By Athena Papakosta

It was the second massive Russian missile attack in less than 24 hours in Ukraine, which has been living in terror since last February. Air-raid sirens sounded again at 3:45 a.m. Monday in the capital, Kiev, followed minutes later by explosions as Ukrainian air defenses attempted to intercept the Russian missiles.

At least 34 people were injured in the city of Pavlohrad, a few kilometers away from the Dnipropetrovsk region, southeast of the Ukrainian capital. Among the injured are five children. At least 24 apartment buildings, 89 houses, six schools and five shops were destroyed. Wounds from the Russian missiles were recorded in the wider area of ​​Dnipropetrovsk, destroying apartment buildings and a school. Residents of Kherson and Dnipropetrovsk were left without power as the power grid was hit and local officials said it would take days to be repaired.

Moscow has, in the past, very often launched missile attacks hitting even residential areas. But until last Friday, when the city of Uman mourned 23 deaths, it had weeks to “mimic” its strategy.

At the current time, Kiev is preparing for its spring counteroffensive and, according to Ukrainian officials, is entering the final stretch to launch it. For their part, the Russians, according to analysts, are focusing on dismantling those routes, which would be helpful and valuable to the Ukrainian armed forces, worrying about a possible recovery of Ukraine.

At the same time, Moscow is strengthening its positions in the annexed areas, while the Wagner Group warns that it is receiving up to 15% of the ammunition it needs. For their part, the Ukrainians have already been supplied with the first arrays of American Patriot air defense systems. However, it remains unclear whether they were used to intercept the Russian missiles, which were fired at Ukraine on Monday morning.

At the same time, the Ukrainians seem to be targeting Crimea, annexed by the Russians back in 2014. According to Russian officials, two drones were shot down on Monday, but it is not known whether either of the drones had previously hit a target, as happened last Saturday when two Ukrainian drones hit a Russian oil tank, which Kiev did not claim. responsibility. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made it clear he will take back the peninsula, reiterating that the Ukrainian flag must return to Crimea, which is now home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

The heaviest fighting remains in eastern Ukraine, particularly in Donetsk and the now-destroyed city of Bakhmut, with both sides offering conflicting reports. According to the head of the Ukrainian armed forces, Russia is making every effort to capture this small town but so far it has failed. Hostilities at this point on the map have been raging since late summer 2022 but have intensified in recent weeks with the Russians claiming to control up to 90% of Bakhmut and the Ukrainians admitting the situation is difficult but reporting that they are successfully resisting by driving the Russian forces out of certain positions in the city.

At the same time, a freight train derailed yesterday, Monday, after an explosion in the Bryansk region of Russia, 60 kilometers north of the border with Ukraine, without any casualties. According to local authorities, the train was carrying fuel and building materials. Pictures posted on social media showed several of its carriages derailed as dark gray smoke billowed into the sky. It remains unknown who is responsible for the attack while, in Russia, fears of Ukrainian attacks and sabotage operations are intensifying.

Moscow is preparing for the Ukrainian counteroffensive, the outcome of which will determine the continuation of the war in Ukraine that began in February 2022, 14 full months ago. As experts and defense analysts explain, the war will move into yet another new phase with Kiev this time, being militarily reinforced by the West, wanting to gain the upper hand by maintaining the initiative of movements.

Which will strike first remains unknown. It is also unknown whether the part that will hit at the beginning will also be the one that will concern the main business. The Russians have already made many mishandles. The question remains whether they will repeat them, whether they will endure and how they will choose to respond. They are currently organizing, fortifying and preparing with the missile attacks of the last few days being part of their effort.