Russia’s Retaliatory Attacks on Ukrainian Civilian Targets Leave a Lot of Questions About Russian Capabilities

(AP Photo/ Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)

Saturday, the Kerch Straits bridge linking the illegally occupied Ukrainian province of Crimea to Russia was wracked by an explosion of as much as three tons of explosives. The blast collapsed one two-lane highway segment and disabled one of the two rail lines on the bridge. Russia blamed Ukraine, and President Vladimir Putin condemned the attack on a critical Russian line of communication as terrorism, thereby proving irony is not only dead in Russia but has been gibbeted in chains.


The subtitles are not official; the transcript below is from the Kremlin website.

Colleagues, good afternoon,

You know that yesterday Chairman of the Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin reported to me on the first results of the investigation into the act of sabotage on the Crimean Bridge.

The forensic and other expert data, as well as operational information, show that the October 8 explosion was an act of terrorism aimed at destroying Russia’s civilian and critical infrastructure.

It is also clear that the Ukrainian special services were the organisers and perpetrators of the attack. The Kiev regime has long been using terrorist methods, including murders of public figures, journalists and scientists, both in Ukraine and in Russia. And terrorist attacks on towns in Donbass, which have been going on for more than eight years. And also acts of nuclear terrorism, by which I mean missile and artillery strikes on the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant.

This is not the whole story: Ukraine’s special services have also carried out three terrorist acts against Russia’s Kursk Nuclear Power Plant, repeatedly blowing up the plant’s high-voltage lines. The third such terrorist attack damaged three of those lines at once. The damage was repaired in the shortest possible time and there were no serious consequences.

However, there have been a number of other terrorist attacks and attempts to commit similar crimes against electricity generation and gas transportation infrastructure facilities in our country, including an attempt to blow up a section of the TurkStream gas pipeline system.

All this has been proven by objective data, including the testimony of the detained perpetrators.

It is well known that Russian representatives are not allowed to take part in the investigation into the causes of explosions at and the destruction of international gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea. But we all know who ultimately benefits from this crime.

Thus, the Kiev regime, by its actions, has actually put itself on the same level as international terrorist groups, and with the most odious of those. It is simply no longer possible to leave crimes of this kind without retaliation.

This morning, at the proposal of the Defence Ministry and in accordance with the plan of Russia’s General Staff, a massive strike was launched with long-range precision air, sea and land-based weapons against Ukrainian energy, military and communications facilities.

In the event of more attempts to stage terrorist attacks on our territory, Russia’s response will be harsh and commensurate with the threats posed to the Russian Federation. Nobody should have any doubts about that.

Defence Minister, please report on the results.


This set off a round of missile attacks on Ukrainian cities that appeared to target energy production. Whatever the intent, the outcome was indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets such as playgrounds, apartment buildings, hospitals, and other places that were hit by Russian missiles, in addition to some electrical and steam heat facilities.

According to Ukrainian sources, these were the results. (sources: October 10 | October 11)

October 10

Eighty-four cruise missiles were launched. The missiles were launched from 10 strategic bombers over the Caspian Sea, from the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod, and from “6 missile carriers in the Black Sea.” 43  were intercepted

Twenty-four drone attacks were attempted. 13 of these were by Iranian Shahed-136 drones (details on this weapon can be found at Putin’s War, Week 31. Mobilization, Annexation, and Russian Forces Routed From New ‘Russian’ City). These attacks were launched from Crimea and Belarus. Ten of the Shahed and three unspecified drones were shot down.

Seventy different targets were hit. Among the targets were 29 critical infrastructure items, four high-rise buildings, 35 apartment buildings, and a school.

October 11

Thirty cruise missiles were launched. They were aimed at critical infrastructure in  Lviv, Vinnytsia, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhia oblasts. Twenty-one missiles were intercepted.

An undetermined number of drone strikes were launched, and 11 were destroyed.

At least 19 civilians were killed in the attack. Were it not for Ukraine’s air raid warning system and air defense network; the numbers would have been significantly higher.


Russia claims that all the missiles got through and all targets were hit. If you are profoundly stupid, this statement was targeted at you.

This map shows the distribution of strikes inside Ukraine.

Credit: Financial Times

There are indications that Russian weapons and/or targeting capabilities aren’t all that stellar…assuming terrorizing people with random attacks was not the actual purpose. For instance, the Financial Times plots of missile strikes in Kiev show the missiles hit sorta near strategic targets. But only sorta close. Ground zero for the Volodymyrska Street/Shevchenko Boulevard strike was a playground with predictably fatal consequences.


Credit: Financial Times

Missiles aimed at the city of Kryvyi Rih managed to hit a coal mine and trap 98 miners underground.

Considering that this war is a textbook case of war crimes and violations of International Humanitarian Law, commenting on the deliberate or incompetent attacks on civilian targets or targets that seem to be chosen to inflict suffering on the civilian population is superfluous.


No significant damage was done to any military target in Ukraine.

By design or accident, most of the targets hit did not have military significance.

Most of the damaged power distribution capability has been restored.

The Ukrainian population, much like any other population that has been the target of terror bombing, was not intimidated.

Russia launched 84 missiles on the first night, 30 on the second night, and, as far as I can tell, there was no large scale missile attack last night (October 12 Ukraine time).


The US, Germany, and other NATO countries have agreed to surge air defense systems to Ukraine. Russian cruise missiles have proven unable to strike at defended targets, and the newest aid package will provide extensive protection to cities, dams, and power plants.

This temper tantrum may play well to some constituencies important to Putin.

As a strategic or operational measure, it was a dud. It has shown the Ukrainians that they can take the best shot Russia is capable of throwing (and while I’d agree that nuclear weapons are a theoretical possibility, as a real threat, it is bogus, and I believe everyone in the Russian, Ukrainian, and NATO command and political structures knows this). The Kerch Strait Bridge remains damaged.


The ease of the attack on that bridge will slow down all traffic as security tightens at all transportation chokepoints. Most significant was the 65% drop off in cruise missiles fired between the two nights. Some will say it was just Russia being easy on the Ukrainians after a brutal first night. But, given Russian behavior, there is a much more logical explanation. The number of munitions expended dropped precipitously. The attack only lasted two nights because that is all Russia could comfortably muster from its arsenal, and Russian damage assessment could tell the attacks had no military effect.

As Russia suffers more and more humiliation on the battlefield, look for more instances of this lashing out at the civilian population of Ukraine to make up for incompetence and ineptitude on the battlefield.


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