Vladimir Putin’s latest display of brutality and revenge can be a rage over his signature Crimean Bridge is blown up. But his indiscriminate targeting of Ukrainian civilians also raises the prospect of a horrific new turn in a vicious war.
Russian missiles damaged a glass-bottomed pedestrian bridge in Kiev, which is a popular tourist spot, tore into a rush-hour intersection and crashed near a playground on Monday. Blackouts struck across the country, in places cutting off water supplies and transport, in strikes reminiscent of the terror inflicted on civilians in the early days of the invasion, but which had largely subsided in recent months.
The attacks stripped away the semblance of normalcy that city dwellers, who spent months earlier in the war in subways turned into air raid shelters, have managed to restore to their lives and raised fears of new strikes.
The message was plain for the world to see: Putin has no intention of being humiliated. He will not admit defeat. And he is fully prepared to inflict civilian carnage and indiscriminate terror in response to his series of battlefield reversals.
But Monday’s targets also had little military value and served, if anything, to reflect Putin’s need to find new targets because of his inability to inflict defeat on Ukraine on the battlefield.
The bombing of power installations, particularly on Monday, appeared to be a subtle hint of the misery the Russian president could inflict as winter sets in, even as his forces 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 several strategic phases since the February invasion weighed heavily on the minds of political and military leaders in Washington on Monday. Their reaction was one of disgust that Putin was once again unleashing fierce warfare against civilians that recalled the horrors of 20th-century Europe.
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