Biden condemns Putin's 'brutality', pledges support for Ukraine after Russia unleashes deadly retaliatory strike: Live Update

Kyiv was hit by several missiles for the first time in months on Monday, and several other Ukrainian cities suffered heavy blows in what Russian President Vladimir Putin called retaliation for a weekend explosion on a large Russian-built bridge. At least 14 civilians were killed and nearly 100 injured, Ukraine's Emergency Services reported. Homes, businesses, roads and vehicles were left in ruins and much of the country lost power just two days after the main bridge linking occupied Crimea with mainland Russia was damaged by a truck bomb. Putin blamed Ukrainian special forces for the explosion.

"If efforts continue to carry out terror attacks in our region, Russia's response will be difficult," Putin said at a meeting with members of Russia's Security Council. "No one should have any doubts about that."Putin said his defense ministry used long-range air, sea and ground-based precision weapons to attack Ukraine's energy, military command and communications facilities. However, civilian areas such as playgrounds and universities are also affected. President Joe Biden, who spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday, issued a statement promising support for Ukraine. He condemned attacks that "kill and injure civilians and destroy targets without military purpose" and pointed to the "total brutality of Putin's illegal war" in Ukraine.

Biden and Zelenskyy said they discussed the need for increased air defense, and the Ukrainian leader later called it "Priority Number 1."Missiles hit civilian infrastructure in central Kyiv during the morning rush hour. Among other major cities hit by attacks in at least 14 regions were Dnipro in the center of the country, Lyiv in the West, Kharkiv in the Northeast and Zaporizhizia in the South. The Ukrainian military said Russia launched 84 missiles, mostly from drones, and 56 of them were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses. Critical infrastructure, mostly energy supplies, was hit in eight areas, and more than 30 fires broke out in Kyiv alone, authorities said.

"The world is once again seeing the true face of a terrorist state that is killing our people," Zelenskyy said in a social media post. "On the battlefield & in peaceful cities. A country that masks its true bloody essence & purpose with talks of peace."

Other developments:

  1. The Russian Defense Ministry said the attack was successful: "the purpose of the attack was achieved. All designated objects are exposed."
  2. Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said power lines in some areas of the capital were being cut to repair damage to critical infrastructure. Electricity and water supplies were damaged in the attack, he said.
  3. Residents of several European countries, including Germany, Poland, Italy, Austria, Romania and Georgia, protested Monday's missile attack outside the Russian Embassy.
  4. In an emergency meeting Monday, the UN General Assembly debated how to respond to Russia's claim to annex four Ukrainian provinces after a sham election. A vote is expected later this week on a proposal to condemn the "referendum" and claim annexation as illegal.
  5. Despite being under pressure from Ukrainian forces in the Northeast and South, Russia is focused on taking over Donetsk province in the Donbas region, making a strong push towards the city of Bakhmut, Britain's Defence Ministry said. 

Lindsey Graham: Putin missile strikes 'an act of extreme desperation'

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday that Vladimir Putin's missile attack was an " act of a very desperate man” and the Russian president was “hoarding” war crimes in Ukraine. ” His military is melting before our eyes, " Graham said in an interview with USA TODAY. “So he was desperate. He upped the ante here by attacking civilian targets."Ukraine is stepping up a strong response, Graham said, but they need more air defense capabilities, long-range artillery and additional tanks.

"And the threat of nuclear retaliation by Putin must be faced or resolved. He tried to use nuclear weapons extortion, and we can't discuss that because that will be the standard in the future, ”Graham added. "And the most dangerous thing we can do is to be intimidated by it and give up."President Joe Biden last week warned of the prospect of Armageddon if Putin deploys tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. The comment went too far for Graham.

“I have no idea why he spoke like that. It was a mistake, " Graham said. “But I will say this: they are slow – the Biden administration – in terms of sanctions and weapons, but we are in a pretty good place now."Graham, who serves on the Appropriations Committee and is a ranking member on the Budget Committee, said he intends to work with the government when the Senate reconvenes after the midterm elections to pass a strong military and economic package for Ukraine.

- Francesca Chambers

Ukraine's Foreign Minister said Putin used the explosion of the Crimean Bridge as an excuse. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged international media not to suggest that Putin was provoked into Monday's attack by the explosion of the Crimean Bridge, saying that the narrative "shifts the blame on the victims of aggression. Kuleba said Russia hammered Ukrainian cities with missiles for months before Saturday's explosion at the Kerch Bridge, and any expansion of the attack was a reflection of Putin's "despair" over defeat on the battlefield.

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