The Crimean Bridge bombing was an unwelcome gift to both Vladimir Putin – who had celebrated his 70th birthday the day before – and the new overall commander of the ‘Special Military Operation,’ General Sergei Surovikin. Today, they returned the favour with a missile bombardment of Kyiv and other major cities of the like not seen since the start of the war.
Missiles and kamikaze drones hit a range of targets, some perhaps considered strategic in the loosest sense such as bridges and railway hubs, but most entirely civilian. The west of the country, which has largely avoided the worst of Russian attacks, also came in for an indiscriminate pounding.
The aim was clearly to punish and to terrorise, a revenge attack in response to what Moscow has been calling an ‘act of terrorism’ on the bridge carried out by ‘the Ukrainian special services.’
This should hardly surprise anyone. Putin had to retaliate after the humiliating attack on the bridge that he had personally opened, and which symbolised the connection of Crime and the mainland. Although there is no question – yet – of any serious threat to his position, this was a challenge to his authority, and one being magnified by the hawks on social media and national TV, who were demanding some kind of vicious rebuff.
Just as importantly, Surovikin himself has form. He was a career army officer, who had fought in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Chechnya, as well as serving a tour in charge of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate, usually a sign of an officer being groomed for the high command. In 2017, he was put in charge of the VKS, Russia’s air and space forces, in a striking break with past tradition.