Airstrikes hit outside of Lviv and in Kyiv, closer to the NATO border

Russian missiles hit an aircraft repair shop outside of that city on Friday, bringing the war closer to a relatively safe haven in western Ukraine – a hub for refugees and humanitarian aid – and just a few kilometers from NATO’s eastern border.

The threat of escalation of the war alarmed world opinion, even as President Biden warned his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping not to support Russia militarily or economically.

In a nearly two-hour phone call, Biden Xi said China would face “consequences” if it came to Russia’s aid, the White House said. Beijing said Xi supports Ukraine-Russia and US-Russia negotiations to address Moscow’s security concerns. China has repeatedly refused to condemn the invasion of Ukraine.

More civilians were killed or wounded in the besieged capital of Kyiv on Friday, and arduous attempts to rescue survivors from a bombed shelter in the battered port city of Mariupol continued after more than 100 people emerged from the ruins alive, but hundreds more remain remained missing and possibly buried.

In Lviv, about 40 miles from the Polish border, rockets landed before sunrise at the disused repair center outside the city’s airport, which is currently only used for military flights, said Mayor Andriy Sadovyi, who said at least one person was injured in the attack.

In a Facebook post, Sadovyi said the strikes destroyed the building. He warned residents, who have become accustomed to daily air raid sirens but often ignore them because their city has largely escaped shelling, to be more vigilant and watch out for danger.

“Be careful, follow directions when the air raid sirens go off,” he said.

Hours after the attack, clouds of smoke rose from the affected facility on the western edge of Lemberg. Several military vehicles converged on the site.

According to the Ukrainian Air Force, Russian forces launched six missiles from the Black Sea, two of which were intercepted.

Puff of smoke in the early morning sky

A plume of smoke rises over Lviv in western Ukraine after rockets landed near the city’s airport early Friday.

(Associated Press)

Friday’s strikes marked the second time in a week that rockets have hit the Lviv area, which has been largely isolated from the war raging near the capital Kyiv and elsewhere in the country. A swarm of Russian cruise missiles hit a military training base northwest of Lviv early Sunday, killing at least 40 Ukrainian servicemen.

Each of these attacks has raised the specter that Russian firepower could accidentally or deliberately hit neighboring Poland, whose NATO membership could prompt a response from other European countries and the US. The United States recently increased its deployment of American troops in Poland and other countries on NATO’s eastern flank.

In Kyiv, residents woke up on Friday to another airstrike that hit a residential building. According to Ukraine’s emergency services, a fire that engulfed the building after the attack on Podilskyi, a district northwest of the city center, killed one person and injured 19.

The attack brought the total death toll in Kyiv to 222 since Russia’s invasion of its neighbor began on February 24, Kyiv city officials said.

Ukrainian officials said on Friday they had reached an agreement with Russia to open nine humanitarian aid and evacuation corridors in areas including the hard-hit southeastern city of Mariupol, where at least 130 people were injured in an airstrike in a crowded air-raid shelter this week , and in the eastern city of Mariupol Sumy, from which thousands of people have already fled.

Some of the evacuation routes have been routinely blocked in recent days, according to Ukraine. On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said more than 2,000 people were taken by bus from Mariupol to Zaporizhia, about 240 kilometers away. This is just a tiny fraction of Mariupol residents who want to flee their blockaded city, where living conditions have become increasingly desperate.

Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have been going on every day this week, with no agreement on an end to the fighting. Earlier in the week, officials from both sides cited progress in the talks, but in a phone call with Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday, Putin accused the Ukrainians of trying to stall them. A reading of the conversation in TASS, the Russian state news agency, said the Russian leader accused the “Kiev regime” of trying to delay negotiations by “putting forward more and more unrealistic proposals.”

Putin has insisted that his own demands – including the “demilitarization” of Ukraine and its renunciation of any intention to join NATO or the European Union – be fully met before ending armed hostilities.

Aspirations for NATO membership are enshrined in Ukraine’s constitution, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy changed his mind on the issue this week, saying he accepts the country will not join the alliance.

