The attacks came as a surprise and were a clear indication of the escalation of Russian troops in a city that had been largely spared heavy shelling during the month-long invasion. Although Russian advances in the war have apparently slowed, the events of the day have once again proven how close the war is to engulfing NATO countries or world powers in a catastrophic nuclear scenario.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council, reiterated in an interview with state media on Saturday that Russia could use nuclear weapons in the event of an attack threatening the nation’s existence. Medvedev outlined the different scenarios in which Russia would use its nuclear weapons, saying it “demonstrates our determination to defend our country’s independence and sovereignty.”
Lviv has become something of a western capital for the country, with many diplomats and others fleeing kyiv and heavily besieged cities in the east of the country. The city is widely regarded as a center of Ukrainian nationalism and culture, and its official founding dates back more than seven centuries.
Saturday’s bombings sent nervous Lviv residents rushing underground. Maksym Kozytskyy, governor of Lviv and head of the regional army, said an oil depot and a factory were hit in residential areas of the city, 80 km from the border with Poland. Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said hours later that there had been “significant damage” to “infrastructure” but no residences had been affected.
The strikes in Lviv came a day after Russia claimed it had ended its first phase of the conflict, saying it was focusing its attention on disputed territories in eastern Ukraine. Pentagon intelligence also said Russia halted ground operations targeting kyiv, focusing instead on attacking the eastern Donbass region.
But others have refuted these suggestions. Russia is likely to continue to use ‘heavy firepower on urban areas’ in its bombardment of key Ukrainian cities including Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol, the UK Defense Ministry warned saturday in one information update. The ministry said the Russian military was seeking to “limit its own already considerable losses” and would rely on siege tactics that further endanger civilian lives.
The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based military think tank, also warned that Moscow was misrepresenting its planned operations. The institute said in a statement on Friday that Russian forces had not stopped fighting in other parts of the country and were “carrying out operations and committing war crimes”. The institute believes that the Kremlin is still aiming to seize the Ukrainian capital, kyiv, and other major cities, and that any absence of significant Russian offensive operations likely reflects military shortcomings rather than a change in goals. of war.
The Lviv attack appears to prove the institute’s warning, given that the western city is close to the Ukraine-Poland border. It came just hours before President Biden delivered a strong condemnation of Russian Vladimir Putin during a speech in Warsaw – 250 miles from Lviv.
“I think with these strikes the attacker wants to say hello to President Biden who is in Poland,” Sadovyi told reporters after the attack. “I think the world needs to understand, it needs to be clear to everyone, that the threat is very, very serious.”
Separately, Russian forces entered Slavutych, a town of about 25,000 people that serves as a residential community for workers at the nearby Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and seized a hospital there, according to the governor of the Chernobyl region. Kyiv, Oleksandr Pavlyuk.
In Warsaw, Biden wrapped up a three-day visit to cement relations with European allies by delivering what aides said was a “meaningful speech” on the importance of democracy over autocracy.
Biden has warned Russia against moving “a single inch” of territory belonging to North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies. On Friday, the president met with the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, which is stationed in the area of Poland’s Rzeszow airport. They serve alongside Polish forces to reinforce NATO’s frontline defenses.
Putin’s actions, Biden said, had an unexpected effect for the Russian leader: They brought NATO allies closer together.
“Russia’s brutal tactics have strengthened resolve,” Biden said. “Rather than tearing NATO apart, the West is now stronger and more united than it has ever been.”
“In fact, Russia managed to bring about something that I’m sure he never intended,” Biden added. “The world’s democracies are revitalized with purpose and unity found in months that took us years to accomplish.”
The most startling comments came at the end of his 27-minute speech, when Biden said Putin “can’t stay in power,” an off-the-cuff remark. A White House official later clarified that the president was not talking about “regime change”, but rather asserting that “Putin cannot be allowed to wield power over his neighbors or the region”.
After his speech, the White House said Biden spoke with Belarusian Democratic opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who attended his speech in Warsaw. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been beholden to Putin since disputed elections in Belarus in 2020, when street protests nearly ousted him from power before Putin promised to send Russian forces to quell the unrest if needed. Lukashenko launched a massive crackdown, beating and jailing hundreds of opposition figures and activists, and hung on without Putin’s help.
The Belarusian opposition, led by Tsikhanouskaya, has called for limiting Lukashenko’s powers and encouraged Belarusians to protest the war against Ukraine.
Biden kissed a woman in what appeared to be an emotional conversation and picked up a little girl with pigtails to take a selfie with her. Biden, wearing a suit, no tie and a Beau Biden Foundation cap, also spoke briefly with U.S. chef José Andrés, whose charity — the World Central Kitchen — feeds refugees in the Stadium.
As he left the stadium on Saturday, Biden told reporters he met refugees from Mariupol, a city in southern Ukraine that was heavily shelled by Russian forces, and said he was still surprised by “the depth and strength of the human spirit”.
Asked what the stoppage made him think of Putin, Biden called the Russian leader a “butcher.”
Earlier in the day, Biden held his first meeting with high-level officials since the war began. He participated for 40 minutes in a summit that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov had with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Marriott Hotel in Warsaw.
The President reiterated US support for Ukraine, including in the form of historic levels of humanitarian assistance. He also received updates on the country’s progress on the military, diplomatic and humanitarian fronts. Biden and Ukrainian officials also discussed efforts by the United States and its allies to impose sanctions on Putin for Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
So far, Ukrainian officials have been unhappy with the level of engagement of the United States and NATO allies in responding to aggression, and its leadership has not been afraid to say so.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continued to press his global campaign to isolate Russia. On Saturday, he called on oil and natural gas exporters to increase production to help “stabilize the situation in Europe” and prevent Russia from using its energy resources as “political blackmail”.
Europe is heavily dependent on Russian fossil fuel exports, which account for around 40% of the European Union’s natural gas supplies and more than a quarter of its oil.
In video remarks, Zelensky compared conditions in Mariupol to “what we all saw in Aleppo” – a reference to the northern Syrian city, once the country’s largest, which has been relentlessly bombarded by Syrian and Russian warplanes during the civil war in Syria. Russia has been accused of committing war crimes in Aleppo and Mariupol for indiscriminately beating civilians and hospitals, among other allegations.
Zelensky made the comments as part of a video statement to Qatar’s Doha Forum, an annual political summit held in the oil-rich Persian Gulf country. The United States banned imports of Russian oil and natural gas on March 8. European Union officials have said they aim to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds by the end of the year and end the bloc’s reliance permanently by the end of the decade. . To do this, they plan to accelerate renewable energy initiatives already underway.
Tyler Pager in Warsaw; Robyn Dixon in Riga, Latvia; Marisa Iati in Washington; and Kim Bellware in Chicago contributed to this report.