Russia Bombing Civilian Sites Across Ukraine

Putin is committing war crimes in retaliation for an attack on a legitimate military target.

NBC News (“Russia unleashes deadly strikes on cities across Ukraine after Crimea bridge attack“):

Russia unleashed a barrage of deadly attacks on cities across Ukraine on Monday, hitting the heart of the country’s capital as part of a wave of strikes against civilians and infrastructure not seen since the very earliest days of the war.

From Lviv in the west to Kharkiv in the northeast, missiles tore through rush hour traffic and into energy facilities, in apparent retaliation for a blast that damaged a key bridge to the annexed Crimean Peninsula over the weekend.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in a televised address that his military had launched a “massive strike” on Ukraine’s “energy, military command and communications facilities,” telling his security council it was revenge for what he called Kyiv’s long track record of “terrorist” actions, including the bridge blast.

The Russian leader also issued a threat.

“If attempts to carry out terrorist attacks on our territory continue, Russia’s responses will be tough and will correspond in scale to the level of threats posed to Russia,” he said. “No one should have any doubts about this.”

This is simply delusional. Russia is committing war crimes by intentionally targeting civilians; the attack on a bridge used to ferry military equipment in support of an illegal invasion is a legitimate military act.

NPR (“Deadly missile strikes hit Kyiv as explosions reported in other cities across Ukraine“) adds:

Ukrainian emergency services report that several people are dead across the country, including at least five people in the the capital Kyiv, which hasn’t been hit since June. It’s also the closest strike to the center of the city since the war began, hitting slightly more than 1,000 yards from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office.


In Kyiv, Ukraine Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said at least two museums and the National Philharmonic sustained heavy damage. Meanwhile, a nearby strike damaged the country’s main passenger terminal in the capital, delaying trains during this morning’s rush hour, according to Ukraine’s National Railway.


Ukraine’s top brass released a statement that said that the country’s air defenses took down at least 40 incoming air attacks, but several dozen more got through. Ukrainian officials blame Iranian-made suicide drones launched from Belarus and the Black sea for many of the attacks. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has allowed Russia to use his country as a staging ground for attacks on Ukraine and after today’s attacks requested further assistance from the Russian government in anticipation of Ukrainian retaliation.

If verified that strikes came from Belarus, massive retaliation on their military installations would be justified.

WaPo (“Russia strikes Kyiv and cities across Ukraine after Crimea bridge attack“) adds:

Russia’s strikes in the heart of the capital raised questions about the strength of Ukraine’s air defenses, which officials have been pushing Western countries to bolster through additional security assistance. Ukraine’s military reported that its air defenses knocked down 43 of the 83 missiles launched at the country on Monday.

NYT (“Russian missiles violated Moldova’s airspace, officials say.“) adds:

Three Russian cruise missiles fired from vessels in the Black Sea targeting locations in Ukraine crossed through Moldova’s airspace, the country’s foreign minister said Monday, calling it a “violation.”

Moldova, a small nation that borders Ukraine from three sides and has a pro-Russian breakaway republic of its own, has supported Kyiv against Russia’s invasion and has been under increased pressure from Moscow since the beginning of the war.

Moldova is officially neutral but has been a member of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council for three decades. Retaliation on the Black Sea locations may well be justified here.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    This is what the Russians do. Someday this war will end, but Russia will be excommunicated from the world community. This is something Russian elites need to consider. Perhaps it is time to move toward confiscating the wealth of the oligarchs.

  2. Kathy says:

    Before Mad Vlad goes all in emulating Saddam’s classic 1991 tactics, he may want to take a minute to contemplate how well these worked in Gulf War I.

  3. daryl and his brother darryl says:

    Stephen King wraps this up nicely, on Twitter;

    After nine months of killing and in many cases torturing civilians; after razing whole towns; the Russians call blowing up a bridge “terrorism.” That takes the fucking cake.

  4. rachel says:

    @Kathy: Or how well the Blitz worked out for Germany in WWII.

  5. rachel says:

    Not only did Ukraine attack a legitimate military target, it did so at a time when loss of life was likely to be minimal.

    I just wanted to point that out.

  6. Lounsbury says:

    @rachel: or for even-handedness British area bombing for the most part of Germany… but rather more like the post-Blitz Nazi use of V1 and V2s – largely useless and stealing resources and attention from more effective action.

    On the flip side the Russians are wasting a limited stock of cruise missiles on what in the end is a tantrum – bloody and deadly tantrum – put on to calm the extreme nationalist faction (and possibly Putin himself).

    Stupid waste of their resources mostly (excepting hits to energy infrastructure) and self-harming both in military resources as well as certain reinforcement of Ukrainian resolve.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    Well, bombing civilians has worked in. . . um. . . well, never. Rather like the Blitz in that Luftwaffe planes and above all, pilots, were wasted. Pilots and planes the Germans could have used to directly attack the radars and the RAF, and later still when the Luftwaffe was a spent force.

    There are still Ukrainian jets in the air and they blow up apartment buildings instead of hangars? Brutal and stupid. Throw in drunk and you have the definition of the Russian character.

