Russian missiles slam into oil depot in Ukraine’s western city of Lviv, injuring five

Smoke rises in the air in Lviv, western Ukraine, March 26, 2022.Nariman El-Mofty/The Associated Press

Four Russian missiles slammed into a pair of residential areas around Lviv on Saturday, injuring five people, according to local authorities, and blowing out the windows of a school.

The strikes, at an oil depot and a disused military factory, were among the most damaging yet to hit the city in western Ukraine, which has largely been spared the assaults Moscow’s forces have carried out in other Ukrainian cities since the Russian invasion began last month .

While the explosions were happening, US President Joe Biden was telling a crowd in neighboring Poland that Russia had “strangled democracy.”

“My message to the people of Ukraine … we stand with you, period,” Mr. Biden said in a speech in Warsaw. “Hungary in 1956, Poland in 1956 and then again in 1981, Czechoslovakia in 1968 – Soviet tanks crushed democratic uprisings but the resistance continued until finally, in 1989, the Berlin Wall and all the walls of Soviet domination, they fell and the people prevailed .”

Mr. Biden closed his remarks by saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.”

The first attack on Lviv came at around 4:30 pm local time, just before Mr. Biden spoke. Two missiles hit the oil storage facility, causing a large fire and sending black smoke billowing into the sky. Maksym Kozytskyy, head of the Lviv Military Administration, said there had been no deaths, but that five people had been injured. He did not say if any residential buildings had been struck.

A few hours later, as Mr. Biden was speaking, two more rockets hit the military factory, in the Sikhiv area of ​​Lviv. Officials said the facility was no longer in use. There were no reported deaths or injuries from the bombing, but reverberations from the impact damaged the windows of a school, according to Lviv’s mayor, Andriy Sadovyi.

Patrons of the Grill on Castle restaurant watch smoke rise from the site of a Russian rocket strike on a local oil depot in Lviv on Saturday.Anton Skyba/The Globe and Mail

“I think the aggressor wanted to say ‘hello’ to President Biden,” Mr. Sadovyi added during a news conference on Saturday. He said all of the rockets had been launched from Russia’s base in Sevastopol, in Crimea, which is 1,300 kilometers away.

Mr. Sadovyi made a plea to Western countries to send Ukraine more anti-missile weapons systems. “The whole world must realize that the threat is extremely serious,” he said. “The sooner we get quality weapons and missile defense systems, the safer our citizens will be in our cities and the faster our victory will come.”

Saturday’s attacks rattled many residents in Lviv.

Roman Nechyporuk, who owns the Grill on the Castle, located just up a hill from the oil depot, said he was looking out one of the restaurant’s windows when the rockets hit and shook the building. “You can’t even describe the moment,” he said. “It just happened in a second.”

Mr. Nechyporuk said he had started coming to the restaurant more often, to boost morale and keep up the spirits of employees. Saturday’s attack, he added, had clearly shaken up his staff.

Ira Belia, who manages the restaurant, said the missiles sounded like heavy plates hitting the floor. Her first instinct was to help patrons and people from a nearby park take shelter in the building’s basement. Once she got everyone safely downstairs, her hands started to shake. “It’s the first time this has happened so close to here,” she said.

Mr. Nechyporuk was also worried about the proximity of the attack and what lies ahead. “It’s the first time the war got so much closer,” he said. “For us, this is the closest, today, to the war.”

With reports from Reuters and The Associated Press

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