KYIV, Ukraine—A massive barrage of Russian cruise missile and drone strikes hit critical infrastructure in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other Ukrainian cities early Monday, knocking out water and power supplies in retaliation for what Moscow alleged was a Ukrainian attack on its Black Sea Fleet.
Russia has intensified its attacks on Ukraine's power plants and other key infrastructure as the war enters its ninth month, forcing rolling power cuts.
“The Kremlin is taking revenge for military failures on peaceful people who are left without electricity and heat before the winter,” Kyiv region Gov. Oleksii Kuleba said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that Monday's bombardment was meant to retaliate for what he said was Saturday's unsuccessful Ukrainian aerial and underwater drone attack on Russia's Sevastopol-based Black Sea Fleet on the Russian-annexed Crimea Peninsula.
“Partly, yes. But it’s not all we could have done,” Putin responded, regarding retaliation, at a press conference in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.
He claimed Ukrainian drones had traveled to their targets through an internationally agreed zone meant to ensure the safety of ships exporting grain from Ukrainian ports. The threat from such a trajectory endangered Russian ships patrolling the zone as well as the grain ships themselves, Putin said, justifying his country's suspension of its participation in the deal that enabled the exports.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces carried out “strikes with long-range, high-precision air- and sea-based weapons against the military command and energy systems of Ukraine.”
"The goals of the strikes were achieved. All designated targets were hit,” the ministry said.
Meanwhile, 12 ships with grain left Ukrainian ports on Monday despite a Russian threat to reimpose a blockade that threatened hunger across the world, Ukraine's Ministry of Infrastructure said. But the grain transport was thrown into doubt after Russia's Defense Ministry said in a statement late Monday that “traffic along the security corridor defined by the Black Sea Initiative has been suspended” over allegations that Ukraine has been using the zone to strike Russian forces.
In Monday's ground attacks, Ukraine’s air force said it shot down 44 of more than 50 cruise missiles that Russia launched.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Russian missiles and drones hit 10 Ukrainian regions and damaged 18 sites, mostly energy facilities. Hundreds of localities were left without power, he said on Facebook. Thirteen people were wounded, Ukrainian Police Chief Ihor Klymenko said.
Loud explosions were heard across the Ukrainian capital as residents prepared for work. The emergency services sent out text message warning about the threat of a missile attack, and air raid sirens wailed for three hours.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said 80 percent of consumers in the city of 3 million were left without water because of damage to a power facility. By Monday evening, workers had reduced the percentage to 40 percent and the number of apartments without electricity from 350,000 to 270,000. To cut power consumption, Kyiv authorities extended intervals between subway trains and replaced electric trolleybuses and trams with buses, Klitschko said. Subway service resumed Monday night.
Across Kyiv, hundreds lined up, often for more than an hour, to pump water by hand from wells to fill plastic bottles and cans.
“It is really inconvenient,” one 34-year-old resident, who agreed to provide only his first name, Denis, said as he collected water. “But the truth is, it’s not a problem. The problem is we have a war.”
Smoke rose from the left bank of the Dnieper River in Kyiv, either from a missile strike or where Ukrainian forces shot it down.
Associated Press reporters saw soldiers inspecting a crater and debris from where a missile landed on the outskirts of Kyiv. The missiles flew fast and low and sounded like bombs exploding, according to witnesses.
“It was scary," said Oleksandr Ryabtsev, 28, who was on his way to work. "I raised my head and it was flying there. You could see this cruise missile. I didn’t even go to work. I went home.”
Prime Minister Shmyhal said that in the Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv regions, emergency power shutdowns were underway.
In the eastern city of Kharkiv, two strikes hit critical infrastructure facilities, according to authorities, and the subway ceased operating.
Critical infrastructure sites were also hit in the Cherkasy region southeast of Kyiv. In the Kirovohrad region of central Ukraine, an energy facility was hit. In Vinnytsia, remnants of a missile that was shot down landed on civilian buildings, causing damage but no casualties, according to regional Gov. Serhii Borzov.
Power was cut to parts of Ukraine's train network, the Ukrainian Railways reported.
Ukraine has denied responsibility for Saturday's Black Sea Fleet attack, saying that Russia mishandled its own weapons, but Moscow still announced it was retaliating by halting its participation in the U.N. and Turkey-brokered grain deal.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar urged his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, in a phone call Monday to “reconsider” Moscow's suspension of its participation in the grain deal, which has allowed more than 9 million tons of grain to be exported from Ukraine. According to a statement, Akar hailed the deal as an example of how problems can be solved through “cooperation and dialogue” and argued it’s a “completely humanitarian activity” that should be kept separate from the conflict.
At the United Nations in New York, Martin Griffiths, who leads the U.N. team facilitating the deal, told the Security Council that Monday’s ship movements and inspections were undertaken as emergency measures.
The United Nations trade chief, Rebeca Grynspan warned the Council that uncertainty over the deal and high global fertilizer prices may turn today’s crisis over the affordability of food into “tomorrow’s crisis of availability and a crisis of huge proportions.” She said the agreements enabled wheat exports from Russia to triple between July and September and wheat exports from Ukraine to more than quadruple, lowering food prices.
Monday's strikes were the third time this month that Russia unleashed massive attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. On Oct. 10, a similar attack rocked the war-torn country following an explosion on the Kerch Bridge linking Crimea to mainland Russia—an incident Moscow blamed on Kyiv.
One of the Russian missiles Ukraine shot down landed on a Moldovan border city, causing damage but no casualties. Moldova’s interior ministry released photos showing a thick plume of smoke rising over the northern city of Naslavcea, on the border with Ukraine, as well as broken house windows.
Another Russian attack hit two tugboats transporting grain barges in the port of Ochakiv on the Black Sea at the mouth of the Dnieper River in Ukraine's southern Mykolaiv region, killing at least two crew members, Ukraine's Unian news agency reported, citing a Ukrainian military official.
In another development, Russia’s Defense Ministry on Monday reported completing a partial mobilization of troops, ostensibly fulfilling a promise to end the call-up at 300,000 men. Some human rights lawyers, however, warned that only Putin can end the call-up by signing a decree. The Russian president told reporters he would consult with lawyers about whether such a decree is needed, adding that 41,000 of the reservists have been deployed in combat in Ukraine, with 259,000 in training.