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Rockets Hit Near Lviv In Western Ukraine As Biden Wraps Up Visit To Poland By Meeting Refugees

By RFE/RL March 26, 2022

Several rockets struck the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on March 26, injuring five people and setting a fire at an oil storage facility in a city that served as a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of displaced Ukrainians since Russia launched its invasion just over a month ago.

The rockets struck on the same day that U.S. President Joe Biden wrapped up a visit to neighboring Poland with a speech in which he voiced strong support for Ukraine and denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The powerful explosions in Lviv frightened a city that had been largely spared since the invasion. Regional Governor Maksym Kozytskiy said on Facebook that preliminary indications were that five people had been injured in the first attack. Television images showed firefighters putting fire retardant on a large fire at a fuel depot.

Hours later Kozytskiy reported more explosions at a military factory outside the city.

"Stay in shelters! Do not go out into the streets!" he warned after the first strike.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said in a televised briefing that Russia had fired the rockets from Sevastopol in Crimea, which it illegally annexed in 2014.

"With today's blows, the aggressor sends greetings to President Biden, who is in Poland," Sadoviy said.

Earlier on March 26, Biden mingled with refugees and humanitarian aid workers in Warsaw. Television images showed him hugging children and speaking with people at a makeshift kitchen.

"I visited Ukrainian refugees who fled to Poland this afternoon. You don't need to speak the same language to feel the roller coaster of emotions in their eyes," Biden tweeted.

Nearly 4 million people have fled Ukraine since the war began, and 2 million of them are in Poland.

Biden was asked what he thought of Putin after meeting refugees in the Polish capital and responded: "He's a butcher."

A Kremlin spokesman said the comment diminishes the prospects for mending ties between the two countries, according to TASS.

Biden also told reporters that he is "not sure" Russia has shifted strategies when asked about the Russian military's announcement on March 25 indicating that it had.

Moscow said that its focus had shifted to Ukraine's eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, commonly known as the Donbas. Parts of the region came under the control of Russia-backed separatists after Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

The deputy chief of the Russian armed forces' General Staff, Sergei Rudskoi, announced the shift, saying the main objectives of the first stage of the operation had generally been accomplished. Rudskoi added that this would allow Russian forces to focus on "the main goal, liberation of the Donbas."

The attacks on Lviv and fighting in the cities of Mariupol in the southeast and Chernihiv in the north contradicted Rudskoi's comments.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said the situation in the encircled city remained critical, with street fighting taking place in the center.

The Russian Army is shelling civilian and military sites from the air and with artillery, the Ukrainian General Staff said on March 26. The city has been devastated by weeks of Russian fire.

The mayor of Chernihiv said 44 severely wounded people, including three children, could not be evacuated to safer areas for treatment since the city had been cut off by Russian forces.

Speaking on national television, Chernihiv Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko said the situation was particularly critical for the wounded people, who need emergency treatment.

The city near the Belarusian border has been effectively surrounded, local authorities said, warning that it had become impossible to evacuate civilians or bring in humanitarian aid because of the damage to infrastructure.

Russian troops have "completely devastated" the city, Atroshenko said on March 26, adding that more than 200 civilians had been killed in the past few weeks.

About half of the city's prewar population of 285,000 remains in the city, he said.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, CNN, and TASS

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-biden-speech- russia-eastern-regions/31771584.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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