  8. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Actually, the Allied bombing of Germany was militarily effective, unlike the German bombings.
    It didn’t break German morale; but it did engage and attrite German industrial capability, which was the basis of German power.
    And the object of the exercise.

    The Russian problem is that their attacks, like the German v-weapons, are not significantly damaging economic/industrial/military capabilities.
    Especially as Ukraine has Western economic support as well.

    The one target that might avail is the energy infrastructure; but even the more “precise” Russian missiles don’t seem up to the job.
    For instance, they targeted a pedestrian “peace bridge”; and missed.

    Also: about half the Russian missiles were shot down.
    That ratio is only going to move further in Ukraine’s favour as the German IRIS-T and Norwegian NASAMS turn up.

    And Washington should damn well stop playing grandmothers footsteps on supplying Patriot batteries.

  9. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    As the wise man said, “Brutal, stupid, and drunk is no way to go through life, son.”

  10. Scott says:

    Every time I read that North Korea shot off some more ballistic missiles, I wonder if we should applaud this. I mean, how many damn missiles do they have anyway and what is their production capability given their stone age economy?

  11. JohnSF says:

    Speaking of Patriot SAM:
    Alexander Vindman:

    Why don’t we take the Patriot Batteries designated for the Saudis and deliver them to Ukraine, instead. Ukraine is a much better ally.


    It’s about time someone gave Riyadh a little reminder about “who/whom” in the relationship.

  12. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: Indeed. The Ibn Saud need to see a cost. This would be a nice message to send.

    @JohnSF: British city bombing / area bombing was a fair waste and poor use of resources (the dehousing demarche as you will recall…). Industrial centre bombing another matter – but I was being precise in the evocation, not allied bombing in general

  13. Andy says:

    So Russia still has the ability to do at least limited precision deep strikes into Ukraine. Why they would waste that on these targets is – strange. There are a lot more things to hit that would have a real impact.

    So this seems to be mainly messaging by the Russians, and that message is that fixed infrastructure in Ukraine is vulnerable. I would not be surprised if Russia plans on taking out most of Ukraine’s electrical grid once the weather gets cold and other vulnerable fixed infrastructure.

    As far as giving Patriots to Ukraine, it’s not that simple. Air defense is a system and missile batteries cannot operate independently, unlike HIMARS and other offensive capabilities. It’s unlikely that Patriot can quickly or easily be integrated into Ukraine’s air defense system, and it’s questionable whether they can properly interrogate Ukrainian Air Force IFF systems. My guess is that the preparatory work on that has probably already been happening. But it’s important work because the danger here is fratricide (shooting down Ukrainian aircraft and missiles by accident). If you look at the history of the Patriots used by the US, they have shot down more allied than enemy aircraft. And the Russians shot down MH-13 by accident because the SAM system was operating independently without inputs from an air battle management system that would have ID’d that aircraft as an airliner.

  14. JohnSF says:


    …limited precision deep strikes…

    Very limited precision, it appears.
    Most seem have been just shot more or less at random into the centre of Kyiv.
    So far I’m unaware of any significant targets hit.

    Russia is probably going to have to get a lot better if it wants to take out the grid.
    They’ve been trying on and off since Spring, and caused accumulating damage, but still within Ukrainian capacity to restore.

    And Ukraine is already taking down about half the missiles being fired.

    As for Patriot integration into an air defence system, doubtless this is difficult.
    But is it really that much more problematic than integrating IRIS-T or NASAMS?

  15. JohnSF says:


    British city bombing / area bombing was a fair waste and poor use of resources (the dehousing demarche as you will recall…).

    Got to disagree on that.
    “Dehousing” was a failure (and also a slogan more than a systematic plan); and the US daylight operations more effective.
    But the overall stress of day and night bombing on the German economy and military/industrial resource allocation was huge.
    And that was key thing about it.

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @JohnSF: Years ago Max Hastings wrote a detailed history of the British bombing campaign, Bomber Command. The basic narrative is well known, they bombed because it was about all they could do in Europe. They bombed at night because they couldn’t stay alive in daylight. They targeted cities indiscriminately because they could do no better at night. And they developed an area bombing doctrine because it was all they could do. And their commander, Bomber Harris, believed his own BS and kept up night area bombing after the development of airborne radar, long range fighters, and air superiority allowed them to operate by day. Once they switched to daylight precision (by mid forties standards) bombing they effectively bombed key industries and more importantly transport and fuel targets.

    Hastings opens his book by saying nothing he would say about their commanders should be taken as any slight on the courage and devotion of the aircrews and concludes that besides killing huge numbers of German civilians (and French and Dutch and Belgian) the primary effect of the bombing campaign was to kill almost 60,000 aircrew, the cream of the Commonwealth manpower pool.

  17. Lounsbury says:


    Why they would waste that on these targets is – strange. There are a lot more things to hit that would have a real impact.

    So this seems to be mainly messaging by the Russians

    I would say it is not mainly messaging by the Russians, it is mainly messaging to the Russians by Putin (that is it was a political demarche to protect his Nationalist flanks after the gross embarassement). As the bridge was a Security failure, an intelligence services failure out in the open, and he’s already on backfoot…

    Perhaps also intended to scare the Ukrainians given Putin circle ongoing demonstrably poor grasp of the Ukrainian political dynamic.

