Ukraine war: Russian rockets strike Lviv despite Kremlin claims it will focus on Donbas

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Ukraine war: Russian rockets strike Lviv despite Kremlin claims it will focus on Donbas

Smoke rises in the air in Lviv, western Ukraine, Saturday, 26 March 2022   —  

War in Ukraine enters its 30th day after the invasion was launched by Moscow on 24 February.

The fighting has forced more than ten million Ukrainians to flee their homes, with thousands of people killed or wounded and widespread damage in the wake of shelling and aerial bombardments.

Follow our live updates below.


Saturday’s key points:

    Two missiles hit the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday afternoon local time, local authorities stated. Five people were injured. The region’s head asked the citizens to remain in their shelters until more information becomes available.

    Ukrainian authorities said Saturday that they cannot trust statements from the Russian military Friday suggesting that the Kremlin planned to concentrate its remaining strength on wresting the entirety of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region from Ukrainian control.

    Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk demanded from ICRC to acquire a list of Mariupol residents who are thought to have been taken to Russia. The Ukrainian government claims at least 15,000 citizens of the besieged city were forcibly deported by the Russian troops.

    US President Joe Biden met in Warsaw with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov — the first encounter with senior Kyiv officials since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

    Shelling and missile strikes continued overnight mostly in eastern Ukraine, with reports of explosions in Vinnytsya, Zhytomyr and Sievierodonetsk, where the Russian troops are accused of shelling food storage facilities.

    The German state of Lower Saxony outlawed the public display of the letter Z in support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with those breaking the law facing criminal charges. Bavaria has made a similar decision on Friday.

    Emmanuel Macron says France, Turkey and Greece will carry out «a humanitarian operation» to evacuate people from the besieged city of Mariupol «in the next few days». The local authority said on Friday that people are starving.


Lviv hit by rocket strike, at least five people injured

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv was hit by at least two Russian missiles, with one considered to have hit a large fuel depo in the outskirts, reports claim.

Air raid sirens sounded Saturday afternoon, and governor of the region Maxym Kozytsky reported “three powerful explosions near Lviv”. The officials said that at least five people were injured.

Lviv, a city of over 700,000 roughly 70 kilometres east of Ukraine’s border with Poland, has been largely spared from major Russian attacks in recent weeks.

Two weeks ago, the Russian forces fired missiles on a military training centre near Lviv — which at the time was the most westward target — killing 35 people.

Since the beginning of the invasion, Lviv has become a safe harbour for some 200,000 displaced Ukrainians.

The explosions Saturday came as US President Joe Biden was wrapping up a visit to neighbouring NATO ally Poland in which he told Poland’s president that “ your freedom is ours”.


Putin can’t win in Ukraine, NATO official says

NATO’s deputy secretary-general says that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s month-old “barbaric war” against Ukraine is one he cannot win.

Mircea Geoana told AP that NATO would be “forced to take appropriate measures” in the event of a chemical or nuclear attack, which follows a string of ominous comments from Moscow officials who refuse to rule out their use.

“NATO is a defensive alliance, but also it’s a nuclear alliance,” he said. “If they will be using chemical weapons or other kinds of higher-end systems against Ukraine, this will be changing fundamentally the nature of the war that Mr. Putin has waged against Ukraine.”

“I can guarantee that NATO is ready to respond proportionately,” he added.


Kyiv mayor cancels weekend curfew 

Just hours after announcing a new curfew will be introduced in Kyiv from Saturday night to Monday morning, the mayor of the Ukrainian capital, Vitali Klitschko, said the measure was now off.

«The military command has decided to strengthen the curfew. It will last from 8 pm on Saturday to 7 am on Monday,» the mayor originally said on Telegram on Saturady.


Finland fears Russian escalation in response to possible NATO accession

Finland’s president says his country would likely be targeted by Russian cyber warfare and could face border violations if it decides to apply for membership in NATO.

President Sauli Niinisto said in an interview Saturday with public broadcaster YLE that the biggest benefit would be “gaining a preventive effect».

He said an application would lead to tensions at Finland’s 1,340-kilometre border with Russia, including the possibility of “robust” territorial violations — not just by Russian aircraft, as Finland has experienced in the past.

Niinisto said: “We don’t even know all the possibilities for hybrid influencing that someone may invent. The entire world of information technology is vulnerable. Even some important society functions can be disrupted.”

Moscow has said it would consider European Union members Finland and neighbouring Sweden joining NATO a hostile move that would have serious military and political repercussions.

Several polls in recent weeks have shown a majority of Finns now supporting NATO membership, up from 25% at most before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


Russian forces seize hospital in Slavutych, Kyiv governor says

The governor of the Kyiv region says that Russian forces have entered the city of Slavutych and seized a hospital there.

Governor Oleksandr Pavlyuk said on Saturday that the Russians also kidnapped the city’s mayor, but some media reported later in the day that the mayor was released swiftly. Neither claim could be verified independently.

The governor said that residents of Slavutych took to the streets with Ukrainian flags to protest the Russian invasion.

“The Russians opened fire into the air. They threw flash-bang grenades into the crowd. But the residents did not disperse, on the contrary, more of them showed up,” Pavlyuk said.

Slavutych is located north of Kyiv and west of Chernihiv, outside the exclusion zone that was established around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after the 1986 disaster. It is home to workers at the Chernobyl site.


Turkey: Mine-like object spotted in Bosphorus

Turkey’s defence ministry says a “mine-like” object has been “neutralised” at the northern entrance to the Bosporus Strait.

The sighting on Saturday of a possible naval mine followed warnings that explosive devices laid at the entrances to Ukrainian ports could break free in bad weather and cross the Black Sea.

Broadcaster NTV showed images of an object bobbing in the waves off Istanbul’s Sariyer district, on the Bosporus’ European coast. A Coast Guard vessel was stationed nearby.

A Defence Ministry statement said divers were dispatched to deal with the object. According to Demiroren News Agency, it was noticed by fishermen.

On 18 March, Turkey advised ships to keep a “sharp lookout” and report any possible mines that had drifted from Ukrainian ports.


Biden to meet with Ukrainian foreign and defence ministers

US President Joe Biden will attend a meeting in Warsaw on Saturday morning between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and their Ukrainian counterparts, the White House said.

«This morning, President Biden will make an appearance at the meeting between Secretaries Blinken and Austin and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov,» the White House said in an email, on the second day of the US chief executive’s visit to Poland.

This is President Biden’s first meeting with senior Ukrainian officials since the start of the Russian aggression on 24 February.


Zelenskyy to Doha Forum: Russia ‘threatens the world’ with nuclear arsenal

Making a surprise video appearance at Qatar’s Doha Forum, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticized Russia for what he described as threatening the world with its nuclear weapons.

“Russia is deliberating bragging they can destroy with nuclear weapons, not only a certain country but the entire planet,” Zelenskyy said in a video message to political and business leaders, which was translated into Arabic.


Russians reluctant to engage in urban warfare, UK Defence Ministry claims

A daily update by Britain’s Defence Ministry says Russian forces are proving unwilling to engage in large scale urban infantry operations, instead preferring to rely on the indiscriminate use of air and artillery bombardments in an attempt to demoralize defending forces.

Russia continues to besiege several major Ukrainian cities, including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol.

The assessment says it is likely that Russia will continue to use its heavy firepower on urban areas as it looks to limit its already considerable losses at the cost of further civilian casualties.


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