was an “act of terrorism” – “devised, carried out, and ordered by the Ukraine special services.” Whether this is accurate or not, Ukrainian officials have openly demonstrated their elation towards the event as stamps celebrating the explosion were unveiled just hours after the fact.
Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defence council of Ukraine, also took to Twitter to mock Putin, whose 70th birthday had taken place a day earlier on Friday, with a video of the explosion alongside Marilyn Monroe’s famous rendition of “Happy Birthday Mr. President.”
Доброго ранку, Україно! 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/UQMI6LheSR
— Oleksiy Danilov (@OleksiyDanilov) October 8, 2022
In apparent retaliation against the Bridge attack, though given the history of the war it is clear the Kremlin’s brutality does not require prompting, missile strikes have been recorded across Ukraine, with Kyiv seeming to be the main target.
The capital was struck with at least 10 of the total 83 missiles launched this morning. In just one of these attacks, at least eight people were killed and 24 were injured, according to preliminary reports.
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President Zelensky believes the barrage was intended to damage infrastructure across the country, with energy facilities in Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipro, Vinnytsia, Zaporizhzhia, and Kharkiv amongst the areas targeted.
In a telegram post, whilst standing in the vacant streets of Kyiv, Zelensky stated that “such a time and such target were specially chosen to cause as much damage as possible.” He followed this assertion by urging people to remain in bomb shelters for the duration of the blitz, warning that Russia’s second target is people.
The air raid alert lasted nearly six hours, ending at 12:25pm local time.
Whilst the full extent of the attack’s consequences are as of yet unknown, Ukrainians, particularly those in Lviv, have been cautioned to use as little power as possible this evening to conserve supplies.
Zelensky: “We are dealing with terrorists. Dozens of rockets, Iranian suicide drones. They have two aims. Energy infrastructure across the whole country…. The other aim is people. They have chosen the time and targets to harm as many as possible.” pic.twitter.com/E5GCnjnITb
— Oliver Carroll (@olliecarroll) October 10, 2022
Numerous foreign diplomatic responses to today’s attacks have already been issued: the bombardment has been branded as a “war crime” by Tom Tugendhat, the UK’s security minister; it has been “strongly condemned” by Bogdan Aurescu, Romania’s foreign minister, and deemed “vicious” by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Comission.
Emmanuel Macron has also reaffirmed his support for Ukraine whilst on a call with Zelensky, promising France’s commitment to help through means including the provision of more military equipment.
This reinvigoration of international support is spurred not only by today’s attacks, but also Putin’s repeated threats of nuclear action.
The latest allusion to an escalation of the conflict came just this morning as during a televised meeting with his security council Putin vowed that “the response will be harsh” if attacks continue against Russia.
“The responses will be of the same scale as the threats to Russia,” Putin said.
As a result of the persistent onslaught and use of nuclear intimidation, Ukraine formally requested an “accelerated accession” into NATO at the end of September.
However, since the alliance is unlikely to approve Ukraine’s entry whilst it is in a state of war, it seems the best the country can look for in terms of international aid is a continued supply of munition. Beyond this, it must be hoped by everyone, both inside and outside of Ukraine, that Putin’s threats of escalation do not translate into devastating action.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com.— Featured Photo: Anti-terrorist operation in eastern Ukraine. Photo Credits: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.