    Although really a barrage focused entirely on better targets would have served…

    @JohnSF: let us agree to disagree (as in any event we are talking past each other as I was not intending to comment on the later Allied industrial focused campaigns).

  18. dazedandconfused says:


    The word on the Patriot back in May was we weren’t going to send Patriots because the Pentagon insists only US personnel can man them and placing US military personnel in Ukraine was a non-starter. I suspect that’s not a matter of Ukrainians not being trainable to do it, it’s they want to retain aspects of the Patriot technology as strictly US-only.

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Andy: There you go again mellowing everybody’s harsh. Here we were thinking about the tape we’d see on the news of the Patriot missile blowing up the Kremlin or Putin’s dacha on the Black Sea (preferably both), and you had to go and ruin it. 🙁

  20. Lounsbury says:

    @dazedandconfused: ah. Well fair enough.

    Nevertheless, a fuck you to the Ibn Saud is highly merited. I am sure someone else could use Patriots (as for example the Baltics).

  21. a country lawyer says:

    Following up on yesterday’s discussion about the Crimean bridge explosions. From a view of the available photos it does not appear than any of the spans of the bridge were dropped. If that’s the case repairs can be quickly made.
    This is reminiscent of the bombing of the Paul Doumer bridge during the Viet Nam war, That bridge was critical to the resupply of North Vietnamese forces in the south, It crossed the Red River near Hanoi and like the Crimean bridge it consisted of dual road ways and a parallel railroad bridge. It was frequently targeted and damaged, but the North Vietnamese were able to repair it. The only way to permanently take it out was to drop the spans at the supporting pillars. The mark 80 series “dumb” were not sufficiently accurate or large enough to do the job. Eventually near the end of the war the US developed the Laser Guided Bombs (LGB) with a 3000 pound war head and the bridge was at last taken out.
    While the bombing of the Crimean Bridge will have some short term tactical advantage, as well as a big propaganda effect, until the spans are permanently dropped Russia will be able to repair and use it.
    Today’s LGBs are even more accurate and deadly. It may be the time to supply Ukraine with the weapons to do the job

  22. JohnSF says:

    Read Hastings, years ago.
    He’s a pretty good popular historian, even if he sometimes takes a rather “sentence first, trial after” approach to evidence and conclusions.

    Can’t recall if he pointed out what IMO was the key failing of the RAF: it’s “commands” tended to become almost independent fiefdoms, and RAF CAS Portal failed to force them into line.
    So Harris (who should have been sacked several times over) and the fighter and tactical commanders failed to co-operate on developing and using fighter escorts.
    Even after extended range Spitfire and Typhoon variants were available, they just would not make use of them in that role.
    Utterly pig headed.

    However, Hastings understandable eagerness to condemn the RAF cock-uppery also leads him. IMO to understate the damage they cause.
    It would probably have been better to switch the main effort to escorted day operation on the USAAF pattern, but they still inflicted very high levels of resource diversion.

    (Harris’s greatest offence was his more or less open insubordination when ordered to provide Bomber Command aircraft to support Coastal Command in the Atlantic U-boat crisis in 1942)

    Incidentally: I’m likely the only person hereabouts to have chatted to a RAF WW2 bomber operations staff planner.
    Some forty years or so ago.
    He was the elder brother of a friend of my father (Dad was also RAF bomber guy, but a relatively humble flying sergeant)

  23. JohnSF says:

    @a country lawyer:

    From a view of the available photos it does not appear than any of the spans of the bridge were dropped. If that’s the case repairs can be quickly made.

    Pretty sure that at least one of the road spans is gone.
    The design seems to have the road bridge in effect being parallel separate spans using common supports.
    How quickly that is repairable is uncertain.
    But the main thing is the rail line.
    It looks like one the trackways is out of use; and what the fire damage is to the structure: ?
    But it’s a fair bet that at minimum rail traffic is going to be down by half for some time.
    And this line was the main supply route for petrol and other heavy items to the Kherson area.

    That is a serious problem

  24. a country lawyer says:

    @JohnSF: I saw that picture after I posted. It appears two spans of the roadway were dropped and another damaged leaving two lanes next to the rail line open. There may be structural damage to the remaining lanes which are not visible in the satellite photo but with two road lanes and a RR line open some resupply across the bridge is possible and repair is manageable. There needs to be follow up bombing to finish the job.

  25. Andy says:


    That doesn’t make much sense to me because we’ve sold Patriots to lots of people. But it’s not clear they are needed – at least not yet. Ukrainian air defense seems to be doing a pretty good job. Russian airpower hasn’t been a force multiplier, and it’s really difficult for any system to defend against well-planned cruise missile attacks.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    There you go again mellowing everybody’s harsh.

    Lol, when I was a working intel guy, that was my job.

  26. dazedandconfused says:

    @Andy: Went back and looked at the publications from early in the war, I got it wrong, the issue was it would take “months” to train Ukrainians to handle it. I think a lot of people didn’t think it would last that much longer back then.