Ukrainian news: strikes leave at least 7 dead in Lviv

LVIV, UKRAINE — Russian missiles struck Lviv in western Ukraine on Monday, killing at least seven people, Ukrainian officials said, as Moscow troops stepped up strikes on infrastructure in preparation for an assault widespread against the east.

Plumes of thick, black smoke rose above the city after a series of explosions shattered windows and started fires. Lviv and the rest of western Ukraine have seen only sporadic strikes for nearly two months of warfare and have become a relative haven for people in parts of the country where the fighting has been heaviest.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, meanwhile, has vowed to ‘fight absolutely to the end’ in strategically vital Mariupol, where the last known pocket of resistance after a seven-week siege has holed up in a steel factory sprawling lined with tunnels. Russia has repeatedly urged forces there to lay down their arms, but those who remained ignored an ultimatum on Sunday to surrender or die.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said seven people were killed and 12 injured in missile fire overnight. Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said the Russian strikes hit three military facilities and a tire store. He said among the injured was a child and emergency crews were battling fires caused by the strikes.

A hotel housing Ukrainians who had fled fighting further east was among buildings badly damaged in the attack, the mayor said.

“The nightmare of war caught up with us even in Lviv,” said Lyudmila Turchak, 47, who fled the eastern city of Kharkiv with two children. “There is no longer any place in Ukraine where one can feel safe.”

Military analysts say Russia is stepping up strikes against arms factories, railways and other infrastructure targets across Ukraine to exhaust the country’s ability to withstand a major ground offensive in Donbass , the mostly Russian-speaking eastern industrial heartland of Ukraine.

The Russian military said missiles hit more than 20 military targets in eastern and central Ukraine in the past day, including ammunition depots, command headquarters and troop groups and vehicles. Meanwhile, he said artillery hit another 315 Ukrainian targets and warplanes carried out 108 strikes against Ukrainian troops and military equipment. The claims could not be independently verified.

General Richard Dannatt, a former British army chief, told Sky News the strikes were part of a “softening up” campaign by Russia ahead of a planned ground offensive in Donbass.

The Ukrainian government halted civilian evacuations for a second day on Monday, saying Russian forces were shelling and blocking humanitarian corridors.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Ukraine had negotiated the passage of towns and villages in eastern and southeastern Ukraine, including Mariupol and other parts of Donbass. The government of Luhansk region in Donbass said four civilians trying to flee were shot dead by Russian forces.

Russia is determined to capture Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists already control some territory, after its failed attempt to take the capital, kyiv.

“We are doing everything to ensure the defense” of eastern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday in his nightly address to the nation.

The impending offensive in the east, if successful, would give Russian President Vladimir Putin a much-needed victory to sell to the Russian people amid mounting war casualties and economic hardship caused by Western sanctions.

The capture of Mariupol is considered a key step in the preparations for any eastern assault, as it would free Russian troops. Falling the city to the Sea of ​​Azov would give Russia its biggest military victory of the war, giving it full control of a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it seized in 2014, and depriving Ukraine of a major port and valuable industry. assets.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar described Mariupol as a “shield defending Ukraine”.

The city was reduced to rubble in the siege, but a few thousand fighters, according to Russian estimates, clung to the giant 11 square kilometer (4 square mile) Azovstal steelworks.

“We will fight absolutely to the end, to victory, in this war,” Ukraine’s Prime Minister Shmyhal promised on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. He said Ukraine was ready to end the war through diplomacy if possible, “but we have no intention of surrendering.”

Many Mariupol civilians, including children, also took refuge at the Azovstal plant, Mikhail Vershinin, head of the city’s police patrol, told Mariupol TV.

About 100,000 people remained in the city out of a pre-war population of 450,000, trapped without food, water, heat or electricity.

There seemed to be little hope of military rescue. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the remaining Ukrainian soldiers and civilians were essentially surrounded.

Relentless shelling and street fighting in Mariupol has killed at least 21,000 people, according to Ukrainian estimates. A maternity hospital was hit by a deadly Russian airstrike in the first weeks of the war, and around 300 people were reportedly killed in the bombardment of a theater where civilians had taken refuge.

After the humiliating sinking of the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet last week in what Ukrainians claimed was a missile attack, the Kremlin pledged to step up strikes against the Ukrainian capital.

Ukraine says it hit Russian warship Moskva with two Neptune missiles; Russia only said it sank while being towed after a fire. Russia said its crew had been evacuated, but their fate remained uncertain. Footage released by the Russian military on Sunday showed the commander of the Russian navy inspecting rows of sailors, identified as being from the ship, in the Moskva’s home port of Sevastopol in Crimea. It is not known how many sailors were in the group.

Airstrikes hit the capital kyiv and the eastern city of Kharkiv, where shelling on Monday left at least three people dead and three injured, according to AP journalists on the spot. One of the dead was a woman who appeared to be going out to fetch water in the rain. She was found lying bloodied with a can of water and an umbrella by her side.

At least five people were killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, on Sunday, regional officials said. Zelenskyy called Sunday’s bombing in Kharkiv “nothing but deliberate terror”.

Zelenskyy also called for a stronger response to what he said was brutality by Russian troops in parts of southern Ukraine.

“Torture chambers are built there,” he said. “They are kidnapping local government officials and anyone considered visible to local communities.”

He again urged the world to send more weapons and apply tougher sanctions against Moscow.

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Associated Press reporter Nico Maounis in Lviv contributed, as did AP staff around the world.

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Correction:

This story has been updated to correct attribution of the first partial quote on fighting to the end to the Prime Minister of Ukraine, not the President.

Christi C. Elwood