Airstrikes ordered by Russian president, Vladimir Putin hit the city of Lviv, just 70km close to NATO-member Poland, in the west of Ukraine in the early hours of Friday morning, March 18.
Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv, said two Russian missiles launched from the Black Sea – likely by warships – had destroyed an aircraft repair facility and a bus garage close to the airport, while also revealing that four incoming missiles were shot down.
Since the war started, Lviv has largely been spared the devastation wreaked by Russia on cities further to the east and south of Ukraine but the city is now being attacked by Russia in an attempt to weaken Ukraine’s defences and terrorise civilians.
As Russia’s invasion enters its third week with heavy losses for Moscow, the US has now warned that Putin will increasingly resort to nuclear threats in order to keep the West out of the conflict because he will no longer be able to rely on the strength of his conventional forces – which will be weakened in the fighting.
Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress on Thursday:
‘As this war and its consequences slowly weaken Russian conventional strength, Russia likely will increasingly rely on its nuclear deterrent to signal the West and project strength to its internal and external audiences.’
While Berrier specified that the nuclear threats will be directed at the West, he also warned that Russia appears determined to increase its attacks on Ukraine as well – with the aim of forcing Kyiv to sign a peace deal favourable to Moscow rather than accept an embarrassing compromise.
‘Despite greater than anticipated resistance from Ukraine and relatively high losses in the initial phases of the conflict, Moscow appears determined to press forward by using more lethal capabilities until the Ukrainian government is willing to come to terms favorable to Moscow,’ he said.
According to Pentagon estimates, Russia has now fired over 1,000 missiles at Ukrainian targets since the war began three weeks ago.
The fighting has led more than 3 million people to flee Ukraine, the U.N. estimates. The death toll remains unknown, though Ukraine has said thousands of civilians have died.