By Yuras Karmanau, AP, published by US News & World Report, Reuters, published by Channel NewsAsia, plus BBC
Lviv, Ukraine – Waves of Russian missiles pounded a military training base near Ukraine’s western border with Nato member Poland, killing 35 people, Ukrainian authorities said today (Mar. 13). The strike followed Russian threats to target foreign weapon shipments that are helping Ukrainian fighters defend their country against Russia’s grinding assault.
More than 30 Russian cruise missiles targeted the sprawling facility that is less than 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the closest border point with Poland, according to the governor of Ukraine’s western Lviv region. Poland is a transit route for Western military aid to Ukraine, and the United States increased the number of American troops deployed there.
In another development US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who is due to meet with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome tomorrow (Mar 14), warned Beijing that it would “absolutely” face consequences if it helped Moscow evade sweeping sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
Sullivan told CNN the United States believed China was aware that Russia was planning some action in Ukraine before the invasion took place, although Beijing may not have understood the full extent of what was planned.
Now, he said, Washington was watching closely to see to what extent Beijing provided economic or material support to Russia, and would impose consequences if that occurred.
“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions, evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,” Sullivan said. “We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world.”
The training base near Yavoriv appears to be the westernmost target struck during Russia’s 18-day invasion. The facility, also known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre, has long been used to train Ukrainian military personnel, often with instructors from the US and other Nato countries.
The base has also hosted international Nato drills and a senior Nato official, Admiral Rob Bauer, previously hailed it as embodying “the spirit of military cooperation” between Ukraine and international forces. As such, the site symbolises a longstanding Russian complaint: that the 30-member Western military alliance has expanded in Eastern Europe too close to Russian territory
One of Moscow’s stated conditions for ending the hostilities in Ukraine is for the country to drop its ambitions to join Nato.
Lviv governor Maksym Kozytskyi said most of the Russian missiles fired today “were shot down because the air defence system worked.” The ones that got through through killed at least 35 people and wounded 134, he said.
Nato said today that it currently does not have any personnel in Ukraine. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the West would respond if Russia’s armaments travel outside Ukraine and hit any Nato members, even accidentally.
President Joe Biden “has been clear, repeatedly, that the United States will work with our allies to defend every inch of Nato territory and that means every inch,” Sullivan said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
The city of Lviv itself so far has been spared the scale of destruction unfolding to its east and south. Its population of 721,000 has swelled during the war with residents escaping other bombarded population centres and as a waystation for the nearly 2.6 million refugees who fled the country.
Ukrainian and European leaders have pushed with limited success for Russia to grant safe passage to civilians trapped by fighting. Ukrainian authorities said more than 10 humanitarian corridors would open today, with agreement from Russia, including from the battered and besieged port city of Mariupol, where authorities say more than 1,500 people have been killed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address that a convoy carrying 100 tons of humanitarian aid was on its way to Mariupol, and all necessary diplomatic efforts have been taken to make sure it reaches those in need. Capturing Mariupol and other ports on the Azov Sea could allow Russia to establish a land corridor to Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of failing to honour previous pledges to withhold fire along temporary evacuation routes. Zelenskyy said Ukrainian authorities still have managed to evacuate nearly 125,000 people from areas where hostilities are ongoing.
But continued fighting on multiple fronts heaped further misery on the country today and provoked renewed international outrage.
In the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, near the Black Sea, authorities reported nine people killed in bombings. Russian forces advancing from Crimea were attempting to circumvent Mykolaiv on what appeared to be a westward push toward the Black Sea port of Odesa, Britain’s Defence Ministry said.
Russian fighters also fired at the airport in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk, which is less than 150 kilometres (94 miles) north of Romania and 250 kilometres (155 miles) from Hungary, countries that also are Nato allies. The airport, which includes a military airfield as well as a runway for civilian flights, also was targeted Friday.
Ukrainian authorities said Russian airstrikes on a monastery and a children’s resort in the eastern Donetsk region hit spots where monks and refugees were sheltering, wounding 32 people.
Another airstrike hit a westward-bound train evacuating people from the east, killing one person and injuring another, Donetsk’s chief regional administrator said.
To the north, in the city of Chernihiv, one person was killed and another injured in a Russian airstrike that destroyed a residential block, emergency services said.
Around the capital, Kyiv, a major political and strategic target for the invasion, fighting also intensified, with overnight shelling in the northwestern suburbs and a missile strike today that destroyed a warehouse to the east.
“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 with explosions sounding in the distance.
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.
He vowed that any all-out assault would meet stiff resistance, saying: “We’re getting ready to defend Kyiv, and we’re prepared to fight for ourselves.”
After talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire again failed on Saturday, the US announced plans to provide another $200 million to Ukraine for weapons. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned other nations that sending equipment to bolster Ukraine’s military was “an action that makes those convoys legitimate targets.”
Zelenskyy has 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. He also alleged on Saturday that Russians were using blackmail and bribery in an attempt to force local officials in the southern Kherson region to form a “pseudo-republic” like those in the two eastern regions where pro-Russian separatists began fighting Ukrainian forces in 2014.
“Ukraine will stand this test. We need time and strength to break the war machine that has come to our land,” Zelenskyy said during his nightly address to the nation Saturday.
Kyiv’s police chief Andriy Nebytov said he had been targeted by Russian soldiers. Two other journalists were injured and taken to hospital.
It is the first reported death of a foreign journalist covering the war in Ukraine.
Photographs are circulating showing a press ID for Renaud that was issued by the New York Times.
In a statement, the newspaper said it was saddened to hear of Renaud’s death but that he had not been working for the newspaper in Ukraine.
He last worked for the newspaper in 2015, the NYT said, and the press ID he was wearing in Ukraine had been issued years ago. It was not immediately clear who Renaud was working for in Ukraine.
At least 13 journalists and 12 others are reported to have been detained during anti-war protests in St Petersburg.
“They didn’t explain the reason for the detention,” journalist Andrey Okun wrote on his Telegram channel.
He said the detained reporters were all wearing press vests and carrying their press cards: “But this is of no interest to anyone, the goal is to make sure that no-one covers anything.”
Top: A serviceman is taken out of the Yavoriv military base on a stretcher. Photo: Reuters and published by BBC
First insert: Crowds wave Ukrainian flags on the streets of Kherson. Photo: Suspilne Kherson and BBC
Second insert: People cross the Irpin river near a destroyed bridge as they evacuate from Irpin town, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, outside of Kyiv, Ukraine on Mar. 12, 2022. Photo: Reuters/Gleb Garanich and published Channel NewsAsia
Third insert: Brent Renaud seen in New York in 2015. Photo: Getty Images published by BBC
Home Page: A Ukrainian serviceman guards his position in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Saturday, Mar. 12, 2022. The Ukrainian military says Russian forces have captured the eastern outskirts of the besieged city. Photo: AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov and published by US News and World Report