Shelling of civilian infrastructure: According to analysts, Putin's brutal bombing is a sign of his "powerlessness".

The indiscriminate and devastating bombardment of numerous Ukrainian cities may mark a turning point in Russian warfare, which has recently been marked by several front-line failures, analysts say.

Shelling of civilian infrastructure: According to analysts, Putin's brutal bombing is a sign of his "powerlessness".

The indiscriminate and devastating bombardment of numerous Ukrainian cities may mark a turning point in Russian warfare, which has recently been marked by several front-line failures, analysts say.

After the detonation on the strategically and symbolically important Crimean bridge, which was humiliating for President Vladimir Putin, Moscow responded with massive shelling of civilian infrastructure. According to Ukrainian information, numerous civilians were killed or injured.

Residential houses, pedestrian bridges and street crossings were destroyed. In particular, the country's energy infrastructure, around 30 percent of which, according to Ukrainian information, has been hit by Russian missiles since Monday, was targeted. The result was failures in the power and water supply.

The widespread shelling is considered the largest attack on Ukrainian territory, which is far from the front lines, in months. On the one hand, military strategists and analysts see the brutalization of the fighting as an attempt to wear down the Ukrainian government and civilian population. Winter is approaching, attacks on critical infrastructure are particularly serious.

On the other hand, the increased rocket attacks are apparently intended to demonstrate the escalation potential of the Russian armed forces, which are currently being pushed back area by area by Ukrainian counter-offensives, fueling resentment among ardent pro-war advocates who are increasingly vocal in their criticism of the Kremlin's military leadership.

Recently, the Ukrainian army has been able to recapture several areas from the occupiers, including the north-east of the Kharkiv region and the strategically important city of Lyman, while Russian battlefield successes have stagnated.

According to experts, the most recent rocket fire has little military value for Russia if the attacks had been aimed in particular at targets that are not on the contested front.

Retired US Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said that by hitting targets meant to harm Ukraine's morale and energy infrastructure, Putin was sending a message about how he could continue the war in the coming months.

"He (Russian President Putin) telegraphed where he will go when we get to winter," Vindman told CNN. "He will try to force the Ukrainian people to compromise, give up territories by attacking this infrastructure."

But Putin's message that he is ready for a further escalation of the war also carries risks for the Russian President: How far can he escalate the situation - up to the greatest possible escalation?

On Saturday he appointed Sergei Surovikin as the Kremlin's new war chief. Surovikin is notorious for his brutality (read more here). Shortly thereafter, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a staunch Putin ally, announced plans to form a joint military unit with Russia, raising concerns about a possible invasion of northern Ukraine. Now the widespread bombing of large parts of the country.

According to Russian political scientist Vladimir B. Pastukhov, Putin's escalations "run counter to his own intuition" and narrowed his policy options by cornering him. "All of Putin's actions today are aimed at getting out of this corner, from which the only way out is the nuclear button," Pastukhov told the New York Times. "In a way, what just happened really increases the risks for him."

The background to this is Putin's repeated warnings that he wants to use "all available means" in the war against Ukraine if Russia's "territorial integrity" is threatened. Putin's threats came shortly before the illegal annexation of further Ukrainian territories, which according to Russian law has now taken place. In the West, his words were read as the clearest threat yet to use nuclear weapons.

In this context, US President Joe Biden spoke of an impending "Armageddon" and drew a comparison to the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Cold War. The unusually clear statement was read as a vague but unmistakable warning to Moscow, which is in line with the policy of deterrence (read more about this here).

In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Biden reiterated his warnings of an impending nuclear exchange. He called Putin a "rational actor" who was pursuing irrational goals in Ukraine. The Russian President "completely miscalculated," said Biden. However, he does not believe that the Russian President could carry out his threats to use nuclear weapons.

But the (success) pressure on the Russian president has increased as a result of several failures during the "special operation", as the war is officially called in Russia. In particular, the explosion on the Crimean bridge - not least a manifesto for Russia's imperialist claims - had drawn criticism from pro-Kremlin pro-war advocates, who have long called for the brutalization of hostilities.

The fact that Putin is now raining down rockets is therefore also seen as a demonstration of power - not only to Ukraine and the West, but also to Putin's home audience.

"This is especially important from a domestic point of view," Abbas Gallyamov, a Russian political scientist and former Putin speechwriter, told the New York Times. "It was important to show the ruling class that Putin is still capable, that the army is still good for something."

Putin is counting on both the Russian elites and the general public to see the escalation as a sign of strength - and not as an act of desperation as a result of the series of setbacks for the Russian military. "The reaction was supposed to show power, but in fact it showed powerlessness," Gallyamov said. "The army can do nothing else."

At least the Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov appeared calmed after the air strikes. "So now I'm 100 percent satisfied with the conduct of the military special operation," he said. Amid the military failures, Kadyrov had been promoted to Colonel General, the third highest rank in the Kremlin Army. The Chechen leader, who likes to present himself as Putin's "bloodhound", had previously expressed clear criticism of the military leadership.

However, it remains to be seen whether Putin's escalation will also appease the hardliners in the long term. For example, Russia's former President Dmitry Medvedev called for the "direct annihilation" of those responsible after the heavy explosion on the Crimean bridge. Already in June he announced the annihilation of the entire Ukraine. Neither can be interpreted as a sign of restraint.

Moscow has accused Kyiv of being behind the detonation on the vital bridge connecting mainland Russia with the Ukrainian peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. The Ukrainian government commented on the process with a certain satisfaction, but has so far not accepted any responsibility for it.

After the brutal Russian shelling, Kyiv is seeking further military aid from the West, demanding in particular anti-missile defense equipment. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also gave the delivery of air defense systems as a priority.

According to Oleksiy Reznikov, the Ukrainian Defense Minister, the Iris-T system has already arrived from Germany and Nassaus missile launcher systems from the USA are on their way, he announced on Twitter. Given the current escalation, the turrets could make a crucial difference.

At the beginning of the war, the Ukrainians could only shoot down up to 3 percent of the Russian missiles, military expert Alina Frolova told the Kyiv Independent. More than half of the Russian airstrikes could have been thwarted on Monday: a total of 56 of 84 rockets and 24 drones were shot down, the newspaper reported.

"A new era of air defense has begun," said Ukrainian Defense Minister Reznikov. "This is just the beginning. And we need more."

Quellen:  "The New York Times", "The Guardian", CNN, "The Kyiv Independent"