Lviv, a city in western Ukraine hitherto spared from Russian assaults, shaken by powerful explosions

According to the city’s mayor, Andriy Sadovyi, one of the strikes hit a fuel storage facility, setting it on fire, and a subsequent strike caused “significant damage” to the city’s infrastructure.

Three powerful explosions were heard in the center of the city earlier, and plumes of thick black smoke could be seen rising in the distance. Air raid sirens sounded before the explosions. Maksym Kozytsky, the head of the Lviv regional military administration, later reported on his Telegram account three more explosions following the strike on the fuel depot, saying: “The air alarm remains.”

Lviv is a strategic Ukrainian city close to the Polish border that was largely spared the relentless bombardment seen across much of the country during the Russian invasion. It was a surprise attack, coming just a day after the Russian military declared the first phase of the conflict over and turned its attention to the disputed eastern parts of Ukraine.

The attack took place while US President Joe Biden was in Poland on Saturday, where he met with his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, as well as Ukrainian officials and refugees. Biden then gave a speech outside the Royal Castle in Warsaw, the Polish capital, in which he forcefully declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot stay in power”.

The White House then said Biden was not calling for regime change: “The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to wield power over his neighbors or the region,” an official said. White House.

Earlier in the speech, Biden told the people of Ukraine, “We’re with you. Period.” Biden was briefed on the Lviv strike before leaving his hotel for his speech, according to a White House official.

“Now, in the eternal struggle for democracy and freedom, Ukraine and its people are on the front line, fighting to save their nation, and their courageous resistance is part of a larger fight for…democratic principles essentials that unite all free people,” Biden said.

Sadovyi said on Twitter on Saturday that Russian troops attacked the town but did not provide detailed details. He urged residents to stay in shelters.

An industrial facility in Lviv used for fuel storage was set on fire following one of the Russian strikes, according to Sadovyi.

“As a result of the bombardments, one of the industrial installations burnt down. It’s a fuel storage,” the mayor said. He did not say if that was the cause of the smoke.

The mayor added that “the habitable infrastructure was not harmed”.

Sadovyi later confirmed that another strike hit Lviv, causing “significant damage” to the city’s infrastructure. Residential buildings were not damaged, he added.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday that bus convoys attempting to evacuate civilians were being stopped and held up by Russian forces, as part of what they claimed was a pressure campaign aimed at forcing some residents to to go to Russia.

In a statement, Oleksandr Starukh, the head of the Zaporizhzhia regional administration, said an evacuation convoy of more than 50 buses driving from the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia was held up overnight at a Russian checkpoint at Vasylivka, about 35 miles south of Zaporijzhia. Starukh said the convoy included two ambulances carrying three children in need of urgent medical attention.

Saturday’s strikes were not the first strikes on Lviv. Several Russian missiles hit an aircraft repair plant there on March 18. Work at the facility had stopped before the strikes and no casualties were reported.

Saturday’s attacks come after a senior Russian general claimed on Friday that the “first stage” of Russia’s military plan had been completed, with their main objective now centered on eastern Ukraine.

It was unclear whether the statement implied a move to the goal posts for the Russian military or simply represented a change in public messaging.

“In general, the main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been completed,” Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy, the first deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, told a briefing. “The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been significantly reduced, which allows us, I emphasize again, to focus the main efforts on achieving the main goal – the liberation of Donbass.”

After days of Western leaders displaying their united front against Russia, Saturday’s strikes could be seen as a response by Putin and his military to Biden and the West.

The Russian military has claimed it is not targeting civilians or residential areas, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

CNN’s Chandler Thornton, Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.


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