President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Monday people had been killed and injured in multiple strikes on cities across Ukraine, including the first bombardment of the capital in months.
“Air raid sirens are not subsiding around Ukraine. … Unfortunately there are dead and wounded. Please do not leave the shelters,” Zelensky said on social media, accusing Russia of wanting to “wipe us from the face of the Earth.”
The blasts came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Kyiv for an explosion on a bridge connecting Crimea to Russia.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, said on social media Monday that, “Ukraine is under missile attack. There is information about strikes in many cities of our country.”
The strikes could signal a major escalation in the eight-month-old war.
In Kyiv, Agency France-Presse reporters heard at least five explosions in two spurts Monday morning.
Monday’s attacks hit the center of the capital. Previous attacks targeted Kyiv’s outskirts for the most part.
Videos posted on social media showed black smoke rising above several areas of the city.
Russia’s last strike there was on June 26.
Cities hit by explosions included Lviv, in Ukraine’s west. It’s been a refuge for many people fleeing the fighting in the east.
In addition, a witness told Reuters there was a loud explosion Monday morning in Russia’s Belgorod region, which isn’t far from the Ukraine border. The witness said there was a loud bang and windows shook. The cause of the blast wasn’t clear.
The explosions came a day after Putin said Ukraine was behind an explosion on 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 Crimea bridge bombing, which he described as a “terrorist act.”
Putin was speaking during a meeting with the head of the investigation committee he has set up to look into the bombing, Russian news agencies reported.
The Russian leader was gearing up for a meeting with his Security Council later Monday, the Kremlin told local news agencies.
“Tomorrow the president has a planned meeting with the permanent members of the Security Council,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The blast that hit the bridge sparked celebrations from Ukrainians and others on social media.
But Zelenskyy, in his nightly address on Saturday, didn’t 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 12-mile bridge is a vital supply link between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula.
Some military analysts argue that the blast 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.
Mick Ryan, a retired Australian senior officer now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said even if Kyiv wasn’t behind the blast, it constituted “a massive influence operation win for Ukraine.
“It is a demonstration to Russians, and the rest of the world, that Russia’s military cannot protect any of the provinces it recently annexed,” he said on Twitter.
Zelenskyz, meanwhile, denounced a Russian missile strike on Sunday that killed at least 17 people in Zaporizhzhia — the latest deadly bombardment of the southern Ukrainian city.
The attack also wounded 89 people, according to a statement from the president’s office.
Zelensky described the “merciless strikes on peaceful people” and residential buildings as “absolute evil” perpetrated by “savages and terrorists.”
Regional official Oleksandr Starukh posted pictures of heavily damaged apartment blocks on Telegram and said a rescue operation had been launched to find victims under the rubble.
Russian officials meanwhile denounced on Sunday what they said was a surge in Ukrainian fire into its territory that had hit homes, administrative buildings and a monastery.
Russia’s FBS, which is responsible for border security, said on Sunday: “Since the start of October, the number of attacks from Ukrainian armed formations on Russia’s border territory has considerably increased.”
More than 100 artillery attacks, concentrated on the western border regions of Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk, had hit housing and administrative buildings, said the statement.
The attacks had killed one person and wounded five others.