Vladimir Putin’s latest display of brutality and vengeance may be outrage over the blow-up of his iconic Crimean bridge. But his indiscriminate targeting of Ukrainian civilians has also raised the prospect of a dire new twist in a vicious war.
Russian missiles damaged a glass-bottomed pedestrian bridge in Kyiv, a popular tourist attraction, plunging into an intersection during rush hour and crashing near a children’s playground on Monday. With power outages across the country and cuts to water and transportation in some places, the strikes are reminiscent of the horrors inflicted on civilians in the early days of the invasion, but have largely subsided in recent months.
The attacks robbed city dwellers of normalcy, who spent months in the war in subways turned into bomb shelters, have managed to restore their lives and sparked fears of new strikes.
The message is obvious and can be seen by the world: Putin does not intend to be humiliated. He will not admit defeat. He is ready for his slew of battlefield reversals with slaughter and indiscriminate terror of civilians.
But Monday’s target also had little military value, if anything, reflecting Putin’s need to find new targets because he cannot defeat Ukraine on the battlefield.
The bombing of power installations on Monday, in particular, seemed to hint at the pain the Russian president could inflict as winter approaches, even as his troops retreat in the face of Ukrainian troops using Western weapons.
The possibility that Putin could herald a bloody new turn in a war that has gone through multiple strategic stages since the February invasion weighed heavily on the minds of political and military leaders in Washington on Monday. Their response was distasteful, with Putin again waging a ruthless war on civilians, reminiscent of the horrors of the 20th century in Europe.
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