Russia’s military hurled a barrage of missiles against Ukrainian cities early on Monday, including the capital Kyiv.
Strikes hit civilian targets in what could be Moscow’s retaliation for the bombing of a key bridge connecting Russia to its annexed territory of Crimea.
At least eight people were killed and 24 others injured in just one of the Kyiv strikes, according to preliminary information, said Rostyslav Smirnov, an adviser to the Ukrainian ministry of internal affairs.
Blasts were reported in the city’s Shevchenko district, a large area in the centre of Kyiv that includes the historic old town as well as several government offices, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.
Lesia Vasylenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, posted a photo on Twitter showing that at least one explosion occurred near the main building of the Kyiv National University.
After the first early-morning strikes in Kyiv, more loud explosions were heard later in the morning in an intensification of Russia’s attack that could spell a major escalation in the war.
Meanwhile, Associated Press journalists in the centre of Dnipro saw many bodies at an industrial site on the outskirts of the city. Windows in the area had been blown out and glass littered the street.
Ukrainian media also reported explosions in a number of other locations, including the western city of Lviv that has been a refuge for many people fleeing the fighting in the east, as well as Kharkiv, Ternopil, Khmelnytskyi, Zhytomyr and Kropyvnytskyi.
In Lviv, energy infrastructure was hit, regional governor Maksym Kozytskyi said.
The explosions were heard by journalists and appeared to be the result of missile strikes.
The multiple strikes came a few hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin was due to hold a meeting with his security council, as Moscow’s war in Ukraine approaches its eight-month milestone and the Kremlin reels from humiliating battlefield setbacks in areas it is trying to annex amid a Ukrainian counteroffensive in recent weeks.
A day earlier, Mr Putin had called the attack on the Kerch Bridge to Crimea a terrorist act carried out by Ukrainian special services.
In a meeting on Sunday with the chairman of Russia’s Investigative Committee, The Russian leader said “there’s no doubt it was a terrorist act directed at the destruction of critically important civilian infrastructure”.