Russia strikes military base near Polish border as it steps up its offensive

35 have been killed and and 134 others wounded.

In Summary

• Despite the violence, both sides said they thought progress could be made at bilateral talks that have been held periodically since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

• A Russian delegate to talks with Ukraine, Leonid Slutsky, was quoted by RIA news agency as saying they had made significant progress and it was possible the delegations could soon reach draft agreements. 

Ukrainian servicemen carry a dead body on stretcher as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin outside Kyiv, Ukraine, March 12, 2022. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Ukrainian servicemen carry a dead body on stretcher as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in the town of Irpin outside Kyiv, Ukraine, March 12, 2022. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Russian missiles hit a large Ukrainian base near the border with NATO member Poland on Sunday, killing 35 people and wounding 134 a local official said, in an escalation of the war to the west of the country as intense fighting was reported elsewhere.

Residents of the capital Kyiv woke again to the sound of air raid sirens and city authorities said they were stockpiling two weeks worth of essential food items for the 2 million people who have not yet fled from Russian forces attempting to encircle the city.

Ukraine also reported renewed air strikes on an airport in the west, heavy shelling on Chernihiv northeast of the capital and attacks on the southern town of Mykolayiv, where officials said nine people had been killed.

An American journalist was shot and killed by Russian forces in the town of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, and another journalist was wounded, the regional police chief said. 

Despite the violence, both sides said they thought progress could be made at bilateral talks that have been held periodically since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, although they gave no details of what might be agreed.

"Russia is already beginning to talk constructively," Ukrainian negotiator and presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in a video posted online. "I think that we will achieve some results literally in a matter of days."

A Russian delegate to talks with Ukraine, Leonid Slutsky, was quoted by RIA news agency as saying they had made significant progress and it was possible the delegations could soon reach draft agreements.

Neither side said what these would cover. Three rounds of talks between the two sides in Belarus, most recently last Monday, had focused mainly on humanitarian issues.

AIR STRIKE CLOSE TO POLISH BORDER

The attack on the Yavoriv International Centre for Peacekeeping and Security, a base just 15 miles (25 km) from the Polish border that has previously hosted NATO military instructors, came a day after Russia's deputy foreign minister warned convoys of Western arms shipments to Ukraine could be considered legitimate targets.

Regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said Russian planes fired around 30 rockets at the facility, adding that some were intercepted before they hit. At least 35 people were killed and 134 wounded, he said. Reuters was not able to verify his statement.

The 360-square km (140-square mile) facility is one of Ukraine's biggest and is the largest in the western part of the country.

Nineteen ambulances with sirens on were seen by Reuters driving from the direction of the Yavoriv base and black smoke rose from the area.

Britain said the incident marked a "significant escalation" of the conflict. U.S. President Joe Biden has said NATO would defend every inch of its territory if Russia's invasion spills over into member states of the Western defence alliance.

The Kremlin did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the reported missile strike so close to the border with NATO, and a short video briefing by Russia's defence ministry spokesman on Sunday made no mention of such an attack.

While Western nations have sought to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin by imposing harsh sanctions, the United States and its allies are concerned to avoid NATO being drawn into the conflict. "There are no NATO personnel in Ukraine," the NATO official said, when asked if any NATO personnel were at the base.

Ukraine, whose aspirations to join NATO are a major irritant to Putin, held most of its drills with countries in the Western defence alliance at the base before the invasion. The last major exercises were in September.

In the weeks before Russia invaded, the Ukrainian military trained there, but according to Ukrainian media, all foreign instructors left the training ground in mid-February, while leaving all the equipment.

'VIOLENT AND INHUMAN'

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sent more than 2.5 million people fleeing across borders and trapped hundreds of thousands in besieged cities.

"It is terrifying how violent and inhuman it is," Olga, a refugee from Kyiv, told Reuters after crossing into Romania.

Ukraine's human rights monitor said Russia used phosphorous bombs in an overnight attack on the town of Popasna in the eastern Luhansk region, calling it a "war crime". She shared a photograph purporting to show the alleged attack, but did not say if Ukraine had concrete evidence. Reuters could not immediately verify any of the reports.

In eastern Ukraine, Russian troops were trying to surround Ukrainian forces as they advance from the port of Mariupol in the south and the second city Kharkiv in the north, the British Defence Ministry said.

The city council in Mariupol said in a statement that 2,187 residents had been killed since the start of the invasion. Reuters was not able to verify that toll.

Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, has suffered some of the heaviest bombardment. Videos from one resident, Teimur Aliev, who is helping bring aid to residents, show bombed buildings lining streets, burned out cars riddled with shrapnel holes and debris strewn around.

"We will stitch up the wounds and the pain of our country and our city. We are ready to build it and we are ready to renew it when the war is over. We're not going anywhere," Aliev, a 23-year-old musician, said of his food distribution network, which now has dozens of volunteers.

British intelligence also said Russian forces advancing from Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, were trying to circumvent Mykolayiv as they look to drive west towards Odesa. Air strikes on Mykolayiv killed nine people on Sunday, regional Governor Vitaliy Kim said online.

In Chernihiv, around 150 km (100 miles) northeast of Kyiv, firefighters rescued residents from a burning building after heavy shelling, video from Ukraine's emergency service and verified by Reuters showed.

Ukraine accused Russian forces on Saturday of killing seven civilians, including one child, in an attack on women and children trying to flee fighting near Kyiv.

Reuters was unable immediately to verify the report and Russia offered no immediate comment.

Moscow denies targeting civilians. It blames Ukraine for failed attempts to evacuate civilians from encircled cities, an accusation Ukraine and its Western allies strongly reject.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday nearly 125,000 people had been evacuated via "humanitarian corridors" agreed with Russia.

The Kremlin describes its actions as a "special operation" to demilitarise and "deNazify" Ukraine. Ukraine and Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice.