Explosions have rocked the Ukrainian city of Lviv, near the airport, as civilian casualties continue to grow. WARNING: Graphic.
Russian forces struck an area around Lviv’s airport in western Ukraine, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said, as grey smoke streamed across the sky and ambulances and police vehicles raced to the scene.
Writing on messaging app Telegram, Mr Sadovyi said he could not give a precise address of the targeted area “but it’s definitely not an airport.”
A thick pall of grey smoke streamed across clear blue sky over Lviv’s airport in western Ukraine at 7.30am Friday local time, an AFP reporter saw.
Armed checkpoints turned motorists back from roads leading to the airport, and a local told AFP he had heard a blast earlier Friday.
According to Ukraine’s military an aircraft repair plant was struck by cruise missiles launched directly from the Black Sea.
The type of the missile was likely Kh-555, the military said, which are launched from heavy strategic bombers.
Similar missiles struck the Yavoriv military base in western Ukraine on Sunday.
Lviv is the largest city in western Ukraine and a popular tourist destination known for its picturesque views.
Located 70km from the border with Poland, it has largely escaped military strikes from Russian forces in the past.
BIDEN TO SEND ‘CLEAR’ MESSAGE TO CHINA
US President Joe Biden will warn his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Friday that he will face “costs” if Beijing rescues fellow authoritarian ally Russia from intense Western sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The two leaders’ 9am (midnight AEDT) scheduled phone call, their first since a video summit in November, will be a chance to air differences as the United States spearheads an unprecedented pressure campaign on Russia, placing China in a geopolitical bind.
It’s “an opportunity for President Biden to assess where President Xi stands,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
Trade rows and snarled international supply chains will be discussed, according to Ms Psaki, but a big focus is expected to be the Western bid to force Russia from Ukraine, where Mr Putin’s invasion is in its fourth week.
President Biden has successfully marshaled a tight Western alliance against Russia, while giving military support to Ukrainian forces.
But Beijing has refused to condemn Moscow, and Washington fears the Chinese could switch to full financial and even military support for Russia, transforming an already explosive transatlantic standoff into a global dispute.
Not only could Beijing potentially help Russia weather crippling pressure on its banks and currency, but Western governments would then face the painful decision of whether or not to impose sanctions against China, likely prompting turmoil on world markets.
The White House was tight-lipped on whether Mr Biden will threaten China with sanctions during his call, but some sort of response is on the table.
Mr Biden “will make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia’s aggression and we will not hesitate to impose costs,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
He hoped China would use “whatever leverage they have to compel Moscow to end this war,” the top US diplomat said.
“Instead, it appears that China is moving in the opposite direction,” Mr Blinken said, adding he was “concerned that they’re considering directly assisting Russia with military assistance.”
CIVILIAN CASUALTIES GROW; THEATRE BOMBING SURVIVORS
It comes as the number of civilian casualties in Ukraine continues to rise and is fuelling accusations Russia is committing war crimes.
Three weeks into Vladimir Putin’s devastating invasion, the latest civilian targets include a school and a cultural centre in the town of Merefa, that left 21 people dead, authorities said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said despite worldwide outrage and crippling sanctions, there were no signs Mr Putin “is prepared to stop.”
“Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime. After all the destruction of the past few weeks, I find it difficult to conclude that the Russians are doing otherwise,” he said, following warnings from the G7 that those behind such crimes “will be held responsible.”
Russia’s onslaught on Mariupol has been particularly horrific – 2000 people are thought to have died, with 80 per cent of its housing destroyed and 100 bombings occurring each day.
In rare good news, 130 survivors were pulled from the rubble of a drama theatre with no deaths reported as its bomb shelter appeared to have withstood Russia’s targeted strike.
RUSSIA ACCUSED OF ‘PRETENDING’ TO NEGOTIATE
Russia is speaking about a ceasefire and peace in one room but in another is plotting to expand the battlefield with more foreign fighters, more artillery and even possibly another country.
The United States was the first to warn of a potential ruse in hopes Mr Putin would accept any proposal being negotiated with Ukraine, other than a surrender, given how much standing he and his nation had already lost.
But now the French, normally the epitome of diplomacy and double speak, has called it and accused Russia of just “pretending” as it looked to continue its “brutal strategy” of conquest.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there was only one urgent matter, a ceasefire, but Mr Putin had no real interest in that.
“Unfortunately we’re still facing the same Russian logic – making maximalist demands, wanting Ukraine to surrender and intensifying siege warfare,” Mr Le Drian said.
He said his indiscriminate bombing showed he was pretending to negotiate.
Certainly that appears to be the case with Ukraine military intelligence noting 40,000 Syrians were set to come to join the war for Russia, 300 a day to be collected from Syria in Russian military aircraft. The first flight full had already arrived.
In Bosnia too, Russia’s ambassador Igor Kalabukhov let slip Russia could invade their nation if they continued to purse NATO membership
He said there were no plans as such already drawn up but “we will respond having analysed the strategic and geopolitical situation”.
“If (Bosnia and Herzegovina) decides to be a member of any alliance, that is an internal matter. Our response is a different matter, Ukraine’s example shows what we expect. Should there be any threat, we will respond,” he said.
Originally published as Russia Ukraine war: Explosions near Lviv’s airport