The Russian response to the attack on the Crimean Bridge on Saturday morning came after 48 hours – in the form of a shower of cruise missiles. On Monday morning, air-raid sirens sounded all over Ukraine and cruise missiles hit everywhere from Kiev to Odessa and from Lviv to Dnipro. At least 11 people were killed and dozens injured across the country as Ukrainian citizens shared images of burning cars in the center of the capital on social media. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry reported in the morning that 84 cruise missiles had been fired at the time, 43 of which had been shot down. The rest detonated at power plants, business centers, as well as at an intersection in the center of Kiev, during the morning rush hour. Kamikaze drones were also deployed, including the Iranian Shahed-136, several of which were shot down. It was Putin’s revenge for the attack on the bridge over the Kerch Strait, which was damaged by a heavy explosion early Saturday morning. A “terrorist attack” on “critical civilian infrastructure of the Russian Federation,” the Russian president said Monday morning. His response was the largest rocket salvo since the beginning of the war. “A mass attack with precision weapons,” Putin said, targeting Ukraine’s “energy supply, chain of command and connectivity.” See also this photo series: After months of calm, Kiev was hit hard by rocket attacks this morning This definition might include the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Volodymyrsky Street, where a rocket landed on Monday morning – without causing much damage. But there were also explosions in Shevchenko Park and at the pedestrian bridge towards the Michaelmas Monastery, one of the most important historical sites of the Orthodox world. It was difficult to determine Monday morning whether these were drop-offs or targeted attacks on civilian targets. President Zelensky assumed the latter on Monday. “They are trying to destroy us and wipe us off the face of the earth completely,” the Ukrainian president said in response. war crime The West reacted with outrage. An EU spokesman spoke of a “barbaric cowardly attack”. The French foreign minister went one step further: “Deliberately attacking the civilian population is a war crime.” The Russian bombardment caused considerable damage in several places. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said 11 “important infrastructural objects” had been damaged across the country. Power went out in some areas of Kiev and other cities as well. Civilians spent hours in the air raid shelters and in the metropolitan underground. A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said that “all targets had been destroyed”. The missiles were likely fired from the Black Sea, from Russian territory and from Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine. Also read: Putin mutes domestic criticism with ‘mass attacks’ on Ukraine But the Russians had to pull out all the stops to deal this heavy blow. The Ukrainian army command reported that several weapon systems have been deployed: modern cruise-flight weapons of the ‘Kalibr’ type, but also old Soviet missiles such as the Ch-101 and Ch-55, and even S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, which have been used against ground targets for a long time. It therefore seems unlikely that Russia will be able to sustain shelling of this magnitude for long. The cruise missile attacks – at a great distance – also underlined the extremely poor performance of the Russian air force, which has failed to achieve air superiority in seven months of war. According to estimates by the Ukrainian military staff, 267 Russian planes have been shot down. Large-scale bombing raids with aircraft, such as those carried out by Russia over Syria, have proved impossible in Ukraine. New supplies of modern Western air defenses will further complicate the situation for the Russians. The German Defense Ministry said Monday it would deliver the first of a total of four IRIS-T anti-aircraft systems “as soon as possible” to better protect Ukrainian cities. An injured man receives medical attention after a rocket attack in Kiev. Photo Efrem Lukatsky/AP Belarusian troops Since the Ukrainian lightning offensive in the Kharkov region at the beginning of September, Russia has been losing: the hastily announced mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Russian reservists has not done much to change that. On Monday, however, another Russian attack from the north seemed imminent – this time perhaps with the participation of Belarusian troops. Last weekend, Ukraine’s ambassador to Minsk was summoned because Ukraine was planning an “attack” on Belarusian territory — something Kiev vehemently denied. During a meeting with his army command, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed on Monday that the Ukrainians want to open a “second front” towards Minsk. Lukashenko said he has therefore agreed with President Putin to set up a Russian-Belarusian military task force. The basis of this will be the “Belarusian army,” Lukashenko said, but he did not say what the task force is for or whether Belarus will now join the war. Earlier it was announced that Belarus is preparing for the encampment of 20,000 Russian soldiers – mainly mobilized reservists. Lukashenko then said that while Belarus is participating in Russia’s ‘special military operation’, Belarusian soldiers are “killing no one”. Plumes of smoke over the Ukrainian capital. From Kiev to Odessa, from Lviv to Dnipro: Russian cruise missiles hit everywhere. Photo Oleksandr Klymenko/Reuters Another attack from the north – this time with poorly trained reservists – will not reverse the Russian military odds, but it could slow down the Ukrainian advance in the east and south. Since the Russian retreat from Kiev last March, the Ukrainians have fortified the border with Belarus, including minefields. Another attack, however, would force Kiev to move troops north, at the expense of the offensives at Kherson and in the Donbas. It would be a welcome gain of time for Putin, but it also seems to be a stay of execution. In recent weeks, military options for the Russian president have rapidly dwindled — so much so that there has been talk aloud in Russian media of nuclear retaliation for the attack on the Crimean Bridge. However, the deployment of (tactical) nuclear weapons would lead to a direct collision with the US and NATO. Putin does not seem to be taking such a risk for the time being. And with Monday’s bombing, calls for retaliation in Russia seem to have been silenced for a while. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, still extremely critical last week, wrote on Telegram that he was “100 percent satisfied” with the approach to the war. For those who want more context in the war in Ukraine, there are countless books, films, documentaries and podcasts. NRC provides tips in this guide. A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of October 11, 2022