Israeli PM condemns Russia for massive missile barrage across Ukraine

Yair Lapid lambastes ‘attacks on civilians’; Putin warns of further ‘severe’ action as 11 killed in strikes across country, in apparent response to bombing of Crimea bridge

Birds fly as smoke rises over Dnipro River after several Russian strikes hit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on October 10, 2022. (Genya Savilov/AFP)
Birds fly as smoke rises over Dnipro River after several Russian strikes hit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on October 10, 2022. (Genya Savilov/AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Monday said he “strongly condemns” Russia’s barrage of fatal bombardments across Ukraine, which he said targeted “the civilian population in Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine.”

Lapid offered his “sincere condolences to the families of the victims and the Ukrainian people.”

Israel has sought to avoid aligning too closely with either side since the conflict began on February 24. It is one of the few countries that maintains relatively warm relations with both Ukraine, a fellow Western democracy, as well as Russia, which controls the airspace over Syria in which Israel operates to target Iranian proxies.

Still, it has offered strong criticism of Moscow on several occasions, and recently rejected Russia’s annexation of occupied Ukrainian territories.

On Monday Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed even more “severe” strikes were possible.

The biggest wave of strikes across Ukraine in months killed at least 11 people nationwide, and was apparent retaliation for an explosion this weekend that damaged a key bridge linking Russia to the Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula.

The Ukrainian military said Russian forces had fired more than 80 missiles on cities across the country and that Russia had also used Iranian drones launched from neighboring Belarus.

“Let there be no doubt,” Putin said in televised comments addressed to his security council, “if attempts at terrorist attacks continue, the response from Russia will be severe.”

Putin’s predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev, warned on social media that the strikes — which disrupted water and electricity services across Ukraine — were only “the first episode.”

“We were sleeping when we heard the first explosion. We woke up, went to check, and then the second explosion came,” Ksenia Ryazantseva, a 39-year-old language teacher, told AFP.

People react outside a partially destroyed office building after several Russian strikes hit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on October 10, 2022 (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

“We saw the smoke, then the cars, and then we realized we didn’t have a window anymore,” she added.

“There’s no military target or anything like that here. They’re just killing civilians.”

‘Demonstration of weakness’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian strikes had aimed to take down Ukrainian energy infrastructure. Regional officials across the country confirmed widespread disruptions to services.

Russia’s Defense Ministry meanwhile confirmed it had targeted Ukrainian energy, military command, and communications facilities, claiming the strikes had been a success and “achieved their aims.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister said the attacks had not been “provoked” and 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 favor,” minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on social media.

Ukrainian servicemen walk past damaged cars in the center of Kyiv after several Russian strikes hit the Ukrainian capital on October 10, 2022, (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the Russian missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and other cities were “unacceptable.”

“This is a demonstration of weakness by Putin, not strength,” he tweeted, adding that he had contacted Kuleba.

Zelensky said on social media meanwhile that he had spoken with the leaders of France and Germany and urged them to “increase pressure” on Russia.

Dozens injured

In Kyiv, the national police service said that at least 11 people had been killed and at least another 64 wounded.

Ukrainian officials said the central Shevchenko district of the city was hit and that a university, museums, and the philharmonic building had been damaged.

“I’m very shocked,” said 22-year-old Ivan Poliakov sitting on a park bench where he was so angry he struggled for his words.

“I arrived in Kyiv this morning. I was walking in the street… when there were the explosions,” he told AFP.

“I saw children and women cry. I love Kyiv. The people are good, they are courageous. But in an instant… it’s death.”

In the wooded Taras Shevchenko park in central Kyiv, a missile gouged out a huge crater next to a child’s playground after renting asunder the air above it.

A small trail of white smoke was still rising. Branches were shorn clean off trees.

Shortly after 8:00 a.m. Monday (0500 GMT), two missiles hit the upscale neighborhood, less than a minute and 300 meters apart.

In the streets by the park, apartment block windows were blown out and glass shards littered the ground.

The blasts were so powerful that they ripped the door of a bar restaurant, before employees began sweeping up the debris.

At one end of the park, the first blast hit a crossroads, close to a white, three-story administrative building — all of whose windows had been broken.

