Russia is intensifying a campaign of long-range missile strikes targeting Ukraine’s key infrastructure after facing major setbacks on the battlefield that have raised concerns about further escalation from Moscow.
The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense said Sunday that Russian strikes had increasingly picked out civilian targets over the past week, even when no immediate military benefit could be perceived. The aim, it said, is to “undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government,” which has been buoyed by the success of a recent offensive in the northeast of the country.
The Ukrainian breakthrough in the Kharkiv region compelled Russian forces to relinquish more territory in a matter of days than they had gained in months of grinding combat, dramatically altering the momentum of the war.
Since then, Russian missiles have hit a dam, threatening to flood the city of Kryvyi Rih days after electricity in much of eastern Ukraine was knocked out by a strike that disabled the main power station in the country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv. A sustained Russian effort to destroy Ukrainian power stations, dams, bridges and pipelines could over time severely degrade the country’s ability to function, especially as winter sets in.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces Sunday said that over the past 24 hours, the Russian military launched six missile strikes and 28 airstrikes at both military and civilian targets. It said infrastructure in more than 30 settlements was damaged, near the front lines and often further into Ukrainian-held territory.
Speaking during a regional summit in Uzbekistan on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had launched several warning strikes in response to Ukraine’s offensive, in which Kyiv reclaimed some 3,500 square miles of territory, and there could be a more serious response in the future.
“More recently, the Russian armed forces delivered a couple of sensitive strikes, we will assume that they are a warning,” he said. “If the situation continues to develop in this way, then the response will be more serious.”
The recent strikes came as Ukrainian investigators uncovered evidence of what they say are war crimes in and around the city of Izyum after Russian forces were expelled from most of the northeastern Kharkiv region. Ukrainian authorities also found what they described as torture chambers there.
[Read more on: https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-expands-attacks-on-civilian-targets-in-ukraine-after-battlefield-losses-11663500963]