TALLINN, Estonia (HPD) — Moscow’s barrage of missiles on cities across Ukraine was greeted with jubilation by Russian officials and pro-Kremlin commentators, who in recent weeks had actively criticized the Russian military for a string of defeats. embarrassing on the battlefield.
Russian nationalist commentators and state media war correspondents hailed Monday’s attacks, which they described as an appropriate and expected response to Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in the northeast and south, and to an attack over the weekend on a crucial bridge connecting Russia and Crimea, a prized Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014.
However, many argued that Moscow should maintain the intensity of Monday’s missile strikes to win the war now. Some analysts have suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin is becoming a hostage to his allies’ views on how the campaign in Ukraine should play out.
“Putin’s initiative weakens and becomes more dependent on the circumstances and on those who design ‘victory’ (in Ukraine) for him,” Tatyana Stanovaya, founder of the independent study group R, wrote in an online comment on Monday. .Politics.
“The fear of defeat is so strong, especially for those who are already fully immersed in this military initiative, that Putin’s indecisiveness, with his logic of ‘we haven’t started anything yet’ and ‘moderate tactics have paid off’ , it has become a problem”, added the analyst.
Putin’s supporters had been calling for tougher measures in the fighting in Ukraine for weeks. Those requests increased over the weekend after an explosion on the Kerch Bridge connecting Crimea with Russia, an image that went around the world. The longest bridge in Europe is a symbol of Russian military might and was opened by Putin in 2018.
“So?” Margarita Simonyan, director of state-funded television RT, asked on social media about what Moscow’s response to the bridge attack would be.
“This is one of those cases where the country has to show that we can strike back,” wrote Alexander Kots, a war correspondent for the popular pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda.
“It’s time to fight! Fiercely, even cruelly. Without looking back at any censorship from the West,” Sergei Mironov, a prominent Russian lawmaker who leads the state-backed party A Just Russia, tweeted on Saturday. “There will be no bigger penalties. They won’t say anything worse. We must do our thing. We started it, we must go to the end. There is no way back. Time to respond!”
The answer came on Monday morning, when Moscow fired dozens of missiles at once at Ukrainian cities, killing and injuring dozens and causing unprecedented damage to critical Ukrainian infrastructure. The attacks, which hit 15 Ukrainian cities, most of them regional capitals, brought down power lines, damaged train stations and highways and left towns without running water.
For the first time in months missiles exploded in the heart of kyiv, dangerously close to government buildings.
Putin on Monday said the attacks were retaliation for kyiv’s “terrorist” acts against the Kerch Bridge, and promised a “tough” and “proportionate” response if Ukraine carried out more attacks that threatened Russia’s security.
“No one should have any doubts about it,” he said.
“Here comes the answer,” RT’s Simonyan tweeted after the attacks. “The Crimean Bridge was that red line from the beginning.”
The leader of Chechnya, a Russian region in the North Caucasus, Ramzan Kadyrov, said he was now “100% happy” with the Kremlin’s “special military operation” proceeding. He was one of the strongest advocates of taking “more drastic measures” in Ukraine and had even called for the use of small-caliber nuclear weapons.
The Moscow-installed governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, described the attacks as “good news.”
Cheers from Kremlin defenders, however, were accompanied by demands that Putin and the Russian military keep up the pace and intensity of attacks and damage to Ukrainian infrastructure.
In his statement, Aksyonov stressed that “if similar measures had been taken every day to destroy enemy infrastructure, we would have finished everything in May and the kyiv regime would have been defeated.”
“I hope that now the pace of the operation will not slow down,” Aksyonov wrote.
RT’s star presenter Anton Krasovsky shared a video of himself dancing on a balcony wearing a Z cap and said in a Telegram post that the damage to the Ukrainian power grid “is not enough! It’s not enough!”.
Another state television journalist, Andrei Medvedev, described Monday’s attacks as “a logical step, which not only has been long overdue for by society, but the military situation called for a different strategy in hostilities.”
“So it was. But does it change much?” Medvedev, who works for the state television group VGTRK and is a Moscow councilor, asked on Telegram.
“If attacks on critical infrastructure become commonplace, if attacks on railways, bridges and power plants become part of our tactics, then it does change (the situation). But for now, according to (official) statements, no decision has been made to plunge Ukraine into the Middle Ages,” Medvedev wrote.
Political analyst Stanovaya noted in a Telegram post on Monday that there is “strong pressure” on Putin to “move to aggressive strategies, massive bombing,” and that this had prompted him to act.
“Today it can be said that Putin was persuaded to resort to a more aggressive line. And he fits with your understanding of the situation. But it’s a slippery path, there’s no going back,” Stanovaya said.