Russian bombing in Ukraine continued this Friday with two disturbing developments. Kremlin forces have extended their attacks to the vicinity of two towns in the west of the country, located very close to the borders with two member states of the EU and NATO, Poland and Romania. At the gates of the Lutsk base —87 kilometers from Poland—, which was attacked at dawn, the alarms sounded again after noon this Friday. Groups of soldiers ran to take cover from the possibility of a new offensive. Meanwhile, relatives of the base workers and a dozen international journalists waited outside, as their way was blocked. In addition, the 16th day of war brought another novelty: the Russian government has announced the readiness of some 16,000 people from the Middle East to fight alongside President Vladimir Putin’s troops.
Mijailo Podoliak, the main advisor to the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelenzki, has confirmed on his social networks the offensive against Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, located 153 kilometers from the border with Romania. In the first of these cities, the objective has been, according to the Ukrainian authorities, the aerodrome and a nearby factory, where two soldiers have died and six have been injured. The Russian Ministry of Defense, quoted by the official TASS agency, has later confirmed what it has defined as “precision attacks” against two “air bases” in those locations.
“Four missiles have been fired at the military airfield in Lutsk from a Russian Army bomber, according to our data. Unfortunately there are loss of human lives. Two soldiers have died and six have suffered injuries of varying severity. The rubble is being removed, ”said the head of the Regional Military Administration of that area, Yuriy Pohulyayko, in his Telegram account. The mayor of Lutsk, Igor Polischuk, asked the inhabitants to quickly go to the shelters after these first explosions near the airfield: “Everyone to the shelter!” He said in a message spread by Facebook. The councilor then asked the neighbors not to publish photos or addresses or reveal coordinates so as not to give clues to the Russian military.
The attack on Lutsk, in the northwest of the country, was followed shortly after by the one that hit another city not far away and also in western Ukraine, Ivano-Frankivsk, some 250 kilometers to the south, near the border with Romania, where up to “three powerful explosions” were recorded, said President Zelenski’s adviser.
When 16 days have passed since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin forces in turn attacked another urban center that had not been bombed until this Friday: Dnipro, in the center-east of the country. The shells have hit near a kindergarten, a block of flats and a shoe factory, where they have caused a fire, according to the Ukrainian Emergency Service. One person has died in this attack, according to the service.
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Meanwhile, Moscow threatens that its forces could use more than 16,000 fighters from the Middle East in the war. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has assured that he plans this reinforcement shortly after President Putin approved the recruitment of foreigners at a meeting of his Security Council.
“The Ministry of Defense has a network that works directly with the population of Syria and other countries,” said the president’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, who made it clear that this recruitment does not include Russian citizens, despite the fact that the Kremlin assures that this is an operation for the protection of the Slavic world in Ukraine.
“Sergei Kuzhugetovich [Shoigú] He spoke mainly of volunteers from the Middle East, Syria and others. Our citizens were not talked about,” Peskov stressed. “This has not been discussed and I don’t know anything about this,” he added after being asked if Russian volunteers would fight in Ukraine.
Russian soldiers participated in the 2014 and 2015 war in Donbas who, according to the Kremlin, had broken their contracts to go to the front as volunteers. On the other hand, units with experience in the Syrian war are fighting in the current conflict, such as Razmán Kadírov’s Chechen brigades, whose work focused on counterinsurgency and surveillance of the opposition. Likewise, the wars of the past decade in the Middle East have also fired the mercenaries of the Russian contractor Wagner, linked to the businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, also known as Putin’s chef.
While the attacks progressively spread to the west and south of the country, towns under siege for days, such as Kharkov, Ukraine’s second largest city, continue to be under “incessant bombardment”, according to the mayor of this eastern city. In a televised interview, Mayor Ihor Terekhov denounced that the destruction caused by the Russian bombs has ended, among other facilities, with 48 schools in the city. Ukraine has also accused Moscow on Friday of having attacked a psychiatric hospital in Izium, located in the same region of the former Soviet republic. The governor of Kharkov, Oleh Synegubov, specified that the center housed 330 people when it was attacked and defined the bombing as “a war crime against the civilian population; a genocide against the Ukrainian nation,” he wrote on his Telegram channel. This official also raised to 89 the bombings against residential neighborhoods of the city during the last day.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24, Kremlin forces have attacked no fewer than 20 hospitals and health centers. The bombing of the psychiatric hospital came just two days after Russia attacked a mother and child hospital in the southern city of Mariupol, on the coast of the Sea of Azov, in which a girl died and at least 17 people were injured. The United States has classified this attack as a war crime. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits attacking civilians during wars, granting special protection to health centers, especially if they are pediatric and maternity hospitals, as is the case of that Ukrainian city that will soon celebrate ten days of a siege that the Red Cross has described as “apocalyptic”.
The bombing of the Mariupol hospital also took place when Ukraine and Russia had agreed to respect a humanitarian corridor that would allow the civilian population to leave the city, an initiative that has been frustrated on several occasions in that town since last Saturday.
For the seventh consecutive day, Russia announced this Friday a new ceasefire in Mariupol, where, according to the few testimonies available from its inhabitants, the worst human crisis in Ukraine is taking place, with 200,000 of its around half a million inhabitants trapped without food, water, heating or electricity, and under constant Russian bombardment, for more than a week. Zelensky reported the death of a six-year-old girl from dehydration on Monday, while residents and human rights organizations have described scenes of people drinking water from puddles on the ground. Images released by the city hall show the burial of corpses in mass graves due to the impossibility of burying the dead in another way.
The Ukrainian authorities have said this Friday that they will try again to organize an evacuation of the city: “We hope it will work today,” said the deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk. In the 16 days that the offensive lasts, at least 2.5 million Ukrainians have taken refuge from the war in neighboring countries, according to the latest figure updated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
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