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Russia has escalated attacks in western Ukraine with a deadly airstrike on a military base where its troops had trained with NATO forces, bringing the conflict closer to Poland and other members of the bloc.
The Ukrainians said that at least 35 people were killed and 134 wounded when over 30 cruise missiles were fired at the Yavoriv military range, just 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the Polish border. No further information on the casualties was immediately available. A day earlier, a senior Russian diplomat said Moscow had warned the United States that it considered foreign shipments of military equipment to Ukraine “legitimate targets.”
The U.S. issued a swift warning Sunday, with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” saying Russia will face a response from NATO should any of its attacks in Ukraine cross borders and hit members of the security alliance – even by accident.
The strike comes a day after Russia bombarded cities across Ukraine, pounding Mariupol and the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv. From Vatican City, Pope Francis on Sunday decried the “barbarianism” of the killing of children and other defenseless Ukrainians and called a stop to the attacks “before cities are reduced to cemeteries.”
“In the name of God, I ask: ‘Stop this massacre,’” Francis told about 25,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his customary Sunday noon appearance.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to create new “pseudo-republics” to break his country apart. He called on Ukraine’s regions not to repeat the experience of two eastern areas where pro-Russian separatists began fighting Ukrainian forces in 2014.
As Russian units fanned out to prepare for an assault on Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, Zelenskyy said Russia would need to carpet-bomb the city and kill its residents to take it.
Now in its third week, the war has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee Ukraine.
Here are some key things to know about the conflict:
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN BESIEGED MARIUPOL?
Russian shelling of this Ukrainian port city of 430,000 has been relentless, and the mayor’s office says more than 1,500 have died since the siege began. Russian forces hammered the city’s downtown on Saturday as residents hid.
In some of his strongest denunciations yet of the war, Francis said the southern Ukrainian city bearing the name the Virgin Mary has “become a city martyred by the heartbreaking war that is devastating Ukraine.”
Repeated attempts to bring food to Mariupol and evacuate civilians have been canceled due to ongoing Russian fire. The unceasing shelling has even interrupted efforts to bury the dead in mass graves.
On Saturday, a Ukrainian official said Russian soldiers blocked a humanitarian convoy headed for Mariupol and stole from another. Doctors Without Borders said some residents are dying for lack of medication, with the city without drinking water or medicine for over a week now. The aid group says people are resorting to boiling water from the ground or extracted from heating pipes.
Ukraine’s military said Russian forces captured Mariupol’s eastern outskirts.
WHAT HAS THE AP DIRECTLY WITNESSED OR CONFIRMED?
An Associated Press journalist witnessed tanks firing on a 9-story apartment block in Mariupol and was with a group of medical workers who came under sniper fire on Friday. Conditions at a local hospital there were deteriorating, electricity was reserved for operating tables and the hallways were lined with people with nowhere else to go.
Anastasiya Erashova wept and trembled as she held a sleeping child. Shelling had just killed her other child as well as her brother’s child. “No one was able to save them,” she said.
In Irpin, on the northwest outskirts of Kyiv, bodies laid in the open in a park and on a street Saturday. Residents said they had no information about what or where was safe as shooting echoed.
Some residents huddled in a pitch-dark basement for shelter, unsure where they could go and how they would get food if they left. Others were on the move, toting luggage across planks to get over a waterway where a bridge had been damaged. Armed men carried one older man on a stretcher.
Sergiy Stakhovsky, a recently retired professional tennis player from Ukraine, said he left his wife and three young children at home in Hungary to return to Ukraine and fight. He told The Associated Press that he would never have imagined to be in his home city with a gun in his hands.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING ELSEWHERE ON THE GROUND IN UKRAINE?
The training base hit in Yavoriv appears to be the most westward target struck so far in the 18-day invasion. The facility, also known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, has long been used to train Ukrainian military personnel, often with instructors from the United States and other NATO countries.
The base has also hosted international NATO drills. As such, the site symbolizes what has long been a Russian complaint: That the NATO alliance of 30 member countries is moving ever closer to Russia’s borders. Russian has demanded that Ukraine drop its ambitions to join NATO.
Russian airstrikes also again hit the airport in Ivano-Frankivsk, another city in western Ukraine south of Lviv and 250 kilometers away from Ukraine’s border with NATO members Slovakia and Hungary. The city’s Mayor Ruslan Martsinkiv, who reported the strikes on the airport on Sunday, said Russia’s goal was “to sow panic and fear.”
Meanwhile, in multiple areas around Kyiv, heavy artillery fire sent residents scurrying for shelter as air raid sirens wailed. An ammunition depot outside the city was shelled overnight, sending billowing black smoke into the sky, according to video provided by emergency workers.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russian ground forces that had been north of Kyiv for most of the war had edged to within 25 kilometers (15 miles) of the city center and spread out, likely to support an attempted encirclement.
In the northeast, Russian forces were blockading Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, even as efforts have been made to create new humanitarian corridors around it and other urban centers.
THE MOST VULNERABLE
Ukraine’s chief prosecutor’s office says at least 85 children have been killed since the invasion began on Feb. 24, and over 100 wounded. At least 2.5 million people have fled the country, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
About 60 child cancer patients from Ukraine boarded a medical train Saturday in Medyka, Poland, bound for hospitals in Warsaw and elsewhere. Medical workers carried some of the children in their arms, on stretchers and pushed them in wheelchairs at the train station near the Ukrainian border.
Dominik Daszuta, an anesthesiologist from Warsaw Hospital, said the train has transported 120 children with cancer so far.
Ukraine’s defense ministry said Saturday that Russian forces shelled a convoy of refugees fleeing Peremoha, a village about 20 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of Kyiv, killing seven people including a child.
The seven were among hundreds of people who tried to flee Peremoha. An unknown number of people were wounded, the report added.
Moscow has said it would establish humanitarian corridors out of conflict zones, but Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of disrupting those paths and firing on civilians.