A Russian airstrike on a military training base in western Ukraine close to the Polish border killed at least 35 people and wounded 134, a local official said Sunday.
Foreign military advisers are often present at the site, although it was unclear if any had been there at the time of the attack or among the casualties.
The governor of the Lviv region, Maksym Kozytskyi, said Russian forces fired more than 30 cruise missiles at the Yavoriv military range, located 30 kilometers (19 miles) northwest of the city of Lviv and 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Ukraine’s border with Poland.
The United States and NATO have regularly sent instructors to the range, also known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, to train Ukrainian military personnel. The facility has also hosted international NATO drills.
Foreign troops officially left Ukraine shortly before Russian launched an invasion of its neighbor on February 24.
Ukraine’s Air Force Command West said on Facebook two cruise missiles coming from the southeast, “probably from the waters of the Sea of Azov or the Black Sea,” were destroyed by air defense systems.
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) March 13, 2022
Russian fighters also fired at the airport in Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in western Ukraine 250 kilometers (155.34 miles) from Ukraine’s border with Slovakia and Hungary. Mayor Ruslan Martsinkiv said Russia’s goal was “to sow panic and fear.”
The missile strikes came hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky 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.
“Ukraine will stand this test. We need time and strength to break the war machine that has come to our land,” Zelensky said during his nightly address to the nation Saturday.
Kyiv braces for defense
On Saturday, Russia bombarded cities across Ukraine, pounding Mariupol in the south, shelling the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, and thwarting the efforts of people trying to flee the violence.
The Russians have advanced far enough to raise fears of Kyiv becoming encircled imminently.
In Kyiv, only the roads to the south remain open and the city is preparing to mount a “relentless defense,” according to the Ukrainian presidency.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the capital, described by a senior Ukrainian official Friday as a “city under siege,” was reinforcing defenses and stockpiling food and medicine.
Klitschko said Thursday that about 2 million people, half the metropolitan area’s inhabitants, had left and that “every street, every house… is being fortified.”
Ukraine’s military and volunteer forces have been preparing for an all-out assault on the capital.
Zelensky said Saturday that Russia would need to carpet-bomb Kyiv and kill its residents to take the city.
“They will come here only if they kill us all,” he said. “If that is their goal, let them come.”
Britain’s ministry of defense estimated that Russian forces were about 25 kilometers from Kyiv on Saturday and that a column north of the city had dispersed, reinforcing the indication of an attempt to encircle it.
However, the Russians are encountering resistance from the Ukrainian army to both the east and west of the capital.
In Mariupol, which has endured some of the worst punishment since Russia invaded, efforts to bring food, water and medicine into the port city of 430,000 and to evacuate civilians were prevented by unceasing attacks. More than 1,500 people have died in Mariupol during the siege, according to the mayor’s office, and the shelling has even interrupted efforts to bury the dead in mass graves.
The strategic port is facing what Ukraine says is a “humanitarian catastrophe.” Attempts to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people have repeatedly failed.
A convoy of humanitarian aid headed for the southern port city was blocked at a Russian checkpoint, but hoped to arrive on Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
“Mariupol is still surrounded. That which they cannot have by war, (the Russians) want to have by hunger and despair. Since they cannot bring down the Ukrainian army, they target the population,” a French military source said.
Russian soldiers pillaged a humanitarian convoy that was trying to reach Mariupol and blocked another, a Ukrainian official said.
Talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire again failed Saturday, but Zelensky encouraged his people to keep up their resistance.
“We do not have the right to let up our defense, no matter how difficult it may be,” he said.
Later Saturday, Zelensky reported that about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had died since the Russian invasion began February 24. He claimed Russia had lost about 12,000 troops while Moscow, for its part, has only given a toll of 498 dead, released on March 2.
At least 579 civilians have been killed, according to a tally Saturday by the United Nations, which stressed that its figures were probably much lower than reality.
The office of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General said Sunday a total of 85 children have been killed since the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
The UN estimates that almost 2.6 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion, most of them to Poland, in Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.