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Russian airstrike hits base in western Ukraine, killing 35

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) – Waves of Russian missiles struck a military training ground near Ukraine’s western border with NATO member Poland, killing 35 people. The strike followed Russian threats to target foreign arms shipments that are helping Ukrainian fighters defend their country against it Russia’s grueling invasion.

More than 30 Russian cruises missiles aimed the sprawling training facility, which is less than 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the nearest border point with Poland, according to the governor of western Ukraine’s Lviv region. Poland is a key location for channeling Western military aid to Ukraine.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Lviv had been largely spared the level of destruction unfolding further east, becoming a destination for residents fleeing bombed cities and for many of the almost 2.6 million refugees who fled the country.

The training center at Yavoriv appears to be the westernmost target hit 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 Ukraine other NATO countries.

It has also hosted international NATO exercises. The place symbolizes what Russia has been complaining about for a long time: that the NATO alliance of 30 member states is moving closer and closer to Russia’s borders. Russia calls on Ukraine to drop its ambitions to join NATO.

Lviv Governor Maksym Kozytskyi said most of the missiles fired on Sunday “were shot down because the air defense system was working”. Those who got through killed at least 35 people and wounded 134, he said.

Russian fighters also fired on the airport in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk, which is less than 150 kilometers (94 miles) north of Romania and 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Hungary, countries that are also NATO allies. The airport, which includes a military airfield and a runway for civilian flights, was also attacked on Friday.

Fighting also raged overnight in several areas of the country. Ukrainian authorities said Russian airstrikes on a monastery and children’s resort in the eastern Donetsk region hit spots where monks and refugees were taking shelter, injuring 32 people.

Another airstrike hit a westbound train evacuating people from the east, killing one person and wounding another, Donetsk’s top regional administrator said.

In the north, in the city of Chernihiv, a Russian airstrike that destroyed a block of flats killed one person and wounded another, emergency services said.

Fighting also intensified around the capital Kyiv, a key political and strategic target of the invasion, with nighttime shelling in the northwestern suburbs and a missile attack on Sunday that destroyed a warehouse in the east.

In Irpin, a suburb about 20 kilometers northwest of central Kyiv, the bodies lie outdoors on streets and in a park on Saturday.

“When I woke up in the morning, everything was smoky, everything was dark. We don’t know who is shooting where,” local resident Serhy Protsenko said as he walked through his neighborhood. Explosions sounded in the distance. “We have no radio or information.”

Chief regional administrator Oleksiy Kuleba said Russian forces appeared to be trying to blockade and paralyze the capital by shelling the suburbs day and night. Kuleba said Russian agents are in the capital and its suburbs, marking possible future targets.

Promising that any all-out attack would meet stiff resistance, he said: “We are preparing to defend Kyiv and we are ready to fight for ourselves.”

Talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire fell through again on Saturday, and the US announced plans to provide Ukraine with an additional $200 million for arms. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned other nations that sending equipment to reinforce Ukraine’s military “is an action that makes these convoys legitimate targets.”

Russian soldiers looted a humanitarian convoy trying to reach the battered and encircled port city of Mariupol, where more than 1,500 people have died, a Ukrainian official said. Ukraine’s military said Russian forces had captured the eastern outskirts of Mariupol and tightened their siege of the strategic port. Taking Mariupol and other Sea of ​​Azov ports could allow Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to break up his country and ushered in “a new phase of terror” with the alleged arrest of a mayor from a town west of Mariupol.

“Ukraine will pass this test. We need time and strength to break the war machine that has come to our country,” Zelenskyy said during his nightly address to the nation on Saturday.

Zelenskyi reported that 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had died since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

The first major city to fall earlier this month was Kherson, a major Black Sea port with a population of 290,000. Zelenskyy said Saturday that the Russians were using blackmail and bribes to try to force local officials to establish a “pseudo-republic” in the southern Kherson region, similar to those in Donetsk and Luhansk, two eastern regions where pro-Russian separatists are based Armed forces began fighting Ukraine in 2014. One of the pretexts Russia used for the invasion was that it needed to protect the separatist regions.

Zelenskyi once again deplored NATO’s refusal to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine and said Ukraine had been looking for ways to procure air defense equipment without elaborating. US President Joe Biden announced another $200 million in aid to Ukraine with an additional $13 billion included in one bill that has passed the House of Representatives and should be passing the Senate within days. NATO has said imposing a no-fly zone could lead to a larger war with Russia.

Moscow has announced it will set up humanitarian corridors outside of conflict zones, but Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of disrupting these routes and shooting at civilians. Russian forces have hit at least two dozen hospitals and medical facilities, according to the World Health Organization.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said only nine of 14 agreed corridors were open on Saturday and that about 13,000 people had used them to evacuate across the country.

The leaders of France and Germany spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday about a failed attempt to reach a ceasefire. To end the war, Moscow has demanded that Ukraine drop its bid to join NATO and adopt neutral status; recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014; recognition of the independence of separatist regions in the east of the country; and agree to demilitarization.

Thousands of soldiers on both sides are believed to have been killed along with many civilians, including at least 79 Ukrainian children, the government said.

The Russian invaders seem to have fought determined Ukrainian fighters more than expected. Still, Russia’s stronger military threatens to wear Ukrainian forces down. The United Nations has said the fighting has displaced millions of Ukrainians within the country, in addition to millions who have fled the country.

Elena Yurchuk, a nurse from the northern city of Chernihiv, was with her teenage son Nikita at a Romanian train station on Saturday, unsure if her house was still standing.

“We have nowhere to go,” said Yurchuk, 44, a widow hoping to find work in Germany. “Nothing left.”

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Associated Press journalist Mstyslav Chernov in Mariupol and other reporters from around the world contributed.

https://www.cbs17.com/news/russian-airstrike-hits-base-in-western-ukraine-kills-35/ Russian airstrike hits base in western Ukraine, killing 35

DUSTIN JONES

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