Vladimir Putin’s brutal revenge against Ukraine

Russian Vladimir Putin wrongly called the partial destruction on Saturday of a flagship bridge linking Russia to annexed Crimea “a terrorist act”. His revenge was to unleash mass terror on cities across Ukraine on Monday, with missiles raining destruction from the skies amid the morning rush hour. The bombardment was the most extensive since the first weeks of the war. Given that international law stipulates that parties to the conflict “must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants” and not direct attacks against civilians, it is difficult to see this as anything other than the latest disaster. Kremlin’s catalog of war crimes in Ukraine, one directly commissioned by its president.

The Kerch Bridge explosion – which Ukraine celebrated without claiming responsibility – was undoubtedly a humiliation for Putin. It was a symbol of his capture of Crimea, built on his orders and breached the day after his 70th birthday. That doesn’t change the fact that it was a legitimate military target. It had been widely used to supply Crimea and Russian forces in southern Ukraine. Civilians, on the other hand, were not deliberately targeted.

Putin insisted that Russia had attacked Ukrainian “energy, military command and communication facilities”. Some infrastructure sites have indeed been affected, leaving several regions without electricity or water, causing inevitable public suffering. But Moscow’s so-called “precision” strikes also hit a city park popular with families with young children, a pedestrian bridge, museums and university buildings, and the German consulate in Kyiv – none of them. between them being military targets.

The brutality of the strikes was certainly no stranger to Putin’s promotion last weekend of General Sergei Surovikin to commander of Moscow’s invasion forces in Ukraine. In the past, Surovikin led Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict, including the barbaric bombardment of Aleppo.

Given Russia’s use of dozens of cruise and short-range ballistic missiles, the fact that it destroyed so few high-value military targets suggests either that civilian sites were deliberately targeted or that the missiles were very inaccurate. Either way, with Ukraine claiming to have shot down more than half of the more than 80 missiles fired, it was a military waste of expensive and scarce weapons. If it was meant to signal the start of a destructive new tactic in warfare, it’s one that Russia can’t sustain for long – at least, using this kind of high-end weaponry.

One response from Western democracies should be to quickly provide Ukraine with the sophisticated defense systems it has long demanded. Failure to provide them only makes Ukraine more vulnerable and increases the torment its citizens endure – as well as the costs of post-war reconstruction.

Immediate financial aid as Ukraine grapples with the costs of war amid a huge economic contraction is also a priority. The EU, in particular, has been slow to disburse funds.

Despite the human misery of the Russian attacks, they are likely to only strengthen Ukraine’s extraordinary spirit of determination. Yet Western democracies must also prepare for potential efforts by Moscow to target their infrastructure as well. After explosions hit Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipelines to Germany and unexplained cable sabotage shut down part of the German rail network this weekend, a reported cyberattack on US airport websites on Monday was blamed on Russian hackers. In addition to stepping up support for Ukraine, its allies must increase surveillance of critical energy, transportation and communications networks — and prepare for the possibility that one of Putin’s next moves could be yet another attempt. to expand the war.

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