Russia launched multiple missile attacks in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia overnight, killing at least 12 people and injuring dozens in apparent retaliation for a truck bomb that damaged a Crimean bridge, authorities said on Sunday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday accused Ukrainian special services of being responsible for the bridge explosion and ordered the chairman of his investigative committee, Alexander Bastrykin, to open a criminal investigation. Bastrykin said some suspects have already been identified.
“There is no doubt that this is a terrorist attack aimed at destroying civilian infrastructure of crucial importance to Russia,” Putin said. Ukrainian officials hinted they were involved in the explosion but did not claim responsibility.
The missile strikes caused the partial collapse of a high-rise apartment building and blew out the windows of adjacent buildings. The attacks came hours after Saturday’s blast caused the partial collapse of the bridge, an important supply artery for the Kremlin’s war effort.
Initially, the city council said 17 were dead, but later revised the number to 12. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the attack on civilians “absolute evil” and the Russians “savages and terrorists”.
Russian authorities had warned of retaliation after the attack on the 12-mile, $3.6 billion Kerch Bridge, a symbol of Moscow’s takeover of Crimea there Eight years. The bridge reopened to rail and restricted vehicle traffic on Sunday.
►Putin signed a decree strengthening the security of the Crimean Bridge and energy infrastructure between Crimea and Russia. He tasked Russia’s federal security service, the FSB, with the effort.
►The Russian Ministry of Defense has announced that Air Force General Sergei Surovikin will now command all Russian troops in Ukraine. Surovikin, who was already in charge of troops in southern Ukraine, had led Russian forces in Syria and was accused of overseeing a bombardment that destroyed much of Aleppo.
CHART:Mapping and tracking the Russian invasion of Ukraine
NUCLEAR ARMAGEDDON? Biden cites highest risk since 1962
Ukraine pleads for more defense weapons
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, responding to the Russian missile barrage, said Ukraine “urgently needs more modern air and missile defense systems” to protect its cities.
“Russia continues its missile terror against civilians in Zaporizhzhia,” Kuleba said. “I urge partners to expedite deliveries.”
The increased flow of weapons from the West played a crucial role in the reversal of the war, as Ukrainian forces pushed back Russian troops, retaking thousands of square kilometers of land.
Criticism of war strategy heats up in Russia with losses
Disapproval of the war effort is growing in Russia, with vocal critics including Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and private military company owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, as well as state-approved TV presenters, film stars pop and “an increasingly vocal community of ultra-nationalist military bloggers,” the UK Ministry of Defense said in its latest report.
Critics remain focused on Russia’s military command rather than political leaders, the ministry said. But the assessment says the trend of publicly voicing dissent against the Russian establishment is at least partly tolerated and “will likely be difficult to reverse”.
City that houses the largest nuclear power plant in Europe powerless for 3 days
Residents of Enerhodar, home to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, have lived without electricity or gas for three days, Mayor Dmytro Orlov said on Sunday. He said some residents were using open fires next to their homes for cooking and boiling water.
Orlov blamed constant Russian bombardment for preventing service workers from restoring public services – and warned residents to be careful when collecting firewood in areas likely to be riddled with landmines . About half of the 50,000 residents fled when Russian troops took the town.
The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said the link between the nuclear plant and a 750-kilovolt line had been severed by the bombings on Saturday. The six reactors of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant are shut down, but they still need electricity for cooling and other safety functions, now powered by emergency diesel generators.
Retired Admiral Mike Mullen, Rep. Don Bacon suggests Biden should cool nuclear rhetoric
President Joe Biden’s warning last week that the risk of nuclear ‘Armageddon’ is at the highest level since 1962 was ‘worrying’ and not productive in ending the war in Ukraine, the admiral told Sunday. retired Mike Mullen. Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and top military adviser to President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, told ABC’s “This Week” that Biden’s warning was “about the top of the linguistic scale”.
“I think we need to step back a bit and do whatever we can to try to get to the table to resolve this issue,” Mullen said. “It has to end and there are usually negotiations associated with that.”
Nebraska Republican Rep. Don Bacon, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Putin is a “cornered animal…unpredictable, unstable.” But he also said Biden should be “more careful” with his rhetoric.
Ukrainian troops liberated 50 towns in Kherson alone
Ukraine’s armed forces have liberated more than 50 towns and nearly 800 square kilometers in the occupied Kherson region and are closing in on the Russian-held city, Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Enin said on Sunday. The region is one of four that Russia has claimed to annex after bogus referendums held at gunpoint that the Kremlin says drew overwhelming support for Russian membership.
“Little by little, step by step, the Kherson region, our lands are freed from invaders,” Enin said. Ukrainian officials say they are also making inroads in the other three regions seized by Russia, including the Lugansk and Dontesk regions that make up industrial Donbass. Donbass has been the main focus of Russian troops since their withdrawal from the Kyiv region at the start of the war.
Slovakia’s Birthday Gift to Putin: Howitzers for Ukraine
Slovak Defense Minister Jaro Nad said on Sunday that Bratislava had delivered two Zuzana 2 self-propelled howitzers to support Ukraine’s efforts to repel the Russian invasion. Ukraine’s neighbor has been one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters, with previous donations that included a Soviet-era S-300 air defense system, military helicopters and thousands of multiple rocket launchers.
Nad suggested the latest offers were actually a gift for Putin, who turned 70 on Friday.
“To mark his 70th birthday, we delivered another gift to Aggressor Putin. Two more new #Zuzana2 howitzers have now arrived (and many more to come),” Nad tweeted.
Contribute: The Associated Press