Ukraine vows to unite against ‘terrorist’ Russia

Ukraine vowed Monday it would not be intimidated by a spate of deadly rocket attacks from the “terrorist state” Russia, while Moscow fueled fears of further retaliation with threats of more “heavy” attacks.

The heaviest bombing of Ukraine in months, killing 11 and injuring more than 80, was in response to an explosion over the weekend that damaged a vital bridge from Russia to the Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula.

“Ukraine cannot be intimidated. It can only be more united. Ukraine cannot be stopped,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a defiant video, vowing to make the “battlefield even more painful” for Russian troops.

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Kiev said Russian forces had fired more than 80 rockets into cities across the country — including the capital — and that Russia had used Iranian drones launched from neighboring Belarus, causing panic and damaging energy facilities.

“Let there be no doubt,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in television broadcasts addressed to his Security Council, “if the attempted terrorist attacks continue, Russia’s response will be severe.”

Kiev’s ambassador to the United Nations denounced Russia at an urgent General Assembly meeting to discuss Moscow’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions.

“Russia has proved once again that this is a terrorist state that must be deterred in the strongest possible ways,” Sergiy Kyslytsya said hours after the attack.

Ahead of the session, and with tensions at a boiling point, UN chief Antonio Guterres described the Russian attacks as an “unacceptable escalation of the war,” his spokesman said.

US President Joe Biden said the strikes demonstrate “the utter brutality” of Putin’s “illegal war”.

Biden promised Ukraine “to continue with the support needed to defend itself, including advanced air defense systems” during a meeting with Zelensky, the White House said.

Zelensky described the call as “productive” in a tweet in which he labeled air defense as “number 1 priority” for Ukraine.

Killing civilians

Ksenia Ryazantseva, a 39-year-old language teacher, told AFP that she was awakened by the blast.

“We saw the smoke, then the cars, and then we realized we didn’t have a window anymore,” she added. “There’s no military target or anything like that here. They’re just killing civilians.”

Zelensky said the strikes were aimed at bringing down Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and regional officials across the country confirmed the widespread disruption.

Russia’s defense ministry, meanwhile, confirmed it had targeted Ukrainian energy, military command and communications facilities, claiming the attacks were a success and “achieved their goals”.

Kuleba said the attacks were not “provoked” and that the attack was Moscow’s response to a series of embarrassing military losses in eastern Ukraine.

“Desperate for defeats on the battlefield, Putin is using missile terror to change the pace of the war in his favor,” he wrote on social media.

With Putin’s actions in the spotlight, the UN debate will open on a draft resolution condemning what is widely seen in the West as the illegal seizure of Ukrainian land by Russia.

The decision to refer the annexation issue to the General Assembly, where the 193 UN members each have one vote — and no one has a veto — was taken after Russia used its veto in a Security Council meeting on Sept. similar proposal to block .

Zelensky said he had spoken to the leaders of France and Germany and urged them to “step up the pressure on Russia”.

Black smoke

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged “steadfast economic, humanitarian and security assistance” to Ukraine as national police estimated the nationwide death toll from the Russian attack at 11.

Ukrainian officials said central Kiev was hit and a university, museums and the philharmonic building were damaged.

An AFP journalist in Kiev said a projectile landed near a playground and saw smoke rise from a large crater at the impact site. Trees and benches were charred by the blast and a number of ambulances were on the scene.

In the western city of Lviv, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said electricity and hot water supplies had been cut after critical infrastructure was bombed.

There, AFP photographers saw plumes of black smoke rising over the city’s skyline.

Moldova, west of Ukraine, said several Russian cruise missiles aimed at Ukraine had crossed its airspace and that it had called on the Moscow envoy to seek clarification.

The ex-Soviet country, which is a candidate to join the European Union, has a small breakaway region, Transnistria, which is armed and supported by Russia.

Crimean bridge attack

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin, meanwhile claimed that Ukraine was preparing an attack on his country.

He said Russia and Belarus would “deploy” troops together, without specifying where.

The autocratic leader also accused Ukraine of training Belarusian militants to carry out attacks at home.

The strikes in Ukraine came a day after Moscow blamed Kiev for the explosion that damaged a bridge between Crimea and Russia, killing three people.

The blast that struck the bridge — a symbol of the Kremlin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea — sparked celebrations by Ukrainians, although officials in Kiev have claimed no direct responsibility.

The 19-kilometer-long bridge is also an essential supply link between Russia and the annexed Crimean peninsula.

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