However, many argued that Moscow would have to continue the intensity of Monday’s rocket attacks to win the war now. Some analysts suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin is becoming a hostage to his own supporters’ views on how the campaign in Ukraine should proceed.
“Putin’s initiative weakens and he becomes more dependent on the circumstances and those who forge ‘victory’ (in Ukraine) for him,” Tatyana Stanovaya, founder of the independent think tank R.Politik, wrote in an online commentary on Monday. .
Putin supporters have been calling for drastic measures on Ukraine’s battlefield for weeks. These calls intensified over the weekend, shortly after an explosion on the Kerch Bridge connecting Crimea to Russia sent shockwaves across the world. The bridge, the longest in Europe, is a prominent symbol of Russian military prowess and was opened by Putin himself in 2018.
“And?” Margarita Simonyan, head of state-funded RT television, wondered on social media how Moscow reacted to the attack on the bridge.
“This is one of those cases where the country has to show we can hit back,” wrote Alexander Kots, war correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia’s popular pro-Kremlin gossip.
“It’s time to fight! Intense, even cruel. Without looking back at the censorship of the West,” tweeted Sergei Mironov, a senior Russian lawmaker who heads the state-backed A Just Russia party. “There will be no bigger sanctions. They won’t say worse words. We have to do our thing. We started it – we should go to the end. There’s no turning back. Time to react!”
The response came Monday morning, when Moscow launched dozens of missiles simultaneously at Ukrainian cities, killing and injuring dozens and inflicting unprecedented damage on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure. The strikes, which hit 15 Ukrainian cities, most of the regional capitals, laid power lines, damaged railway stations and roads, and left cities without water supplies.
For the first time in months, Russian missiles exploded in the heart of Kiev, in dangerous proximity to government buildings.
Putin on Monday said the attacks were in retaliation for what he called Kiev’s “terrorist” actions against the Kerch Bridge, and promised a “harsh” and “proportionate” response if Ukraine carried out further attacks threatening Russia’s security.
“No one should doubt it,” he said.
“Here comes the response,” RT’s Simonyan tweeted Monday after the attacks. “The Crimean Bridge was that red line from the start.”
The strong leader of Chechnya, a Russian region in the North Caucasus, Ramzan Kadyrov, said he is now “100% satisfied” with how the Kremlin’s “special military operation” is going. He was one of the staunchest proponents of “more drastic measures” in Ukraine, even calling for the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.
Moscow-installed Crimean governor Sergei Aksyonov described the strikes as “good news”.
However, cheers from Kremlin supporters came with a demand for Putin and the Russian military to keep up the pace and intensity of the attacks and damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure.
Aksyonov emphasized in his statement that “if such actions to destroy the enemy’s infrastructure every day, we would have completed everything by May and the Kiev regime would have been defeated.”
“I hope the pace of the operation will not slow down now,” Aksyonov wrote.
RT’s top host Anton Krasovsky, after posting a video of him dancing on a balcony in a cap with a Z on it, said in another Telegram post that the damage to Ukraine’s power lines “wasn’t enough! Not enough!”
Another state TV journalist, Andrei Medvedev, called Monday’s attacks “a logical step, which not only society has long demanded – the military situation required a different approach to hostilities.”
“And so it happened. But does it change much?” Medvedev, who works for the Russian state television group VGTRK and sits on the Moscow City Council, wrote on Telegram.
“If the strikes on vital infrastructure become regular, if the strikes on railways, bridges and power plants become part of our tactics, then that will change (the situation). But for now, according to (official) statements, no decision has yet been taken to plunge Ukraine into the Middle Ages,” Medvedev wrote.
Political analyst Stanovaya noted in a Telegram post Monday that “strong pressure” has been exerted on Putin “to engage in aggressive actions, mass bombings” and that has prompted him to act.
“As of today, it can be said that Putin was persuaded to resort to a more aggressive line. And it matches his understanding of the situation. But it’s a slippery slope — there’s no turning back,” Stanovaya wrote.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine