Russia strikes military base in Ukraine’s Yavoriv: What you need to know about the attack on the complex and its significance

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It was a bloody Sunday for the residents of Yavoriv, located in Lviv Oblast, after waves of Russian missiles pounded the area on Day 18 of the ongoing conflict.

The attacks pounded a military base, which has served as a crucial hub for co-operation between Ukraine and the NATO countries supporting its defence, marking an escalation of Moscow's offensive and moving the fighting perilously close to the Polish border.

We take a look at what happened on Sunday, why the Russian attacks are significant and how nations reacted to the offensive.

Yavoriv military base

The military base is located in Yavoriv, in the Lviv region, about 15 miles from Poland — a NATO and European Union member nation.

The facility, also known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, has long been used to train Ukrainian military personnel, often with instructors from the United States and other NATO countries.

The New York Times has reported that before the war, troops from the United States, Britain, Canada, Poland, Latvia and other Western allies trained Ukrainian forces there, starting in the 1990s.

One of the buildings that was hit in the attack was in an area where American, Canadian and other foreign military instructors had stayed before the invasion, according to a broadcast journalist for the US army who covered multinational training at the base.

Senior NATO official, as per an Al Jazeera report, has hailed the base as embodying “the spirit of military cooperation” between Ukraine and international forces.

The site has long been an issue for Russia, with Moscow complaining that the 30-member Western military alliance has expanded in Eastern Europe too close to their territory.

An injured woman is wheeled on a stretcher at a local hospital in Novoiavorisk, western Ukraine. Waves of Russian missiles pounded a military training base close to Ukraine's western border with NATO member Poland. AP

What happened on Sunday?

Russian troops launched multiple air raids on the 140 square mile facility, which is the largest in the western part of the country, on Sunday.

Lviv governor Maxim Kozitsky said on Sunday that more than 30 Russian cruise missiles targeted the sprawling facility, killing at least 35 people and injuring another 134.

Stepan Chuma, 27, an emergency worker who had hurried to the scene with his colleagues, was quoted as telling The Guardian: “My windows shook. The whole house vibrated. It was dark. The sky lit up with two explosions.”

“Russia has attacked the International Centre for Peacekeeping & Security near Lviv. Foreign instructors work here. Information about the victims is being clarified,” the Ukrainian defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said in an online post.

Simon Shuster, of Time magazine, who was in the area on Saturday, said on Twitter: “When Russia bombed the base near Lviv last night, it had to assume Americans were likely to be killed or injured. A coordinator of foreign volunteers in Ukraine told me the base was a hub for 1000s of them, coming from all over to help Ukraine. I met some from US, UK, Australia.”

The attacks came 24 hours after Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said that western shipments to Ukraine were “legitimate targets”.

"We warned the United States that the orchestrated pumping of weapons from a number of countries is not just a dangerous move, it is a move that turns these convoys into legitimate targets," Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had told state television on Saturday.

Why the attack is significant?

Besides the fact that Russia targeted a military base, the attack is significant for other reasons too.

Firstly, the attack is thought to be the westernmost carried out by Russia in 18 days of fighting. Secondly, the attacks have struck inside Lviv, which up to date had been spared the scale of destruction unfolding to its east and south.

The city's population of 721,000 has swelled during the war with residents escaping bombarded population centres and as a waystation for the nearly 2.6 million people who have fled the country.

On 11 March, Firstpost.com had reported that Russia had extended its attack to new cities, particularly in the western part of Ukraine and it was worrisome.

Reactions to the attack

Shortly after the attack, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned NATO that its member states would soon be attacked by Russian forces.

"If you do not close our sky, it is only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall on your territory, on NATO territory, on the homes of NATO citizens," Zelenskyy said in a video address released shortly after midnight, urging NATO to impose a no-fly zone over his country.

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.

Biden “has been clear, repeatedly, that the United States will work with our allies to defend every inch of NATO territory and that means every inch,” Sullivan said on CBS News's Face the Nation.

With inputs from agencies

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Russia strikes military base in Ukraine’s Yavoriv: What you need to know about the attack on the complex and its significance
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