Ukraine suffers heavy Russian bombing, Belarus announces troop deployment
Deadly Russian bombardments on a scale not seen in months hit Ukraine Monday morning, and Belarus announced the deployment of Russian-Belarusian troops two days after the Crimean bridge was partially destroyed.
“They are trying to destroy us all, to wipe us off the face of the earth,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded on social media, urging the population to stay in emergency shelters and urging France and Germany to respond “toughly.” Russia and an emergency G7 meeting.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko accused Ukraine of preparing an attack on his country, adding that Minsk would then deploy Russian-Belarusian troops without specifying their location. “Due to the aggravation of the situation on the western borders of the Union (Russian-Belarusian), we agreed to establish a regional grouping of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus,” he said.
Moldova, for its part, said that “three cruise missiles fired at Ukraine by Russian ships in the Black Sea this morning” violated its airspace. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly condemned the “unacceptable” Russian bombardment, adding that he had spoken to his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba to assure him of “moral and concrete support” from the UK. European Foreign Minister Josep Borell said he was “deeply shocked” by Russian attacks on civilians.
Mr Kuleba explained on Twitter that he interrupted a trip to Africa to return to Ukraine and be in “constant contact” with partners in his country to “coordinate a determined response to Russian attacks”. According to him, “Putin is a terrorist who talks with rockets.”
“They want to destroy the energy system,” said Volodymyr Zelenskyy, reporting “dozens of missiles” and Iranian Shahed drones targeting the country from north to south, hitting Kyiv and the regions of Khmelnytskii, Lviv, Dnipro, Vinnitsia, Zaporijjia, Soumi , Kharkiv or Zhytomyr.
“Temporary power outages are possible, but our confidence in victory will not be affected,” he said in a video shot outside in downtown Kyiv. According to the Ukrainian military, Russia has fired 75 missiles at the country, 41 of which were shot down by air defenses. Mr. Zelensky himself reported 38 rockets fired.
At least five people were killed in Kyiv, the target of the bombing for the first time since June 26, according to the police. Half a dozen explosions were heard, with strikes in several neighborhoods including the city center.
In Lviv (west), very far from the front, the mayor reported power and hot water outages. These strikes come after the partial destruction of the bridge connecting Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, to Russian territory.
According to the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin will convene his Security Council on Monday, which will be made up of key ministers, political leaders and representatives of the Russian security services and the army. On Sunday, Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of organizing the blast as an “act of terrorism”. Reprisals were expected due to the strategic and symbolic importance of this bridge, which was inaugurated by the Russian President in 2018.
Car and rail traffic resumed on the bridge on Saturday, a few hours after the blast that killed three people and was attributed by Russian authorities to a truck bomb. The bombing campaign also comes as Russia has suffered a series of setbacks in its war in Ukraine since early September, losing ground in both the south and north-east of the country.
Kyiv has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement. President Zelenskyy was content to joke in a video about Saturday’s “overcast” weather in Crimea – a likely reference to the smoke from the fire – “although it was hot there too” and promised a Crimea “without an occupier”.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy also described the Russian military as “terrorists” after strikes on apartment buildings in Zaporizhia (south) on Sunday that left at least 13 dead and 89 injured, three days after earlier bombings that killed 17 people there.
The Moscow Stock Exchange falls
Not far from there, the Zaporijjia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, was reconnected to the power grid on Sunday. In addition, the Russian Security Services (FSB) on Sunday denounced a “significant increase” in Ukrainian fires on Russian areas bordering Ukraine, which they say have killed one person and injured five over the past week.
In Moscow, the stock market fell nearly 12% at Monday’s open, with the main Moex index (in rubles) down 11.9% to 1,780.39 points as of 7:03 GMT, briefly dipping below 1,800 points for the first time since the war began of Ukraine on February 24.
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