Smoke rises over the western Ukrainian city of Lviv following a Russian airstrike Smoke rises over the western Ukrainian city of Lviv following a Russian airstrike  (Roman Baluk)

Russian missiles hit western Ukraine, killing several

Ukrainian officials say Russian missiles have hit the western city of Lviv, as Moscow’s troops step up strikes on infrastructure across Ukraine in preparation for an expected all-out assault on the east.

By Stefan J. Bos

Thick black smoke billowed over Ukraine’s western city of Lviv on Monday. Ukrainian authorities say Russian missiles hit Lviv, which had seen only sporadic strikes during almost two months of the war.

The explosions shattered windows and started fires, which the mayor claims killed and injured several people, including at least one child.

Witnesses reported flames and smoke rising from at least three impact sites on the outskirts of a train complex in the western part of Lviv.

The city had been a relatively safe haven for people from parts of the country where fighting had been more intense.

But Monday’s strikes underscored concern Russia would seek revenge after its prestigious Moskva warship sank following a reported Ukrainian missile strike.

The attack on Lviv came as Russia unleashed a broad series of strikes across Ukraine, hitting what Moscow said were more than 100 military targets.

Eastern offensive

It was an apparent preparation for an even more destructive offensive in the east. Russia has already unleashed further attacks in recent days on the central eastern cities of Kharkiv and Mariupol.

These cities are seen as crucial to Moscow’s attempt to consolidate control over a large part of its neighbor after its effort to take Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, was blocked.

Witnesses said Russian forces attacked civilian areas of Kharkiv for the third consecutive day, killing at least one person in an artillery strike on Monday.

On Sunday, a barrage of missiles killed five people in the eastern city, shelled incessantly by Russian forces since the war began.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, meanwhile, has vowed to “fight absolutely to the end” in the strategic city of Mariupol, which has become a symbol of resistance.

In Mariupol, the last known pocket of Ukrainian resistance in a seven-week siege was holed up in a sprawling steel plant laced with tunnels.

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Ignoring ultimatum in Mariupol

Russia has repeatedly urged forces there to lay down their arms, but those remaining ignored a surrender-or-die ultimatum on Sunday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the West not to abandon the people of Mariupol, where authorities say at least 20,000 people have died in Russian attacks.

“The situation in Mariupol remains extremely severe,” Zelensky said. “It’s just inhuman what the Russian Federation did. They deliberately continue to destroy our cities. It is deliberately trying to destroy everyone who is there in Mariupol.”

He added: “There are only two ways to influence this. Either our partners will give Ukraine all the necessary heavy weapons, planes and without exaggeration immediately or so that we can reduce the pressure from the occupiers on Mariupol and unblock it. Or a negotiating path in which the role of our partners should also be decisive.”

Russia has denied deliberately attacking civilian sites, but reporters have seen widespread destruction.

Yet despite hardships, Christians gathered even in destroyed churches, hoping and praying for peace in this war-torn land from where millions have fled.

Ukrainians, who are 85 percent Christian, saw Roman Catholics attending Easter services while the Eastern Orthodox majority celebrated Palm Sunday amid ongoing battles.

18 April 2022, 17:28