Russia Strikes Closer to NATO’s Front Door

Novoyavorivsk, Ukrain—Just after 3 in the morning on Sunday, air-raid sirens rang out over this bucolic town in the far west of Ukraine. Residents hustled downstairs into bomb shelters, listening for the telltale sounds of munitions. This was the third night of sirens in the Lvivska Region—the Ukrainian air defenses sound the alarm if there is even the possibility of a strike happening nearby—after a period of five days without alarms. People in Novoyavorivsk felt secure.

Then, shortly after 5:30 in the morning, residents started to hear explosions. Eight missiles slammed into a military base where, until early March, British troops had been involved in joint training programs with Ukrainian forces. In recent weeks, foreign fighters joining Ukraine’s foreign legion were based there. More than 20,000 foreigners, including a number from the United States, have joined the Ukrainian Foreign Legion. Up to 1,000 foreign fighters were staying at the base, according to The New York Times. Preliminary reports put the number of dead at anywhere between nine and 39. Some 57 were said to be wounded. It was unclear Sunday morning if foreign fighters had been killed in the strike.

Halfway into the third week of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the attack on the base near Novoyavorivsk—just 12 miles from the Polish border—is the closest strike on NATO territory since the beginning of the conflict. It occurred near the city of Lviv, which is a transit point for hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the Russian advance, and a base for foreign foreign missions and diplomats. In Poland, anti-Russian sentiment is running high, and any perceived attack on Polish forces or territory risks drawing NATO into a wider war with Russia.

The strike came a day after Moscow’s foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, warned the United States on Russia’s Channel One not to transfer weapons to Ukraine, and said that convoys with weapons for Ukraine could be targeted. He did not specify whether such strikes would take place only on Ukrainian soil. According to the Ukrainian government, some 38 missiles were fired at Novoyavorivsk from across the Belarussian border, and eight breached Ukraine’s air defenses. Two days ago, Russian missiles struck outside the nearby cities of Lutsk and Ivanofrankivsk. Though Belarus has not officially declared its role in the war, the European Union has said it considers Minsk to be a party to the conflict and has sanctioned Belarussian figures.

The giant base that was struck is known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Center. At 390 square kilometers (approximately 150 square miles), it is one of the largest such facilities in the region; The base can host almost 1,800 soldiers, but the Ukrainian government hasn’t disclosed how many troops were there at the time of the explosions.

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