On Saturday, the day after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday, a blast severely damaged the bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula to Russia. The explosion is widely believed to be the work of Ukrainian intelligence.
On Monday, a barrage of missiles rained down across Ukraine — killing at least 11 people, wounding dozens and hitting infrastructure all the way from Lviv in the west to Kharkiv in the east.
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Putin made no secret of the missile strikes being payback for the attack on the bridge.
“By its actions, the Kyiv regime has actually put itself on the same level with international terrorist groups and with the most odious of those,” he said at a meeting of Russia’s Security Council.
“It is simply no longer possible to leave crimes of this kind unanswered,” he said. “If attempts to carry out terrorist attacks continue, Russia’s response will be severe and will correspond to the threat facing it. Nobody should be in any doubt.”
Figures aligned with the Kremlin across the Russian media ecosystem praised the attacks. Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief and a regular pundit on talk shows, who had earlier suggested Ukrainian infrastructure be targeted, expressed herself in proverbs.
“Measure seven times, but cut only once; haste makes waste – if you rush things, you’ll only make others laugh; and other Russian proverbs explaining this morning,” she tweeted, meaning that Russia may be slow to respond, but when it does, it will be loud and clear.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Putin’s security council, declared that Monday’s strikes were only the beginning.
“The first episode has been played. There will be others. And further,” he told his subscribers on Telegram.
Medvedev was Russia’s president from 2008 to 2012 although it is widely believed that Putin, who was prime minister at the time, called the shots from behind the scenes. While presenting himself as something of a liberal while in office, Medvedev has since reinvented himself as one of the hawks in Putin’s circle.
“The Ukrainian state in its current configuration with the Nazi political regime will pose a constant, direct and clear threat to Russia,” Medvedev said. “Therefore, in addition to protecting our people and protecting the borders of the country, the goal of our future actions, in my opinion, should be the complete dismantling of the political regime of Ukraine.”
‘Run, Zelenskyy, run’
Medvedev’s not the only one hoping to bring Ukraine to its knees.
“It remains to be hoped that this is not a one-time action of retaliation but a new system of warfare into the depths of the Ukrainian state until it loses its ability to function,” Alexander Kots, war correspondent for the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid, posted on his Telegram feed.
Kots’s feed mentions nothing about any Ukrainian civilians hurt in the recent strikes but does repeat a governor’s statement that a woman was killed in the shelling of the Belgorod region in Russia.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a close ally of Putin, addressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy personally.
“For eight years you could bomb civilians, destroy the infrastructure of the cities of the D/LPR, shell nuclear power plants, blow up bridges and fire on important facilities, but when it landed on your head, suddenly no one else is allowed [to do this]?” he wrote in a taunting Telegram post.
Kadyrov was referring to the Ukrainian government’s conflict with the separatist Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics in eastern Ukraine since 2014 as well as Moscow’s claims that Ukraine was targeting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
“We warned you, Zelenskyy, that Russia hasn’t really started yet, so stop complaining like a sucker and run away before it gets you,” he said. “Run, Zelenskyy, run without looking back at the West.”
Kadyrov, a hardliner who has criticised Moscow’s campaign for not proceeding hard enough, added that he was now “100 percent satisfied with the special military operation.”
Evgeny Poddubnyy, reporter for the Russia-24 and Russia-1 television channels, posted a photo of several men and women, apparently his Telegram subscribers, gleefully posing next to a panorama of Kyiv’s burning skyline.
“It is reported that the Burshtynska thermal power plant in the Ivano-Frankivsk region was hit. The station provides not only the western cities of Ukraine with electricity but also supplies electricity to Hungary, Slovakia and Romania,” he informed his readers in another post, before adding his own, personal opinion:
“And yes, there is hope that these are not just attacks on objects of the Kyiv regime but an operation that, among other things, will significantly reduce the potential of the enemy’s air defence and air force.”
Independent Russian media, however, were less sanguine about the day’s events.
“Putin said it was a ‘massive strike with precision weapons’ – look at where they aimed these ‘precision weapons’,” read a headline in Meduza, an independent website based in Latvia, next to a gallery showing bodies, bandaged survivors, fire crew digging through rubble and damage to homes, pedestrian areas and parks.
“The point of the strikes on Kyiv and other cities is to convince the hawkish segment of Russian society after the bridge was blown up that the impotence in the Kremlin and MoD is not yet complete and final,” tweeted Dmitry Kolezev, editor of the independent news website Republic.