After a series of humiliating battlefield setbacks that have piled pressure on Putin, the attacks were a sudden escalation that showed Moscow retained the capacity to terrorize Ukraine’s population if not defeat its military. They shattered months of relative calm in Kyiv and other areas far from the front lines.
At least five people were killed and 51 injured in the capital, Mayor Vitalii Klitchko said. Across the country, at least 11 people were dead and 64 injured, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.
NBC News has not verified the numbers.
Russia used missiles and Iranian-built drones to target civilians and energy facilities throughout the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a recorded video.
“They want panic and chaos. They want to destroy our energy system. They are hopeless,” he said.
Eleven “important infrastructure facilities” were damaged in eight regions of the country and Kyiv, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said, adding that Ukrainians need to be prepared for temporary interruptions in the supply of electricity and water. Significant internet outages were also reported across the country by the monitoring group NetBlocks.
The blasts came hours after Putin first accused Ukraine of “terrorism” over the huge explosion that severely damaged the bridge connecting Russia and annexed Crimea on Saturday, dealing a strategic and symbolic blow to his campaign. Kyiv has not taken responsibility for the incident, which the Russians said killed at least three people and was caused by a truck bomb.
A series of failures on the battlefield and the chaotic call-up of hundreds of thousands of military reservists has led to growing criticism of the Kremlin at home, with some prominent figures urging escalation in an effort to reverse the course of the conflict.
Ukraine was braced for retribution that soon arrived.
A number of blasts were heard in the center of Kyiv early Monday by NBC News. Smoke was seen rising off buildings, while images and videos verified by NBC News showed incinerated cars and a crater near a playground in a city park. Residents were sent scrambling for shelter in underground subway stations, while air-raid sirens sounded in other major cities across the country.
Klitchko, Kyiv’s mayor, said the explosions occurred in the central distinct of Shevchenko, where several key government offices are. He later said that some of the city’s critical infrastructure was hit and that the the threat of new strikes remained.
Kyiv’s authorities also warned of possible power and water supply interruptions, and urged people to charge their phones and stock up on water.