Fighting intensified in western Ukraine over the weekend, with dozens of Ukrainians killed in a Russian airstrike on a military training base as the death toll continues to rise on both sides of the war.
Deadly overnight attacks included sites in the west of the country, some very close to the cultural gem Lviv, a UNESCO World Heritage site, which has been preparing for Russian artillery by wrapping ancient statues and removing stained glass windows from some of its beautiful cathedrals.
The bulk of Ukraine’s displaced citizens who have not left the country entirely are holed up in the city about 43 miles from the Polish border, where air raid sirens blasted overnight for the first time since Russia invaded the sovereign nation. Around 30 missiles deployed from the Azov and Black seas rained down on the Yavoriv military training ground near Lviv, killing 35 and injuring 134, the regional governor said Sunday morning.
Indiscriminate strikes also knocked out an International Peacekeeping and Security Center outpost near Lviv, which housed some U.S. military personnel before the war. Strikes also severely damaged a 16th century monastery in Lavra in eastern Ukraine where more than 500 Ukrainian refugees were sheltering.
Meanwhile, Russian troops continue their relentless advance towards the capital Kyiv and are now just 15 miles outside the city, according to CNN.
Russia launched targeted attacks in Irpin, about three miles from the outskirts of Kyiv, where American filmmaker and journalist Brent Renaud was killed when Russian soldiers fired on a vehicle with foreign journalists. Those who survived the harrowing incident say they had passed through a checkpoint when they took fire. Renaud was reportedly killed on the spot and the survivors were taken by Ukrainian ambulances to hospitals.
NATO leaders have also been clear that if Russia uses chemical weapons on Ukrainian citizens, there will be swift punishment.
Polish President Andrzej Duda told BBC that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been pushed into a corner now and might retaliate in the worst way.
“If you’re asking me whether Putin can use chemical weapons, I think Putin can use anything right now, especially when he’s in this difficult situation,” he said. When asked if chemical weapons are NATO’s red line, he said, “If he uses weapons of mass destruction, this would be a game-changer in the whole thing. For sure, [NATO] would have to sit at the table and they will really have to think seriously what to do, because then it starts to be dangerous, not only for Europe but for the whole world.”
Ominous messages from the Kremlin suggest that they are likely to start targeting weapons shipments into the country—which, if they do, would be a direct attack on NATO assets.
The threat came as President Joe Biden announced an additional $200 million worth of arms and military hardware to bolster the $350 million approved in February. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that any weapons entering Ukraine are “legitimate targets” and that the West’s so-called “thoughtless transfer” of anti-tank and air defense systems “demonstrated the escalatory component of Washington’s policy.”
It is unclear what response, if any, NATO will render if Russia makes good in its not-so-veiled threat, but it may only be a matter of time until NATO is drawn into the senseless war, now in its third week. “We have warned the U.S. that the U.S.-orchestrated inundation of Ukraine with weapons from some countries is not just a dangerous move, but also an action that makes these convoys legitimate targets,” Ryabkov said late Saturday.