Deadly missile strikes likely an opening salvo by Putin's new Ukraine commander, "General Armageddon"
Kryviy Rhi, Ukraine — Ukraine has been subjected to days of Russian aerial bombardment on a scale not seen since the start of the war, spreading not just death and destruction, but terror across the country. The assault prompted Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to implore G-7 leaders on Tuesday, including President Biden, for more help.
Zelenskyy told his fellow leaders that with enough modern, effective air defense systems, Ukraine could render useless the most damaging instruments of Russia's terror — its missiles, rockets and explosives-laden kamikaze drones.
President Vladimir Putin has defined the dramatic escalation in Russia's attacks as retaliation for a huge explosion that damaged the 12-mile Kerch Bridge, the only ground link between Ukraine's Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula and mainland Russia.
Two days of retaliatory strikes on Monday and Tuesday saw Russia fire dozens of missiles and drones at Ukraine — many of which were intercepted by air defense systems the country already has, but not enough of them. At least 19 people were killed and more than 100 injured as the bombs rained down on cities across Ukraine. A hospital in the capital city of Kyiv said Wednesday that a veteran cancer doctor was among those killed on Monday as she rushed to work after dropping her child off at daycare.
The blistering assault on Ukraine's infrastructure and civilians began just two days after Putin — whose most senior generals have come under mounting pressure over Russia's territorial losses — put a new commander in charge of the war in Ukraine.
General Sergei Surovikin, lionized by Russia's pro-Kremlin press as "General Armageddon," was previously the commander of Russia's Air Force. He earned his reputation by a stint leading Russia's ruthless bombing campaign in Syria, flattening entire cities and killing thousands of civilians in support of dictator Bashar Assad's regime.
Now Surovikin has been tasked with turning the tide for Russia's troops in Ukraine as they face daily crushing defeats on the front lines in the country's south and east.
On Wednesday morning, Ukraine's Defense Ministry announced the recapture of five more villages in the southern Kherson Oblast, one of four Ukrainian regions that Putin unilaterally declared Russian territory with an illegal annexation about two weeks ago.
CBS News has seen first-hand how Ukrainian tactics and firepower have overwhelmed Russian troops in Kherson. In the towns and villages where Ukrainian forces have ousted the invaders and raised their national flag again over recent weeks, soldiers have dug in deep, and there are armored personnel carriers, tanks, heavy artillery, and rocket launchers everywhere.
It's clear their lightning counteroffensive hasn't been about just taking ground back from Russia, but holding onto it.
The city of Kherson, the regional capital with a pre-war population of around 300,000, was the first major city to fall to Russia after Putin ordered his invasion on February 24. His forces still hold it, but Ukrainian troops are inching closer every day.
If Ukraine's military manages to force the Russian occupiers out of the strategic stronghold in the south, it would be Putin's most humiliating defeat since he launched his war, so it's not something Russia is likely to give up without a fight - or further retaliation.
for more features.