Ukraine War: Russia's attacks on civilian targets as some refugees return are a worrying escalation by Vladimir Putin – Steve Cardownie

The recent Russian missile strikes throughout Ukraine are another clear indication that Vladimir Putin is getting increasingly desperate as he tries to demonstrate that his forces can strike deep into Ukrainian territory if they so choose.

A crater left by a Russian missile strike on a playground in Taras Shevchenko Park in Kyiv, Ukraine (Picture: Ed Ram/Getty Images)
A crater left by a Russian missile strike on a playground in Taras Shevchenko Park in Kyiv, Ukraine (Picture: Ed Ram/Getty Images)

Ukrainian sources say that 83 missiles were fired, 43 of which were shot down before they reached their target, resulting in 19 deaths.

That civilian areas were targeted is beyond doubt and this provoked a furious response from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who used his nightly address on Monday to tell the Ukrainian people that Russia resorted to missile attacks because “they cannot defeat us on the battlefield. Well, let’s make the battlefield even more painful for the enemy”.

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Some Ukrainian refugees have returned home to their cities and villages because the war was being played out to the south and east of the country, with other areas witnessing a return to near normality.

Indeed, close friends of ours made the decision to return for that very reason. Oksana went back with her daughter Anna and son Makar along with Tanya and her two young boys, Myron and Artem, to their homes just outside Kyiv. It would have come as a great shock to them to wake up to the sound of missiles slamming into civilian targets as Putin’s war took an unexpected turn.

They returned after a spell in Scotland thinking that it would be safe but, according to Ukrainian authorities, sites damaged by missile strikes included residential buildings, schools, a nursery, healthcare facilities and a children’s playground, serving as a stark reminder to Ukrainian refugees still here that, as long as Putin is in charge of the Russian war machine, nowhere can be considered safe.

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Ukrainian refugees I have spoken to have assimilated into their new way of life in Edinburgh. Learning English, advancing their education in schools throughout the city, joining sports and social clubs and integrating into local communities.

They told me that, of course, they want to return to their homeland one day, once it is safe to do so, but in the meantime are grateful for the haven that has been provided for them in Scotland.

They are devastated that the war has taken this turn and are concerned about further potential attacks on civilian areas by the Russian regime.

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This concern is not without foundation as Putin’s partner in crime, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, warned that there would be more strikes to come and stated that the attacks were “just the first episode”.

My wife’s godson Illya, who is studying computer science at Napier University, told me that his former university in Kyiv was hit and the faculty building for the study of the Russian language suffered some damage, although thankfully he said that there were no fatalities, and his former classmates were unharmed.

Kremlin hardliners have been celebrating the news of the missile bombardment with some featuring in media outlets lauding the attacks as a fitting response to Ukrainian gains on the battlefield and the successful Crimean bridge bombing last Saturday.

They will undoubtedly line up behind Putin, all the while exhorting him to up the ante and embark upon a strategy of escalation that could include the use of tactical nuclear weapons. The consequences of such would be dire indeed.