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Thursday, October 6, 2022

Russian strikes on Lviv raise fears of Ukraine war spreading west | Ukraine

A Russian missile attack near Lviv airport has raised fears of Vladimir Putin’s war spreading to western Ukraine, as Russia claimed to be “tightening the noose” around the south-eastern port city of Mariupol.

A facility for repairing military aircraft by Lviv’s international airport – only 43 miles from Poland’s border – was hit by two cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea on Friday morning.

Ukrainian officials said they had shot down a further four missiles launched in the attack, the second on facilities near the historic city in recent days.

The strikes raise the spectre of Ukraine losing what has so far been a relative haven and hub for refugees and humanitarian aid.

A Ukrainian soldier watches as a cloud of smoke rises after an explosion near the airport in Lviv on Friday.
A Ukrainian soldier watches as a cloud of smoke rises after an explosion near the airport in Lviv on Friday. Photograph: Ismail Coskun/AP

At least 35 people were killed and 134 wounded on Sunday after more than 30 Russian cruise missiles targeted a military facility outside Lviv and only 15 miles from Poland’s border.

Russia’s bombardment in the east of Ukraine continued on Friday. The Kremlin’s defence ministry claimed its forces and pro-Russian separatists were fighting directly in the streets of Mariupol, where 350,000 civilians have been stranded with little food or water.

“In Mariupol, units of the Donetsk People’s Republic, with the support of the Russian armed forces, are squeezing the encirclement and fighting against nationalists in the city centre,” the ministry in Moscow said.

A spokesperson claimed Russia’s armed forces were “tightening the noose“ around the city.

Ukraine map

In the eastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s state emergency service said a multi-storey teaching building had been shelled on Friday morning, killing one person, wounding 11 and trapping one other in the rubble.

Shells were also said to have struck the eastern city of Kramatorsk, killing two people and wounding six.

One person was killed and four others wounded after parts of a Russian missile fell on a residential building in the northern part of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. Emergency services said 12 people had been rescued and 98 evacuated from the five-storey block.

The governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region said frequent and widespread shelling by Russian forces was preventing the safe evacuation of civilians from towns and villages on the frontline.

The attack near Lviv, where there were no reported casualties, will be a cause for concern for refugees and humanitarian agencies working in the city.

A man shouts anti-Russian slogans near bomb-damaged residential buildings in Kyiv on Friday.
A man shouts anti-Russian slogans near bomb-damaged residential buildings in Kyiv on Friday. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Russia has in recent days accused the west of exacerbating the war by supplying military aid via the western border, claiming such efforts were a legitimate military target.

James Heappey, a UK defence minister, said the attacks would not stand in the way of the British government and its allies from arming the Ukrainian forces.

He said: “It is very much a part of war that you go after each other’s supply lines. But the reality is this development will be a concern for people living in the west of Ukraine.”

Heappey said the UK was training Ukrainian soldiers to use the Starstreak anti-aircraft missile system supplied by Britain and which would arrive in the country “imminently”.

Lviv, a Unesco world heritage site, had been largely untouched by bombings until Friday, although many of its 700,000 inhabitants had feared an attack was a matter of time.

Lviv map

The city has been described as the soul of Ukraine and a symbol of Ukrainian nationalism. Its citizens were among the strongest supporters of the country’s separation from the Soviet Union.

The developments followed accusations from the US, UK and EU that Russia was committing war crimes in Ukraine, while the French government accused Putin of pretending to be interested in a negotiated peace.

On Friday, Putin told the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, during a phone call that Kyiv was “attempting to stall peace talks” with Russia but Moscow was still keen to continue negotiations.

“It was noted that the Kyiv regime is attempting in every possible way to delay the negotiation process, putting forward more and more unrealistic proposals,” the Kremlin said in a readout of the call.

“Nonetheless, the Russian side is ready to continue searching for a solution in line with its well-known principled approaches.”

In a phone call on Friday, the US president, Joe Biden, will warn his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, that he will face “costs” if Beijing rescues its fellow authoritarian ally Russia from intense western sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

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