Russia missile strike on Ukraine base close to Polish border kills 35 – Maksym Kozytskyi

Russia has escalated its war in Ukraine with a strike on a major military close to the Polish border killing at least 35 people and injuring 134 more only hours after the Kremlin warned that western supply lines into the embattled country were “legitimate targets”.


Large explosions were seen on Sunday at the base in Yavoriv, a garrison city less than 10 miles from the Polish border. The rocket attack took place at 5.45am.


“My windows shook. The whole house vibrated. It was dark. The sky lit up with two explosions,” said Stepan Chuma, 27, an emergency worker, who hurried to the scene with his colleagues.


The facility has previously hosted foreign military trainers from the UK, US and other countries but it is not clear that any were at the base. Ukraine held most of its drills with Nato countries there before the invasion with the last major exercises in September.


“Russia has attacked the International Centre for Peacekeeping & Security near Lviv. Foreign instructors work here. Information about the victims is being clarified,” the Ukrainian defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said in an online post.

The governor of the Lviv region, Maksym Kozytskyi, said Russian forces fired more than 30 cruise missiles at the Yavoriv base. The 140 square-mile facility less than 15 miles from the Polish border, is one Ukraine’s biggest and the largest in the western part of the country – and serves a similar function to the British Army’s training areas on Salisbury Plain.

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The attack on the base is a highly significant escalation for a number of reasons. Long viewed with suspicion by Russia – whose media has claimed falsely in that the past the facility was a secret Nato base in Ukraine – the proximity, so close to the Polish border, marks a sharp escalation in the scope of Russian air strikes.


There has been speculation too that the area has been used both to receive incoming weapons shipments for Ukraine’s military as well as training the large numbers of foreign volunteers flocking to the country. The Guardian reports.


Simon Shuster of Time magazine, who was in the area the day before, said on Twitter: “When Russia bombed the base near Lviv last night, it had to assume Americans were likely to be killed or injured. A coordinator of foreign volunteers in Ukraine told me the base was a hub for 1000s of them, coming from all over to help Ukraine. I met some from US, UK, Australia.”

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The attack comes less than 24 hours after Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, warned that western shipments to Ukraine were “legitimate targets”.


Supporters of Ukraine, including the UK, Germany and the US, have been shipping thousands of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles into Ukraine using the country’s western corridor in the Lviv region.


Ryabkov said that Russia had “warned the US that pumping weapons from a number of countries it orchestrates isn’t just a dangerous move, it’s an action that makes those convoys legitimate targets”.


The attack is thought to be the westernmost carried out by Russia in 18 days of fighting.

Air raid sirens had been heard on previous nights in Lviv, a Unesco world heritage site 80km (50 miles) from the border with Poland and a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Ukrainians. But although the city’s 700,000 residents are among the strongest supporters of Ukrainian independence from Moscow, it has so far remained untouched by Russian bombing.


The war continued to rage across the rest of Ukraine on Saturday. In the south-east, the town of Volnovakha has been totally destroyed by Russian bombardment, according to the regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko. A hospital was destroyed, forcing people to gather in the basement as pro-Russian separatists took over the town.


“Volnovakha with its infrastructure as such no longer exists,” Kyrylenko told Ukrainian TV.


The town is close to the besieged port city of Mariupol, where new satellite imagery has shown the widespread damage inflicted since Russian forces surrounded the city 12 days ago.


More than 1,500 civilians have been killed, and humanitarian aid groups say those remaining have not had access to water or medications in days. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, urged Russia to uphold an agreed ceasefire to allow evacuations to proceed out of the city, after blaming Moscow for the failure of previous attempts.


Britain’s defence ministry has said Russian ground forces were massed 25km (15 miles) from the centre of Kyiv, Reuters reported. Its residents also woke to the sound of air raid sirens, and along with the rest of the nation, the words of Zelenskiy ringing in their ears: “We still need to hold on. We still have to fight.”


Seven civilians have died after coming under Russian fire while trying to flee fighting near Kyiv. Ukraine initially accused Russia of firing at a convoy of civilian evacuees from the village of Peremoha while they were in a designated humanitarian corridor, but later said it was not such a route.


In a video posted to social media late on Saturday night, Zelenskiy urged Ukrainians to keep fighting, and said Russia could not conquer Ukraine. “They do not have such strength. They do not have such spirit. They are holding only on violence. Only on terror. Only on weapons, which they have a lot.


“But the invaders have no natural basis for normal life. So that people can feel happy and dream. They are organically incapable of making life normal! Wherever Russia come to a foreign land, dreams are impossible.”


Zelenskiy noted humanitarian corridors had been working, with 12,729 people evacuated on Saturday, and made another plea to the international community to keep doing more for Ukraine. “Because it is not only for Ukraine, but it is for all of Europe.”


Russia was trying to create new “pseudo-republics”, he continued, adding that the city council members in Kherson, a southern city of 290,000, on Saturday rejected plans to set up such a system.

The Russian military has reportedly installed a new mayor in the occupied south-eastern Ukrainian city Melitopol, after the alleged abduction of the mayor, Ivan Fedorov, by Moscow’s troops on Friday afternoon. Zelenskiy has demanded his immediate release.


Russia may also be positioning itself to use chemical weapons, which would amount to a war crime, Nato has warned. Its secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the Kremlin was inventing false pretexts to justify the possible use of chemical weapons, Reuters reported.


“In recent days, we have heard absurd claims about chemical and biological weapons laboratories,” he said. “Now that these false claims have been made, we must remain vigilant because it is possible that Russia itself could plan chemical weapons operations under this fabrication of lies. That would be a war crime.”


Meanwhile, further appeals from global leaders urging Putin to order an immediate ceasefire have failed to yield results. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, spoke to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, by phone on Saturday, but a French official said: “We did not detect a willingness on Putin’s part to end the war”.


The US president, Joe Biden, has authorised $200m in weapons and other assistance for Ukraine, paving the way for the immediate shipment of small arms, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.


The rate of refugees crossing the Ukrainian border has slowed, but Ukraine’s neighbouring countries are still struggling to provide shelter for the estimated 2.6 million who have fled since the Russians invaded last month.


Neighbouring countries may feel some reprieve over the coming weeks, following Britain’s announcement of a scheme to accommodate refugees, after intense scrutiny over its chaotic response to the crisis. British people who open their homes to Ukrainians will get £350 a month ($456) under a “cash for accommodation” scheme.


Under the scheme Ukrainians who are matched and housed with a UK “sponsor” will be granted leave to remain for three years. They will be able to work, claim benefits and access public services in that time.

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