A building burns after shelling in Bakhmut, Donetsk region amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Photo: AP
Kyiv: Russia on Monday unleashed what Ukraine called a “massive missile attack” across the country, striking homes and buildings, killing civilians and disrupting electrical power that caused blackouts and cut water supplies for the Black Sea port of Odesa.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, drove a truck across a bridge linking his country to the Crimean Peninsula following its repair from a bombing in October that had embarrassed Moscow.
The missile barrage, which Ukrainian authorities have been anticipating for days, was the latest round of punishment by Russia as it sought to disable Ukraine's energy supplies and infrastructure as winter approaches — part of a new strategy in its nine-month war.
The country's electricity provider, Ukrenergo, lashed out at Russia over “the eighth massive missile attack by a terrorist country," saying its facilities had been hit, triggering blackouts. It urged residents to stay in shelters as its crews tried to repair the damage.
In the capital of Kyiv, scores of people quickly congregated in the central Zoloti Vorota metro station after the warnings, and many checked their phones for updates. There were no immediate signs whether the city or the surrounding region was hit.
Air raid sirens sounded across the country. Ukrainian media reported explosions in several parts of the country south of Kyiv, including Cherkasy, Kryvyi Rih and Odesa, where the water company said power was out to pumping stations, leaving the city without water.
“The enemy is again attacking the territory of Ukraine with missiles!” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian president's office, wrote on Telegram.
Tymoshenko said two people were killed and three others injured — including a 22-month-old child — in the village of Novosofiyivka in the southern Zaporizhzhya region.
Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said land-based missiles were launched from southern Russia and missiles were fired from ships in the Caspian and Black seas. Russian strategic bombers also launched missiles, he said.
Ihnat warned the Russians could attack in several waves to make it more difficult for the Ukrainian air defenses to shoot down the missiles.
In neighboring Moldova, the Interior Ministry said on its Facebook page that border patrol officers had found a rocket in an orchard near the northern city of Briceni near Ukraine.
Emergency services, including a bomb squad. were sent to the scene. Controls in the vicinity have also been tightened, the ministry said. It was not immediately clear when the rocket may have landed.
Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita stopped short of saying when the missile might have fallen but cautioned that “a new wave of missile attacks is taking place in Ukraine, which has direct consequences for our country.” She warned that Moldova could suffer further power outages in the new Russian strikes.
Earlier Monday, Russian media reported two explosions at air bases in Russia. One reportedly happened at a base that houses nuclear-capable strategic bombers that have been involved in launching strikes against Ukraine.
Neither Ukrainian nor Russian authorities immediately commented on the possible cause of the blasts.
Russian state RIA Novosti news agency said three servicemen were killed and six were injured and a plane damaged when a fuel truck exploded at an air base in Ryazan, in western Russia. The base houses long-range flight tankers that serve to refuel bombers in the air.
Separately, authorities in the Saratov region along the Volga River said they were checking reports about an explosion in the area of the Engels air base, which houses Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers that have been involved in launching strikes on Ukraine. Those bombers are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Saratov regional Gov. Roman Busargin said there was no damage to civilian facilities.
Regional media reported sounds of a powerful explosion near the Engels base, and some residents were quoted as saying they saw a flash of light coming from the area.
Asked whether Putin had been briefed about the Engels base explosion, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said simply the president was regularly informed of ongoing developments.
Putin's journey across the bridge over the Kerch Strait was an important sign that Russia was able to repair the span quickly after the Oct. 8 truck bomb that severed a key link from Crimea to the mainland. He also spoke to workers and discussed the repairs with a senior government official responsible for the project.
The attack disrupted travel on one of the two automobile sections of the bridge to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Russia blamed Ukrainian military intelligence and responded with waves of strikes on Ukraine's energy facilities and other key infrastructure, which continued Monday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's office said three rocket strikes hit his hometown of Kryvyi Rih in south-central Ukraine, killing a factory worker and injuring three others. In the northeastern region of Kharkiv, a person was killed in strikes by S-300 missiles on civilian infrastructure in the town of Kupyansk, it said.
The war that began with Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has displaced millions from their homes, killed and injured an untold number of civilians, and shaken the world economy — notably through the fallout on the prices and availability of foodstuffs, fertilizer and fuel that are key exports from Ukraine and Russia.
Western countries Monday imposed a $60-per-barrel price cap and a ban on some types of Russian oil, part of new measures aimed at stepping up pressure on Moscow over the war.
The move has prompted a rejection from the Kremlin and also criticism from Zelenskyy — whose government wants the cap to be half as high.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who is in charge of energy issues, warned in televised comments Sunday that Russia won't sell its oil to countries that try to apply the price cap.
“We will only sell oil and oil products to the countries that will work with us on market terms, even if we have to reduce output to some extent,” Novak said hours before the price cap took effect.
The 27-country European bloc also imposed an embargo on Russian oil shipped by sea.
Russia, the world's No. 2 oil producer, relies on oil and gas to underpin its economy, which has already come under sweeping international sanctions over the war.
In recent weeks, Russia has been pounding Ukrainian infrastructure — including power plants — with military strikes and keeping an offensive going in the east, notably in and around the town of Bakhmut.
Russian forces have also been digging in near the southern city of Kherson, which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces last month after an 8-month occupation.