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Ukraine war: Putin targeted foreign legion in strike near Poland

Russia deliberately blew up foreign fighters and arms shipments at a Ukrainian base close to the Polish border on Sunday and has vowed to carry out more strikes in a direct warning to the West.

Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for Russia’s ministry of defence, said the base at Yavoriv – 12 miles from NATO territory – was struck by ‘long-range, high-precision’ weapons because it was hosting ‘foreign mercenaries and a large shipment of foreign weapons’. 

He added: ‘The destruction of foreign mercenaries who arrived on the territory of Ukraine will continue.’

Konashenkov said up to 180 people had been killed in the strike, though Ukraine says 35 people died and another 134 were wounded. Bombs fell on the base early Sunday morning, with witnesses saying many of the foreign recruits were sleeping when the strike was carried out. Foreigners are thought to be among the victims.

British military veterans at the base who survived the attack, described hearing the sound of incoming engines before several large blasts destroyed one building, damaged another, and sprayed shell fragments through the air. It is thought the base was hit by Russian cruise missiles as opposed to fighter jets.

It came just a day after Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, warned that foreign aid shipments to Ukraine are considered to be legitimate targets. British intelligence said overnight that striking a base so close to Poland was ‘deliberate and designed to illustrate willingness to escalate should the West not cease its supplies.’

Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, warned Moscow that any strike on a NATO nation – including an accidental one – would prompt the alliance to respond with ‘full force’, meaning a direct confrontation between American and Russian forces that would likely spark World War Three.

Russian airstrikes caused heavy damage to a Ukrainian military base in Yavoriv, just 12 miles from the Polish border, on Sunday – killing at least 35 people and leaving 134 more wounded

Russia says the base (pictured) was targeted because it was hosting foreign 'mercenaries' and weapons shipments, adding that such raids would continue

Russia says the base (pictured) was targeted because it was hosting foreign ‘mercenaries’ and weapons shipments, adding that such raids would continue

Around 1,000 foreigners were at the base at the time it was hit, Ukraine said, and are expected to be among the victims - though no official word has been given yet (pictured, a man wounded at the base)

Around 1,000 foreigners were at the base at the time it was hit, Ukraine said, and are expected to be among the victims – though no official word has been given yet (pictured, a man wounded at the base)

Yavoriv is located just 12 miles from Poland, a NATO member state, raising fears that the alliance could get sucked into the conflict which would see direct fighting between US and Russian troops

Yavoriv is located just 12 miles from Poland, a NATO member state, raising fears that the alliance could get sucked into the conflict which would see direct fighting between US and Russian troops

James, a former British artillery soldier identified only by his first name, told Buzzfeed of hearing the sound of incoming missiles as he was in bed, saying: ‘I just lied there and thought: I’m going to die.’

‘A couple of buildings got hit… One they decimated and there was one that was on fire. And then there was just frag[mentation] everywhere. And a crater… in the middle of camp.’

A Ukrainian officer said there were around 1,000 foreigners at the camp – officially known as the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security – at the time. British and US regular military personnel had previously been stationed there to train Ukrainian soldiers, but were not thought to be present yesterday.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – intended to be a short and sharp ‘military operation’ to decapitate the leadership and enforce regime change – is now entering its 19th day as casualties continue to mount on both sides.

Russian airstrikes pounded the capital of Kyiv in the early hours, setting light to an apartment block in the suburb of Obolon that killed at least two people. 

A new round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials raised hopes that progress would be made in evacuating civilians from besieged Ukrainian cities and getting emergency supplies to areas without enough food, water and medicine.

Air raid alerts sounded in cities and towns all around the country overnight, from near the Russian border in the east to the Carpathian Mountains in the west, as fighting continued on the outskirts of Kyiv which Putin’s men are trying to seize – with limited success. 

Ukrainian authorities said two people died and seven were injured after Russian forces struck an airplane factory in Kyiv, sparking a large fire. The Antonov factory is Ukraine’s largest aircraft manufacturing plant and is best known for producing many of the world’s biggest cargo planes.

Russian artillery fire also hit a nine-story apartment building in a northern district of the city, killing two more people, authorities said. Firefighters worked to rescue survivors, painstakingly carrying an injured woman on a stretcher away from the blackened and still smoking building.

A town councilor for Brovary, east of Kyiv, was killed in fighting there, officials said. Shells also fell on the Kyiv suburbs of Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel, which have seen some of the worst fighting in Russia’s stalled attempt to take the capital, regional administration chief Oleksiy Kuleba said on Ukrainian television.

An apartment building in Kyiv burns in the early hours of Monday after being struck by Russian bombs as Kremlin forces continue to try and take the capital

An apartment building in Kyiv burns in the early hours of Monday after being struck by Russian bombs as Kremlin forces continue to try and take the capital

An elderly woman is evacuated from a burning apartment building in Kyiv, after a Russian airstrike killed at least two people

An elderly woman is evacuated from a burning apartment building in Kyiv, after a Russian airstrike killed at least two people

An elderly man, wounded by flying debris as the result of a Russian airstrike, is evacuated from an apartment in Kyiv

An elderly man, wounded by flying debris as the result of a Russian airstrike, is evacuated from an apartment in Kyiv

Vitali Klitschko, former heavyweight boxer and mayor of Kyiv, inspects the damage to a bombed apartment building

Vitali Klitschko, former heavyweight boxer and mayor of Kyiv, inspects the damage to a bombed apartment building

A Ukrainian civilian looks out from the destroyed balcony of an apartment building in the north of Kyiv

A Ukrainian civilian looks out from the destroyed balcony of an apartment building in the north of Kyiv

A firefighter rescues a cat from a burning apartment building in Obolon, north of Kyiv, after it was shelled by Russia

A firefighter rescues a cat from a burning apartment building in Obolon, north of Kyiv, after it was shelled by Russia

The surrounded southern city of Mariupol, where the war has produced some of the greatest human suffering, remained cut off despite earlier talks on creating aid or evacuation convoys.

