At least 35 people were killed and 134 wounded in a Russian airstrike on a Ukrainian military training base near the Polish border on Sunday, regional governor Maksym Kozytsky said in a statement.
Kozytsky, governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine, said Russian forces fired more than 30 cruise missiles at the Yavoriv military facility, located 30 kilometers northwest of the city of Lviv and 35 kilometers from Ukraine’s border with Poland.
“The air defense system worked. Some of [the missiles] were shot down,” Kozytsky said.
The assault brought the war closer to the border with Poland. A senior Russian diplomat has warned that Moscow considered foreign shipments of military equipment to Ukraine “legitimate targets.”
Russian troops have destroyed 3,687 Ukrainian military infrastructure facilities so far, Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying on Sunday. It was not possible to independently verify his statement.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the Lviv region had largely been spared the scale of destruction unfolding further east and become a destination for residents escaping bombarded cities and for many of the nearly 2.6 million refugees who have fled the country.
The training center in Yavoriv appears to be the most westward target struck so far in the 18-day invasion. The facility, also known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, has long been used to train Ukrainian military personnel, often with instructors from the United States and other NATO countries.
Ceasefire talks fail
Elsewhere, Russian fighters fired at the airport in Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in western Ukraine located 250 kilometers from Ukraine’s border with Slovakia and Hungary.
In Mariupol, which has endured some of the worst punishments since Russia invaded, efforts to bring food, water and medicine into the port city of 430,000 and to evacuate civilians, were prevented by unceasing attacks. More than 1,500 people have died in Mariupol during the siege, according to the mayor’s office, and the shelling has even interrupted efforts to bury the dead in mass graves.
Talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire again failed Saturday, and while the US announced plans to provide another $200 million to Ukraine for weapons, a senior Russian diplomat warned that Moscow could attack foreign shipments of military equipment.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of trying to break his country apart, as well as starting “a new stage of terror” with the alleged detention of a mayor from a city west of Mariupol.
“Ukraine will stand this test. We need time and strength to break the war machine that has come to our land,” Zelensky said during his nightly address to the nation Saturday.
Russian soldiers pillaged a humanitarian convoy that was trying to reach Mariupol and blocked another, a Ukrainian official said. Ukraine’s military said Russian forces captured Mariupol’s eastern outskirts, tightening their siege of the strategic port. Taking Mariupol and other ports on the Azov Sea could allow Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Tanks fire on apartment building
An Associated Press journalist in Mariupol witnessed tanks firing on a nine-storey apartment building and was with a group of hospital workers who came under sniper fire on Friday. A worker shot in the hip survived, but conditions in the hospital were deteriorating: Electricity was reserved for operating tables, and people with nowhere else to go lined the hallways.
Among them was Anastasiya Erashova, who wept and trembled as she held a sleeping child. Shelling had just killed her other child as well as her brother’s child, Erashova said, her scalp crusted with blood.
“No one was able to save them,” she said.
In Irpin, a suburb about 20 kilometers northwest of central Kyiv, bodies lay out in the open Saturday on streets and in a park.
“When I woke up in the morning, everything was covered in smoke, everything was dark. We don’t know who is shooting and where,” resident Serhy Protsenko said as he walked through his neighborhood. Explosions sounded in the distance. “We don’t have any radio or information.”
Zelensky says 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers have died
Zelensky encouraged his people to keep up their resistance.
“We do not have the right to let up our defence, no matter how difficult it may be,” he said. Later Saturday, Zelensky reported that 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had died since the Russian invasion began Feb. 24.
The first major city to fall, earlier this month, was Kherson, a vital Black Sea port of 290,000 residents. Zelensky said Saturday that Russians were using blackmail and bribery in an attempt to force local officials to form a “pseudo-republic” in the southern Kherson region, much like those in Donetsk and Luhansk, two eastern regions where pro-Russian separatists began fighting Ukrainian forces in 2014. One of the pretexts Russia used to invade was that it had to protect the separatist regions.
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Zelensky again deplored NATO’s refusal to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine and said Ukraine has sought ways to procure air defense assets, though he didn’t elaborate. US President Joe Biden announced another $200 million US in aid to Ukraine, with an additional $13 billion included in a bill that has passed the House and should pass the Senate within days. NATO has said that imposing a no-fly zone could lead to a wider war with Russia.
The Ukrainian president also accused Russia of detaining the mayor of Melitopol, a city 192 kilometers west of Mariupol. The Ukrainian leader called on Russian forces to heed calls from demonstrators in the occupied city for the mayor’s release.
In multiple areas around Kyiv, artillery barrages sent residents scurrying for shelter as air raid sirens wailed. Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russian forces that had been massed north of the capital had edged to within 25 kilometers of the city center and spread out, likely to support an attempted encirclement.
Chief regional administrator Oleksiy Kuleba said Russian forces appeared to be trying to blockade and paralyze the capital with day and night shelling of the suburbs. Kuleba said Russian agents were in the capital and its suburbs, marking out possible future targets.
Russia fires on people fleeing, Ukraine says
A convoy of hundreds of people fleeing Peremoha, about 20 kilometers northeast of Kyiv, were forced to turn back under shelling by Russian forces that killed seven people, including a child, Ukraine’s defense ministry said Saturday. Moscow has said it would establish humanitarian corridors out of conflict zones, but Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of disrupting those paths and firing on civilians.
Ukraine’s military and volunteer forces have been preparing for an all-out assault on the capital. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said Thursday that about two million people, half the metropolitan area’s inhabitants, had left and that “every street, every house is being fortified.”
Zelensky said Saturday that Russia would need to carpet-bomb Kyiv and kill its residents to take the city.
“They will come here only if they kill us all,” he said. “If that is their goal, let them come.”
French and German leaders spoke Saturday with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a failed attempt to reach a ceasefire. According to the Kremlin, Putin laid out terms for ending the war. For ending hostilities, Moscow has demanded that Ukraine drop its bid to join NATO and adopt a neutral status; acknowledge the Russian sovereignty over Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014; recognize the independence of separatist regions in the country’s east; and agree to demilitarize.
An unfolding humanitarian catastrophe
In Mariupol, where electricity, gas and water supplies have been knocked out, aid workers and Ukrainian authorities described an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe. Aid group Doctors Without Borders said residents are dying from a lack of medication and are draining heating pipes for drinking water.
Russian forces have hit at least two dozen hospitals and medical facilities, according to the World Health Organization.
The Russian invaders appear to have struggled far more than expected against determined Ukrainian fighters. Still, Russia’s stronger military threatens to grind down Ukrainian forces.
Pope Francis on Sunday issued his toughest condemnation yet of the war in Ukraine, saying the “unacceptable armed aggression” must stop.
Speaking to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday blessing, Francis also said the bombing of hospitals and other civilian targets was “barbaric” and with “no valid strategic reason.”
“In the name of God I ask you: stop this massacre!” he said, adding that Ukrainian cities risked “being reduced to cemeteries.”