A missile dug a crater in the road, raising up the asphalt. Several cars parked there were now only twisted and blackened wrecks.

An AFP journalist saw a body entirely covered with a blanket.

Another journalist in Kyiv saw a projectile land near a playground and smoke rising from a large crater at the impact site.

Several trees and benches nearby were charred by the blast and a number of ambulances were at the scene.

‘They’re killing civilians’

A water pipe was hit, leaving a stream of water that flowed into the road leading to the city’s main artery.

Police experts examine destroyed cars in the center of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv after several Russian strikes on October 10, 2022. (Sergei Chuzankov/AFP)

Ksenia Ryazantseva and her husband live on a street next to Taras Shevchenko park, but their apartment faces a courtyard, opposite the children’s play area.

“We were sleeping and we heard the first explosion” by the crossroads,” Ksenia told AFP.

“We woke up and went to check, then the second explosion occurred [in the park]. We don’t know what happened,” added the 39-year-old language teacher.

“We saw the smoke, then the cars and then we realized we had no more windows. Fortunately, we live facing the courtyard,” she said.

“There’s a university, two museums. There are no military targets or things like that. They are killing civilians,” she said angrily.

Asked about her thoughts following the first attack on the capital since 26 June, she replied: “Well, we’re at war.”

‘Horrible and cruel reprisals’

For Serguii Agapov, there is no doubt the attacks are in reprisal for the explosion on the Russian bridge to Crimea.

“After the Crimea bridge, everything started. Yesterday Zaporizhzhia, today Kyiv. Yes, I think that these are very horrible and cruel reprisals because civilians are suffering,” he said.

They are feeling, he added, both “fear and the desire that this be over soon. We don’t understand why they are doing this to us, what is the aim of all this?”

Around the two impacts of the missile strikes, men wearing clothes stamped “Expert” took samples from the craters.

A red and white ribbon was strung around the area, which was guarded by armed police officers.

In Kyiv, the national police service said that at least five people had been killed and another dozen were wounded in the capital, which was among several cities hit Monday.

Half a dozen blasts were heard, with strikes on several neighborhoods including the city center.

After the attacks, passersby were few and far between in Krechtchatyk street, the main artery of the city which travels through Maidan (Square), the traditional rallying point of Ukraine’s independence.

Many shops remained closed.

It was a sharp contrast with Sunday when large crowds went through the area on a sunny afternoon.

“If there is no urgent need, it’s better not to go to the city today,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko broadcasts live on social media next to a rocket crater in central Kyiv on October 10, 2022. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP)

In the western city of Lviv, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said there were disruptions to electricity and hot water services after bombardments that targeted critical infrastructure, including energy facilities.

AFP photographers there said plumes of black smoke could be seen rising above the town’s skyline.

Moldova, a pro-democracy former Soviet republic, said several Russian cruise missiles targeting Ukraine had crossed its airspace, and it had summoned Moscow’s envoy to demand an explanation.

“Our thoughts are with the victims of the brutal strikes,” Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu said on Twitter.

Moldova, which is a candidate to join the European Union, has a small breakaway region, Transnistria, which is armed and supported by Russia.

Belarusian threats

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin’s, meanwhile claimed on Monday that Ukraine was preparing an attack on his country’s territory.

He said Russia and Belarus would “deploy” troops together, without specifying where.

The autocratic leader also accused Ukraine, alongside neighboring 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 authors, perpetrators, and sponsors are the Ukrainian secret services,” Putin said of Saturday’s bridge bombing, which he described as a “terrorist act.”

The blast that hit the bridge sparked celebrations among Ukrainians and others on social media.

Black smoke billows from a fire on the Kerch bridge that links Crimea to Russia, after a truck exploded, near Kerch, on October 8, 2022. (AFP)

But Zelensky, in his nightly address on Saturday, did not directly mention the incident, and officials in Kyiv have made no direct claim of responsibility.

On Saturday, Russia said some road and rail traffic had resumed over the strategic link, a symbol of the Kremlin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

The 19-kilometer (12-mile) bridge is also a vital supply link between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula.

Some military analysts argue that the explosion could have a major impact if Moscow sees the need to shift already hard-pressed troops to Crimea from other regions — or if it prompts a rush by residents to leave.

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