A pregnant woman who became a symbol of Ukraine’s suffering when she was photographed being carried from a bombed maternity hospital in Mariupol has died along with her baby, the Associated Press has learned. 

Images of the woman being rushed to an ambulance on a stretcher had circled the world, epitomizing the horror of an attack on humanity’s most innocent.

Ukraine announced plans for new humanitarian aid and evacuation corridors on Monday, although ongoing shelling caused similar efforts to fail in the last week.

A fourth round of high-level discussions between Ukrainian and Russian officials was set for Monday, the first negotiations in a week, Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said. The talks were to take place by video conference. The previous rounds were held face-to-face in Belarus.

Monday’s meeting will be a ‘hard discussion,’ Podolyak wrote on Twitter. ‘Although Russia realizes the nonsense of its aggressive actions, it still has a delusion that 19 days of violence against (Ukrainian) peaceful cities is the right strategy.’ 

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office reported Monday that airstrikes hit residential buildings near the important southern city of Mykolaiv, as well as in the eastern city of Kharkiv, and knocked out a television tower in the Rivne region in the northwest. Explosions rang out overnight around the Russian-occupied Black Sea port of Kherson.

Three airstrikes hit the northern city of Chernihiv overnight, and most of the town is without heat. Several areas haven’t had electricity in days. Utility workers are trying to restore power but frequently come under shelling.

While Russia’s military is bigger and better equipped than Ukraine’s, Russian troops have faced stiffer than expected resistance, bolstered by Western weapons support that has frustrated Putin.

With their advance slowed in several areas, they have bombarded several cities with unrelenting shelling, hitting two dozen medical facilities and creating a series of humanitarian crises.

Ukraine said Moscow’s troops failed to make major advances over the past 24 hours. The Russian Defense Ministry gave a different assessment, saying its forces had advanced 11 kilometers (7 miles) and reached five towns north of Mariupol.

U.S. President Joe Biden is sending his national security adviser to Rome to meet with a Chinese official over worries that Beijing is amplifying Russian disinformation and may help Mosc ow evade Western economic sanctions.

View of a crushed car amid the rubble as fire crews work after further attacks during Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kharkiv

View of a crushed car amid the rubble as fire crews work after further attacks during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Kharkiv

People retrieve belongings from an apartment in a block which was destroyed by an artillery strike in Kyiv, Ukraine

People retrieve belongings from an apartment in a block which was destroyed by an artillery strike in Kyiv, Ukraine

A man places a Ukrainian flag on a burnt balcony of an apartment in a block which was destroyed by an artillery strike in Kyiv

A man places a Ukrainian flag on a burnt balcony of an apartment in a block which was destroyed by an artillery strike in Kyiv

A woman holding a small dog walks in front of an apartment in a block which was destroyed by an artillery strike in Kyiv

A woman holding a small dog walks in front of an apartment in a block which was destroyed by an artillery strike in Kyiv

The U.N. has recorded at least 596 civilian deaths since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, though it believes the true toll is much higher. The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said the death toll includes at least 85 children are among them. Millions more people have fled their homes, with more than 2.7 million crossing into Poland and other neighboring countries.

Since launching its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Moscow has waged a multi-pronged attack and encircled several cities. The fight for the southern city of Mariupol is crucial because its capture could help Russia establish a land corridor to Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said suffering in Mariupol, where missiles struck a maternity hospital Wednesday, was ‘simply immense’ and that hundreds of thousands of people faced extreme shortages of food, water and medicine.

‘Dead bodies, of civilians and combatants, remain trapped under the rubble or lying in the open where they fell,’ the Red Cross said in a statement. ‘Life-changing injuries and chronic, debilitating conditions cannot be treated.’

Russia also expanded its assault on Sunday to western Ukraine, striking the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security near Yavoriv, a military base which has long been used to train Ukrainian soldiers, often with instructors from the United States and other NATO members. More than 30 Russian cruise missiles targeted the site. In addition to the 35 deaths, 134 people were wounded in the attack, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said.

The base is less than 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the Polish border and has hosted NATO training drills, making it a potent symbol of Russia’s longstanding fears that the expansion of the 30-member Western military alliance to include former Soviet states threatens its security – something NATO denies.

NATO said Sunday that it currently does not have any personnel in Ukraine, though the United States has increased the number of U.S. troops deployed to NATO member Poland. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the West would respond if Russia’s strikes travel outside Ukraine and hit any NATO members, even accidentally.

Ina Padi, a 40-year-old Ukrainian who crossed the border with her family, was taking shelter at a fire station in Wielkie Oczy, Poland, when she was awakened by blasts Sunday morning from across the border that shook her windows.

‘I understood in that moment, even if we are free of it, (the war) is still coming after us,’ she said.

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