Russia hits military base near Polish border as it steps up offensive, Ukraine says
- Russian airstrike hits military base near Polish border
- Moscow is also targeting an airport in western Ukraine
- Russian forces seek to surround Ukrainian forces to the east
LVIV, Ukraine, March 13 (Reuters) – A Russian airstrike on a major Ukrainian military installation near the border with NATO member Poland killed 35 people and injured 134 on Sunday, a Ukrainian official said local, while other officials reported intense Russian attacks around. the country.
Britain said the incident, just 25km from the Polish border, marked a “significant escalation” in the conflict. US President Joe Biden has said NATO will defend every inch of its territory if the Russian invasion of Ukraine spills over into member states of the Western defense alliance.
Ukraine said foreign military instructors had previously worked at the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security in Yavoriv, but a NATO official said there were no personnel from the alliance on the spot. It was not immediately clear whether non-NATO states could have representatives there.
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Regional Governor Maksym Kozytskyy said Russian planes fired around 30 rockets at the facility, adding that some were intercepted before hitting. At least 35 people were killed and 134 injured, he said. Reuters was unable to verify his statement.
The 360 km² (140 sq mi) facility is one of the largest in Ukraine and the largest in the western part of the country.
The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reported missile strike so close to the border with NATO, and a short video briefing by the Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson on Sunday did not do any mention of such an attack.
Nineteen ambulances with sirens on were seen by Reuters coming from the direction of the Yaroviv facility after the strike was reported and black smoke billowed from the area.
“Russia attacked the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security near Lviv. Foreign instructors work here. Information about victims is being clarified,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said. , in an online message.
“VIOLENT AND INHUMAN”
A representative of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry told Reuters the ministry was still trying to determine if any foreign instructors were at the center at the time of the attack.
Ukraine, whose aspirations to join NATO are a major irritant to Russian President Vladimir Putin, held most of its drills with Western defense alliance nations at the base before the invasion. The last major exercises took place in September.
In the weeks before the Russian invasion on February 24, the Ukrainian army trained there, but according to Ukrainian media, all foreign instructors left the training ground in mid-February, while leaving all the equipment.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, launched by Putin on February 24, has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee across borders and trapped hundreds of thousands in besieged cities.
“It’s terrifying how violent and inhumane it is,” Olga, a refugee from Kyiv, told Reuters after crossing into Romania.
Ukraine reported fresh airstrikes on an airport in the west, heavy shelling of Chernihiv northeast of the capital Kiev and attacks on the southern city of Mykolaiv, where officials said nine people had been killed. killed.
Ukraine’s human rights watchdog said Russia used phosphorus bombs in a nighttime attack on the town of Popasna in the eastern Lugansk region, calling it a “war crime”. She shared a photograph purporting to show the alleged attack, but did not say whether Ukraine had concrete evidence. Reuters could not immediately verify any of the reports.
Despite the violence, both sides said they believed progress could be made at the peace talks. “Russia is already starting to talk constructively,” Ukrainian negotiator and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in a video posted online.
“I think we will literally get results in days,” he added.
A Russian delegate to the talks with Ukraine, Leonid Slutsky, was quoted as saying that they had made significant progress and that it was possible that the delegations would soon reach draft agreements. Read more
Neither side has said what it would cover. Previous rounds of talks had focused mainly on humanitarian issues.
While Western nations have sought to isolate Putin by imposing harsh sanctions, the United States and its allies are keen to prevent NATO from being drawn into the conflict. “There are no NATO personnel in Ukraine,” the NATO official said, when asked if there were NATO personnel at the base.
Asked about the scale of the attack’s escalation, British minister Michael Gove told a BBC interviewer: “It’s significant.” Putin was pushing boundaries in military terms, he said.
AIRPORT AFFECTED IN THE WEST
The mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk, another city in western Ukraine, said Russian troops were also continuing to strike at its airport, with no reports of casualties.
In eastern Ukraine, Russian troops were trying to surround Ukrainian forces as they advanced from the port of Mariupol in the south and the second city of Kharkiv in the north, the British Ministry of Defense said.
Kharkiv has suffered some of the heaviest shelling. Videos of a resident, Teimur Aliyev, who is helping bring relief to residents, show bombed-out buildings along the streets, burnt-out cars riddled with shrapnel and strewn debris.
“We will stitch up the wounds and the pain of our country and our city. We are ready to build it and we are ready to renew it when the war is over. We are not going anywhere,” said Aliyev, a youth from 23 years. -old musician, says of his food distribution network, which now has dozens of volunteers. Read more
British intelligence also said Russian forces from Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, were trying to bypass Mykolaiv as they sought to move west towards Odessa. Airstrikes on Mykolaiv killed nine people on Sunday, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said online.
In Chernihiv, about 150 km (100 miles) northeast of Kiev, firefighters rescued residents from a burning building after heavy shelling, video from Ukrainian emergency services showed and verified by Reuters.
Ukraine on Saturday accused Russian forces of killing seven civilians, including a child, in an attack on women and children trying to flee fighting near Kiev. Read more
Reuters was unable to immediately verify the report and Russia had no immediate comment.
Moscow denies targeting civilians. He blames Ukraine for failed attempts to evacuate civilians from surrounded towns, a charge Ukraine and its Western allies strongly reject.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday that nearly 125,000 people had been evacuated through “humanitarian corridors” agreed with Russia.
The Kremlin describes its actions as a “special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice.
Russian troops have destroyed 3,687 Ukrainian military infrastructure so far, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying on Sunday. It was not possible to independently verify his statement.
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Michael Perry and Philippa Fletcher; Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry and Alex Richardson
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