KYIV, Ukraine — President Vladimir V. Putin unleashed a far-reaching series of missile strikes against cities across Ukraine on Monday, hitting the heart of Kyiv and other areas far from the front line, in the broadest assault against civilians since the early days of Russia’s invasion.
Mr. Putin said the strikes on almost a dozen cities were retaliation for a blast that destroyed sections of a bridge linking Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, though they also seemed intended to appease hard-liners in Russia who had been openly critical over the prosecution of the war.
Denouncing the bombing of the Kremlin-built bridge, an embarrassing blow, as a “terrorist attack,” Mr. Putin threatened more strikes if Ukraine hit Russian targets again.
“No one should have any doubt about it,” he said.
The attacks changed little or nothing on the battlefield, where Russia has been losing ground for weeks, but they left neighborhoods across Ukraine battered and bloodied.
Buildings toppled, windows blew out, and blazes erupted. Civilians making their morning commute rushed to whatever shelter they could find as sirens blared warnings of incoming cruise missiles and so-called kamikaze drones. At least 14 people were killed and 89 wounded, the Ukrainian authorities said, while power and water were knocked out in numerous cities.
“There is no safe place,” said one Ukrainian in Kyiv, Alla Rohatniova, 48, who had fled to the capital after her home in the Kharkiv region was destroyed, only to find herself once more under attack. “Right now, we don’t know where they will strike. It could be anywhere.”
The targeting of civilian areas drew condemnations from leaders across the West.
“Shocked and appalled by the vicious attacks on Ukrainian cities,” said the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. “Putin’s Russia has again shown the world what it stands for: brutality and terror.”
President Biden said, “These attacks only further reinforce our commitment to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
Even countries that have generally avoided expressing any criticisms of the Kremlin since Russian troops poured across their neighbor’s border on Feb. 24 spoke out.
“All countries deserve respect for their sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry. In New Delhi, an official said, “India is deeply concerned at the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine.”
Russia has repeatedly insisted that it has limited it attacks to military targets, but there was no evidence of that on Monday as more than 80 cruise missiles and 24 self-destructing drones wreaked havoc as they exploded in cities in nearly every corner of the country.
“With all these strikes across all the territory of Ukraine, they did not hit one military target, only civilian ones,” an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Oleksiy Arestovych, said in an interview.
Ukrainian officials said they had been able to intercept several of the rockets, but many more slipped through.
“We have to repel these attacks using Soviet-era weapons, which we possess an insufficient quantity of,” Ukraine’s top general, Valeriy Zaluzhny, said on Twitter.
Mr. Zelensky said that in a phone call with Mr. Biden on the eve of a Group of 7 virtual meeting, he had urged the American president to provide Ukraine with more advanced air-defense systems.
Despite all the missiles that found their targets, experts agreed that what did not appear seriously damaged in the attacks was the Ukrainian military’s ability to wage war. For weeks, it has been retaking occupied towns, one after another.
Indeed, Russia’s assault on Monday may end up backfiring, said Konrad Muzyka, a military analyst with Rochan Consulting.
“I don’t think they will have a strategic impact,” he said, “unless we’re talking about increasing morale on the Ukrainian side and maybe speeding up some deliveries of military equipment from the West.”
If Ukraine’s soldiers were spared, its civilians were not. Strikes hit from Lviv in the west to Mykolaiv in the south and to Kharkiv in the northeast. In Kyiv, Russian ordinance struck a playground, museums and a popular pedestrian bridge in the center of the city.
But over the course of the day, the purpose of the attacks seemed to grow clearer: Moscow was intent on knocking out critical infrastructure, depriving Ukrainians of light and heat as winter approached.
By Monday afternoon, four regions — Lviv, Poltava, Sumy and Kharkiv — were without electricity, officials said. In Kharkiv, electrically powered trolleys, buses and trams glided to a stop. Electric trains headed west from Kyiv never made it out of the station. In all, 11 infrastructure sites were reported to be hit.
“Today, the enemy is testing us,” said Ihor Terekhov, the mayor of Kharkiv. “The aggressor takes out his anger on the civilian population.”
Ukrainian officials said they would resort to rolling blackouts to avoid overloading backup electrical lines, and warned citizens to brace themselves for outages.
By Monday evening, electricity was reconnected to most of Kharkiv, the State Emergency Service announced in a Facebook post. Power had also been mostly restored in Lviv, and all residents should expect to have water by morning, Andriy Sadovyi, the city’s mayor, said in a Twitter post.
Most of the targets, said Mr. Arestovych, the Zelensky adviser, were infrastructure responsible for providing heat and electricity to civilians. Ukraine’s military, he said, will not be affected. “They do not count on the regular power grids,” he said. “They have their generators, their own means of producing electricity.”
The tactic of trying to freeze Ukrainians into submission is not new. The Kremlin has for years studied Ukraine’s energy networks and has sought to manipulate prices or cut natural gas deliveries to influence politics. Twice before, Russia has cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine in midwinter.
Now, it is pursuing the same goal with bombs.
The approach may be unlikely to force Ukrainians to the bargaining table, experts said.
“Bombardment is very weak efficacy, and typically only builds resolve,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at C.N.A., a defense research institute based in Virginia.
But as Russian forces struggle on the battlefield, such strikes on infrastructure targets may allow the Kremlin to extend the war indefinitely by squeezing the Ukrainian economy and quashing any hope of a return to normalcy, a hope raised by Ukraine’s recent military successes.
Mr. Putin is also fighting a war on two fronts, and only one of them is in Ukraine. The other is in Moscow, where he has faced unusually vocal criticism from pro-war Russians who argue that he should be hitting Ukraine much harder. That may also help explain the many civilian targets hit on Monday.
In the Russian capital, however, there appeared to be little awareness on Monday morning about what had happened. In one chic neighborhood, people soaked up the sun, while elsewhere, many Muscovites were getting on with their lives, rushing to work or appointments.
Most people who were asked by a reporter for The New York Times for a reaction to the strikes said they had not followed the news. Those who did know about the strikes seemed unperturbed.
Vladimir, a 37-year-old army veteran who works in construction, cheered the latest destruction in Ukraine, calling it “just a little warning shot,” and said he hoped more would follow. But Russia’s real enemy, he said, was the United States.
“It is important to strike not Ukraine — because it is a dependent country that isn’t guilty of very much — but directly on America,” he said, echoing Mr. Putin’s claims. “Because America is in charge of everything and is destroying everything.”
But on Tuesday, Ukraine was struck, over and over.
In Kyiv, a target of Mr. Putin’s invasion in the early days, many had grown relaxed as the combat moved to the east and south of Ukraine. Weeds had begun to sprout from the sandbags used to protect monuments and statues in the capital from blasts. As recently as Saturday night, young people had crowded bars, many of them toasting the earlier bridge attack that had so enraged the Kremlin.
Then, the air-raid sirens started sounding.
Michael Schwirtz reported from Kyiv, Ukraine; Andrew E. Kramer from Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine; Megan Specia from Kyiv; and Eric Nagourney from New York. Valerie Hopkins contributed reporting from Moscow, and Eric Schmidt and Michael D. Shear from Washington.