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Russia said to strike western Ukraine as Zelenskiy warns of desolation

Randy Mancini 4 Mar 13
People fleeing the town of Irpin outside of Kyiv
Ukrainian servicemen walk near a destroyed bridge as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin outside Kyiv, Ukraine, March 12, 2022. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

March 13, 2022

By Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) -Russian forces launched a missile attack on a large Ukrainian military facility near the Polish border on Sunday, officials said, in what appeared to be the westernmost attack of the war, and air raid sirens again woke residents in the capital Kyiv.

“The occupiers launched an air strike on the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security” in Yavoriv, the Lviv regional military administration said in a statement. “According to preliminary data, they fired eight missiles.”

Initial reports indicated “there are no dead, but information about the injured and wounded is being clarified,” said Anton Mironovich, spokesman for the Academy of Land Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, according to Interfax Ukraine news agency cited.

The 360 square-km (140 square-mile) facility less than 25 km (15 miles) from the Polish border, is one Ukraine’s biggest and the largest in the western part of the country. Ukraine holds most of its drills with NATO countries there.

The mayor of another city in western Ukraine, Ivano-Frankivsk, said Russian troops also continued to hit its airport, with no initial reports of casualties.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned Russian forces they face a fight to the death if they try to occupy the capital Kyiv, as air raid sirens again woke residents on Sunday morning.

“If they decide to carpet bomb and simply erase the historyof this region … and destroy all of us, then they will enterKyiv. If that’s their goal, let them come in, but they will haveto live on this land by themselves,” Zelenskiy said on Saturday.

The president, who has repeatedly appeared on social mediafrom the capital, said some small towns no longer existed in thethird week of Russian attacks, the biggest assault on a Europeancountry since World War Two.

Russian shelling has trapped thousands of people in besiegedcities and sent 2.5 million Ukrainians fleeing to neighbouringcountries.

Ukraine accused Russian forces on Saturday of killing sevencivilians in an attack on women and children trying to fleefighting near Kyiv. France said Russian President Vladimir Putinhad shown no readiness to make peace.

The Ukrainian intelligence service said the seven, includingone child, were killed as they fled the village of Peremoha andthat “the occupiers forced the remnants of the column to turnback.”

Reuters was unable immediately to verify the report andRussia offered no immediate comment.

Moscow denies targeting civilians since invading Ukraine onFeb. 24. It blames Ukraine for failed attempts to evacuatecivilians from encircled cities, an accusation Ukraine and itsWestern allies strongly reject.

Zelenskiy said Moscow was sending in new troops afterUkrainian forces put 31 of Russia’s battalion tactical groupsout of action in what he called Russia’s largest army losses indecades. Reuters could not verify his statements.

“We still need to hold on. We still have to fight,”Zelenskiy said in a video address late on Saturday, his secondof the day. Saying about 1,300 Ukrainian troops had been killed,he urged the West to get more involved in peace negotiations.

The United States said it would rush up to $200 million inadditional small arms, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons toUkraine, where officials have pleaded for more military aid.

The Kremlin describes its actions as a “special operation”to disarm Ukraine and unseat leaders it calls neo-Nazis. Ukraineand Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war ofchoice that has raised fears of wider conflict in Europe.

Zelenskiy discussed the war with German Chancellor OlafScholz and French President Emmanuel Macron, who urged Putin toorder an immediate ceasefire.

A Kremlin statement on their 75-minute call made no mentionof a ceasefire. A French presidency official said: “We did notdetect a willingness on Putin’s part to end the war.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accused theUnited States of escalating tensions and said the situation hadbeen complicated by convoys of Western arms shipments to Ukrainethat Russian forces considered “legitimate targets”.

In comments reported by the Tass news agency, Ryabkov madeno specific threat. Any attack on such convoys before theyreached Ukraine would risk widening the war.

Crisis talks between Moscow and Kyiv have been continuing byvideo link, said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, accordingto Russia’s RIA news agency. He gave no details, but UkrainianForeign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv would not surrender oraccept any ultimatums.

HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS

Russian rocket attacks destroyed a Ukrainian airbase and hitan ammunition depot near Vasylkiv in the Kyiv region, InterfaxUkraine quoted its mayor as saying.

The exhausted-looking governor of Chernihiv, around 150 km(100 miles) northeast of Kyiv, gave a video update in front ofthe ruins of the city’s Ukraine Hotel.

“There is no such hotel any more,” Viacheslav Chaus said,wiping tears from his eyes. “But Ukraine itself still exists,and it will prevail.”

Britain’s defence ministry has said Russian ground forceswere massed 25 km (15 miles) from the centre of Kyiv, whileKharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and the key Black Sea port of Mariupolremained encircled under heavy Russian shelling.

The general staff of the Ukraine armed forces said Russiahad slowed its offensive and in many places its forces had beenstopped. The military’s Facebook post did not give details.

Ukrainian officials had planned to use humanitariancorridors from Mariupol in the south as well as towns andvillages in the regions of Kyiv, Sumy and some other areas onSaturday.

Around 13,000 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities onSaturday, said Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

The Donetsk region’s governor said constant shelling wascomplicating bringing aid into Mariupol. Fires were burning inthe western section of the city and dozens of apartmentbuildings heavily damaged, according to images taken on Saturdayby private U.S. satellite firm Maxar.

At least 1,582 civilians in Mariupol have been killed as aresult of Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade, the citycouncil said on Friday. Reuters could not verify casualtyfigures.

“There are reports of looting and violent confrontationsamong civilians over what little basic supplies remain in thecity,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of HumanitarianAffairs said.

People were boiling ground water for drinking, using wood tocook food and burying their dead near where they lay, a staffmember for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) inMariupol said.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Philippa Fletcher, Timothy Heritage, Matt Spetalnick and Michael Perry; Editing by William Mallard)