Saturday, May 21

Russia extends its offensive to the borders with Poland

“Our country is already under attack, there is no point in being afraid. We knew we were a military target. People are worried about their health, their life and their safety. We expected something to happen.” Volodymyr Matseliukh is the mayor of Novojavorivsk, to whose hospital the wounded from this morning’s attack on the Yavoriv Center for International Peacekeeping and Security, a military base just 25 kilometers from the Polish border and some 50 from the city of Lviv. Novojavorivsk is 15 kilometers from the facility and its neighbors have seen how the sky lit up due to the impact of the 30 missiles that hit the center around 5:50 am, causing 35 deaths and 134 injuries.

It is the westernmost target since the beginning of the Russian offensive that began 18 days ago, after the bombing that hit the cities of Ivano-Frankivsk and Lutsk on Friday. An action with which Russia is dangerously close to the limit of the territory of a NATO member, in an escalation that further widens the front of the war towards the west of the country while bombings continue on several cities in the east.

The base, covering 360 square kilometers, is one of the largest in Ukraine and has been used for military training of Ukrainian troops, often with instructors from the United States or other NATO countries. The Ukrainian Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, assured this Sunday that there were also foreign soldiers in the military installation. In a message on his Twitter profile, he has indicated that “foreign instructors” were working on that base and that “information about the victims is still being clarified.” Hours after the attack, a checkpoint prevents approaching less than six kilometers from the military installation. On the route from the town of Yaroviv there are also roadblocks at the entrance to small housing estates with traditional two-story mansions with sloping roofs.

“Sadly, we lost more heroes: 35 people died as a result of the bombing of the peacekeeping and security center. Another 134 are found with varying degrees of injuries and are in hospital,” Maksym Kozytskyi, head of state administration in the city of Lviv, announced on his Telegram account. Russia has recognized the attack and Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov has assured that the action had caused the death of “more than 180 foreign mercenaries” and the destruction of a large number of weapons. “The Russians intend to show that there is no safe place in Ukraine,” Vadym Denysenkoo, advisor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, told local media.

Viktoria Shenderi had decided to move her family to this area precisely because she thought it would be safer here. She arrived from Kiev three days ago with her husband and her three children. “We had friends here who told us to come because this was a safe place. And now this happens,” he says, while holding the stroller in a park in Novojavorivsk in which the youngest of his children sleeps, who is eight months old. The other two are eight and 13 years old. “My husband woke up to the noise and saw the sky turn white from the light from the explosions. Some friends who live in a housing estate just a kilometer from the base told us that their windows were shaking.” If the situation worsens, the family considers crossing to Poland and from there going to Spain, where they have friends in Valencia. The closest border post with Poland is Korczowa, half an hour away by car. This morning dozens of people in small orderly groups crossed into the neighboring country leaving baby strollers, walkers for the elderly and heavier luggage at the customs gates.

“This is a new terrorist attack against peace and security near the border between the European Union and NATO. Measures must be taken to stop this,” the Ukrainian Defense Minister said in his message this morning. More action was also requested this afternoon by the mayor of Novojavorivsk, with a face marked by fatigue, at the gates of the hospital. “I want to tell European leaders not to be afraid of Putin. They close the air space. I have a feeling they are very afraid of him. We are going to beat Putin and you are going to be embarrassed when we do it without your help,” he said, echoing the Kiev government’s request for a measure that NATO refuses to adopt due to the risks it would entail of turning the conflict into a total war in Europe.