Russian strike on base brings war in Ukraine closer to NATO border

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  • Russian airstrike hits military base near Polish border
  • Moscow claims to have destroyed weapons and killed ‘foreign mercenaries’
  • American journalist killed near Kiev
  • Russian forces seek to surround Ukrainian forces to the east

LVIV, Ukraine, March 13 (Reuters) – Russian missiles hit a key Ukrainian base near the border with NATO member Poland on Sunday, killing 35 people and injuring 134, a local official said in a statement. escalation of the war in the west of the country while heavy fighting was reported elsewhere.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the airstrike destroyed a large amount of weapons supplied by foreign nations that were stored in the sprawling training facility, and killed ‘up to 180 foreign mercenaries’ .

Reuters could not independently verify the losses reported by the two parties.

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The attack on the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security in Yavoriv, ​​a training base just 25 km from the Polish border that has previously hosted NATO military instructors, brought the conflict at the gates of the western defense alliance.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister had warned on Saturday that Western arms convoys to Ukraine could be seen as legitimate targets.

Britain said the incident marked a “significant escalation” in the conflict. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said any attack on NATO territory would trigger a full response from the alliance.

The 360 ​​km2 (140 sq mi) Yavoriv facility is one of the largest in Ukraine and the largest in the western part of the country, which has so far been spared the worst fighting.

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.

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 leading up to the February 24 Russian invasion, the Ukrainian army trained there, but according to Ukrainian media, all foreign instructors left the training ground in mid-February, while leaving all the material.

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.

FOOD STORAGE

Air raid sirens sounded again in the capital Kyiv and authorities said they were stockpiling essential food items for two weeks for the 2 million people who have yet to flee from Russian forces trying to surround the city. town.

Ukraine also reported new airstrikes on an airport in the west, heavy shelling of Chernihiv northeast of the capital and attacks on the southern city of Mykolaiv, where officials said nine people had been killed. killed.

An American journalist was shot dead by Russian forces in the town of Irpin, northwest of Kiev, and another journalist was injured, the regional police chief said. Read more

Despite the violence, the two sides gave their most optimistic assessment yet of the prospects for progress during the bilateral talks that have been held periodically since the start of the Russian invasion, although they did not give any details on what could be agreed.

“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.”

A Russian delegate to the talks with Ukraine, Leonid Slutsky, was quoted by the RIA news agency as saying that they had made significant progress and that it was possible that the delegations would soon reach plans for agreements. Read more

Neither side has said what it would cover. Three rounds of talks between the two sides in Belarus, the latest last Monday, focused mainly on humanitarian issues.

“VIOLENT AND INHUMAN”

Russia’s invasion has driven more than 2.5 million people across Ukraine’s borders and trapped hundreds of thousands in besieged cities. Read more

“It’s terrifying how violent and inhumane it is,” Olga, a refugee from Kyiv, told Reuters after crossing into Romania.

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.

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.

The Mariupol city council said in a statement that 2,187 residents had been killed since the start of the invasion. Reuters was unable to verify this record.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, 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 23- year-old musician. 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.

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.

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Reporting from Reuters offices Writing by Michael Perry, Philippa Fletcher and Alex Richardson Editing by William Mallard and Frances Kerry

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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