Multiple explosions rocked several Ukrainian cities early on Monday morning following the sound of incoming missiles.
At least eight people were killed and 24 others injured in just one of the strikes in the capital Kyiv , according to preliminary information, said Rostyslav Smirnov, an adviser to the Ukrainian ministry of internal affairs.
Mr Putin, speaking in a video call with members of Russia’s Security Council, said the Russian military launched “precision weapons” from the air, sea and ground to target key energy and military command facilities.
The capital Kyiv is among the cities hit by a barrage of missiles from Russia’s military, striking civilian targets in what could be Moscow’s retaliation for the bombing of a key bridge connecting Russia to its annexed territory of Crimea.
The first strikes on Kyiv in four months targeted the centre of the city and left dead and wounded, an emergency services spokesman told the Associated Press.
The city’s mayor Vitali Klitschko reported blasts in the city’s Shevchenko district, a large area in the centre of the Ukrainian capital that includes the historic old town as well as several government offices. Mr Klitschko posted on Telegram: “Several explosions in the Shevchenskivskyi district - in the centre of the capital.”
Lesia Vasylenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, posted a photo on Twitter showing that at least one explosion occurred near the main building of the Kyiv National University. Emergency services in Kyiv told the Associated Press that people have been killed and wounded and rescuers are working in different locations, but the number of casualties is not yet known.
After the first early-morning strikes in Kyiv, more loud explosions were heard later in the morning in an intensification of Russia’s attack that could spell a major escalation in the war.
Ukrainian media also reported explosions in several other locations, including the western city of Lviv that has been a refuge for many people fleeing the fighting in the east, as well as Kharkiv, Ternopil, Khmelnytskyi, Zhytomyr and Kropyvnytskyi. In Lviv, energy infrastructure was hit, regional governor Maksym Kozytskyi said.
There are also reports of overnight attacks in the centre of Dnipro city and Zaporizhzhia. Associated Press journalists in the centre of Dnipro saw many bodies at an industrial site on the outskirts of the city. Windows in the area had been blown out and glass littered the street. The explosions appeared to be the result of missile strikes.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces launched dozens of missiles and Iranian-built drones against Ukraine. The General Staff of the Ukraine Armed Forces said 75 missiles were fired against Ukrainian targets, with 41 of them neutralized by air defences.
The targets were civilian areas and energy facilities in 10 cities, Mr Zelensky said in a video address. “(The Russians) chose such a time and such targets on purpose to inflict the most damage.”
It marks the first time Kyiv has been hit for many months and the explosions appear to be much more central than strikes earlier in the war, with the last previous attack on Kyiv occurring in June.
Recent fighting in Ukraine has focused on the regions just north of Crimea, including Zaporizhzhia, where six missiles were launched overnight on Saturday from Russian-occupied areas.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the missile strikes on Monday were retaliation for what he called Kyiv’s “terrorist” actions, including an attack last weekend on a key bridge between Russia and the annexed Crimean Peninsula that is prized by the Kremlin.
The intense, hours-long attack marked a sudden military escalation by Moscow and came a day after Mr Putin called Saturday’s explosion on the huge bridge connecting Russia to its annexed territory of Crimea a “terrorist act” masterminded by Ukrainian special services.
A criminal terror investigation into the explosion that damaged the Kerch Bridge to Crimea has been launched by the country’s investigative committee.
Road and rail traffic on the bridge were temporarily halted, damaging an important supply route for the Kremlin’s forces and dealing a sharp blow to Russian prestige.
“There’s no doubt it was a terrorist act directed at the destruction of critically important civilian infrastructure of the Russian Federation,” Mr Putin said in a video of a meeting on Sunday with the chairman of the investigative committee, Alexander Bastrykin. “And the authors, perpetrators, and those who ordered it are the special services of Ukraine.”
Mr Bastrykin said Ukrainian special services and citizens of Russia and other countries took part in the attack. He said: “We have already established the route of the truck,” adding it had been to Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, North Ossetia and Krasnodar — a region in southern Russia — among other places.