Russia launched a nationwide missile attack at Ukraine on Monday in its latest attempt to cripple civilian infrastructure, leaving several key cities without power, but Kyiv claimed that it had shot down most of the incoming weapons.
The barrage came hours after explosions were reported at two air bases deep in central Russia. Three people were killed when a fuel tanker exploded at one, state media said, while law enforcement authorities were investigating reports of a blast at another, a base that is home to some of Moscow’s strategic nuclear forces, an official said.
It also came on the day an EU ban on seaborne Russian oil shipments took effect alongside a G7 mechanism to cap the price of Russian crude.
No one took responsibility for the air base blasts in Russia and while some pro-war Russian commentators suggested the missile strikes, which Ukraine said numbered in the dozens, were retaliation for them there was no evidence to support this.
Analysts said it took time for Russia to prepare its bombing campaigns. The missile strikes also form part of a broader Russian strategy that seeks to knock out infrastructure, demoralise Ukrainians and, as the cold weather sets in, aims to prompt a fresh wave of refugees into Europe that erodes western support.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address to the nation that “air defence forces shot down most of the missiles” and that repairs to damaged areas were already under way. Ukraine’s air force said it intercepted more than 60 missiles out of a total of 70.
The extent of damage from the hours-long air strike was not immediately clear but affected areas included the Black Sea port of Odesa, Zelenskyy’s home town of Kryvyi Rih and the Zaporizhzhia frontline region, where two people were killed by a missile, according to officials.
Monday’s barrage was the latest in a months-long Russian pivot to attack power and water supplies after it started losing swaths of territory in the war that began with its full-scale invasion in February.
Ukraine’s air defences have been bolstered in recent weeks by supplies of modern surface-to-air weapons from its US and European allies.
Ukrenergo, the state power grid company, described Monday’s strikes in a statement as the “eighth mass missile attack by a terrorist country”.
“Unfortunately, there are already hits on energy infrastructure facilities and related emergency power outages. Ukrenergo dispatchers are working to maintain balance in the power system,” it added.
Police in Moldova told a local news site that missile fragments landed in a northern part of the country bordering Ukraine for a second time in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities said they were investigating an explosion at the base in the Saratov region in central Russia.
“Information about an incident at a military facility is being checked by law enforcement agencies,” the region’s governor wrote online, acknowledging that reports of a “loud bang and flash” in the area were circulating on social media.
The videos, shared by channels on the Telegram messaging app, appeared to show an explosion taking place in the early hours of Monday morning. Some commentators have attributed it to a Ukrainian drone attack on a local air base, but provided no evidence and Kyiv has not commented on the incident.
Around the same time on Monday morning, the state-run RIA news agency reported that an explosion had killed three people on an air base near the central Russian city of Ryazan. It said the explosion took place after a fuel truck caught fire at the airfield, but did not say what caused the fire itself.
Ryazan and Saratov are located far inside central Russia, each at least 450km from the border with Ukraine. If the incidents prove to be the product of aerial attacks, they would be by far the deepest such strikes inside Russia or Russian-held territory so far, after Ukraine hit the Saki air base in the Crimean peninsula.
Separately, Russian state media shared a video on Monday afternoon of President Vladimir Putin visiting the Crimea bridge, which suffered severe damage following a strike earlier this year. Russia has been rebuilding the bridge in an attempt to portray as minor the damage to its prized infrastructure project and reassure travellers of the safety of crossing it.
In the video, Putin can be seen behind the wheel of the car, steering on to a bridge as an official reports to him about the progress of repairs.
Additional reporting by John-Paul Rathbone in London