Zelenskyy tweeted on Friday that aspirations to join the EU remain in place and said he had had a “substantive conversation” with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch. Zelenskyj said that the “commission’s opinion [Ukrainian] Application for EU membership will be prepared within a few months.”

Putin also claims Russian ownership of Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. The reclusive Russian leader, who has rarely appeared in public since the invasion, spoke at a Moscow stadium on Friday to celebrate the eighth anniversary of the annexation. Moscow officials said 200,000 people attended the rally, where a singer performed the song “Made in the USSR,” the lyrics of which begin “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, it’s all my country.”

Praising Russian troops, Putin paraphrased the Bible and said, “There is no greater love than to give up one’s soul for one’s friends.” He repeated the false claim that war was necessary to stop the “genocide” of Russian speakers .

Vereshchuk said Ukraine would not recognize the Crimean peninsula as part of Russia – which was brought up as a possible concession by Kiev to end the war.

“Recognizing Crimea as Russian is impossible. Too much blood and sacrifice has already been shed on our part to keep Ukrainian territory intact and undivided,” Vereshchuk said on Facebook.

She reiterated Kiev’s calls for a ceasefire, the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian territory and a new deal that would ensure Ukraine’s security in the future.

Police guard site of bombed apartment buildings

Police guard the site of residential buildings damaged in a Russian airstrike on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Friday.

(Rodrigo Abd/Associated Press)

During the three-week bombing, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians fled their country’s eastern regions to Lviv, Kyiv and other western regions. But residents say daily rocket attacks on the capital’s residential areas make them feel less safe, even though Russian forces are stranded outside the city. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said a kindergarten and school were damaged along with at least six other buildings in Friday’s strike in a residential building.

“It’s a war against civilians. … It’s just apartments,” not a military facility, Klitschko told reporters.

He said he expected Kyiv to come under stronger attack: “If you look at Mariupol, if you look at Kharkiv, if you look at other cities – Chernihiv, right now – where … the city is being destroyed, I expect the Russians [will] do the same in Kyiv.”

The effects of Friday’s blast in Kiev’s Podilskyi district could be seen well beyond the large crater it left in the central courtyard in front of a row of apartment buildings. This courtyard was laid out with glass granules, masonry and metal. The shockwave swept through the buildings around them, popping window frames out of the walls, pulverizing glass, and turning furniture into a jumble of wood and metal.

At a convenience store more than 500 feet from the crater, windows were blown out and shelves full of syrup bottles and gummy candies were pushed aside by the force of the blast.

Local residents packed bags for evacuation. Evgenia Gavrylenko, a bank teller who lived on the fourth floor of a building, had her suitcases laid out on the bed of her guest room, the only area that appeared to have escaped destruction. She used an expletive to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin while puffing on her cigarette and looking around her apartment.

Upstairs, a man entered his apartment while skyping his wife and daughter to show them the destruction. Outside, others were lugging bags and suitcases.

In the port city of Mariupol, officials said rescue operations continued after airstrikes this week on a theater where more than 1,000 people were sheltering. The death toll at the theater, which had the word “Children” written on the floor outside, was still unknown. At least 130 people were pulled from the rubble.

Sergiy Taruta, a Ukrainian lawmaker and former regional official, said in a TV interview that saving people was a struggle because Russian attacks depleted the city’s resources.

“People do everything themselves. My friends came to help, but it wasn’t safe because of the constant shelling. People clear the rubble themselves,” Taruta said. “There’s no bailout, because all the services that are supposed to save people, treat people, bury them – those services don’t exist anymore.”

The war, now in its 23rd day, has left more than 3.1 million people fleeing Ukraine.

The United Nations counted 816 civilians killed – at least 52 of them children – since the invasion began. UN officials concede the actual number is likely much higher.

McDonnell reported from Lemberg, Bulos from Kyiv and Kaleem from London. Tracy Wilkinson, a Times contributor, contributed from Washington. Airstrikes hit outside of Lviv and in Kyiv, closer to the NATO border

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