Russia has stepped up airstrikes on Ukraine even as Kyiv’s continued plea with the US and NATO to declare a no-fly zone over the war-torn country has not yielded any positive results.
The Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant in Lviv, just over 40 miles from the Polish border, was hit by Russian missiles on March 18. This facility handled repair work of Ukraine’s MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets, among other things. Ukraine has extensively deployed the Soviet-era jets in its resistance against Russian invasion.
This was the first hit inside Lviv, a major transshipment point for the various types of foreign aid entering Ukraine. It lies very close to the border with Poland, which represents the easternmost flank of NATO.
Last week, Russia escalated its offensive in Western Ukraine, shooting missiles near Lviv and striking a big military facility near the Polish border, purportedly killing scores of people and bringing the fight closer to NATO’s boundaries. The incident happened after the Kremlin had threatened to block Western arms supplies to Ukraine.
“Several missiles hit the aircraft repair facility. Its buildings were destroyed by the strikes. Active work at the plant had been stopped in time, so as of yet, there are no casualties,” said Mayor Andriy Sadovyi of Ukraine.
A satellite image of the results of the missile strikes on the #Lviv Aviation Repair Factory in western #Ukraine.#Russia #Ukraine #Russia_Ukraine #RussianUkrainianWar #RussianUkraineWar #RussiaUkraine #UkraineRussianWar #UkraineRussia pic.twitter.com/8yL2hzsQ3w
— خالد اسكيف (@khalediskef) March 18, 2022
Air raid sirens sounded throughout the city minutes before the attack. At daybreak, a column of smoke could be seen rising above the airport.
Russia fired six cruise missiles at the complex, two of which were intercepted by Ukrainian air defense, according to authorities.
“The missiles, which were fired from the Black Sea area, were partially shot down. But four of them hit the aircraft repair plant,” said Maksym Kozytskyy, the head of Lviv’s military administration.
Lviv State Airplane Repair Plant is described as Ukraine’s “leading aircraft maintenance company” on an outdated version of its website. The facility, which is run by the state-owned defense business Ukroboronprom, primarily serviced MiG-29 fighter jets.
The strike occurred just over 4 miles from Lviv’s city center, making it the war’s closest approach to the western metropolis. The facility is located on the outskirts of Lviv’s Danylo Halytskyi International Airport.
Poland’s MiG-29 Offer
Last week, the Pentagon rejected Poland’s surprise statement that it would hand over its MiG-29 fighter jets to a US airbase for use by Ukraine.
“The intelligence community has assessed that the transfer of MiG-29s may be mistaken as escalatory and could result in significant Russian reaction that might increase the prospects of a military escalation with NATO,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. “Therefore, we also assess the MiG-29s to Ukraine to be high-risk.”
Ukraine, which struggles with a huge gap in its air power as compared to the invading Russian Air Force, has sought help from NATO. The Ukrainian fighters are already familiar with the Soviet-era MiG-29s, which made the Polish aircraft, a natural choice.
Earlier, a video purportedly showing a dogfight between two fighter jets over Ukraine’s capital Kyiv had made quite a stir. A Ukrainian MiG-29 could be seen battling a Russian Su-35 near the city in the video, according to unconfirmed sources.
Attack Focused On Western Ukraine
Russian forces have recently launched a number of strikes on targets in western Ukraine. Ukraine claims that missiles are being fired from the Black Sea, where Russian activity has been noticed of late. This could be a precursor to a potential operation targeting Ukraine’s shoreline, including the vital port city of Odessa, known as the ‘Pearl of the Black Sea’.
#BREAKING: #Russia has mined the recommended routes from the Bosphorus to #Odesa saying it was #Ukraine's mines.
This warning is intended to prevent maritime traffic of commercial vessels in the #BlackSea. It needs the immediate deployment of the @NATO Permanent Mine Action Group pic.twitter.com/JW8AOwWaFT
— EMPR.MEDIA (@EuromaidanPR) March 19, 2022
President Zelensky had earlier warned that Russian troops were planning to bomb Odesa. Ukraine’s military radio reconnaissance centers were damaged near the port city, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
Furthermore, any cruise missiles fired from the Black Sea at Lviv would have had to take a detour to avoid flying through Moldovan airspace, argues The Drive.
Whatever the case may be, the Russian military would want to strike key military infrastructure such as the Lviv State Aircraft Repair Plant. It also opposes NATO aid to Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently announced that Moscow “will not allow” the transfer of the S-300 air defense system to Ukraine.
⚡️Russia threatens to attack potential supply chains of S-300 air defense systems to Ukraine.
Following Slovakia’s statement that it is ready to send the systems to Ukraine if they are immediately replaced, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow “will not allow” the transfer.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 18, 2022
A week earlier, a separate Russian missile strike on the western Ukrainian city of Lutsk targeted a different plant tasked with repairing the RD-33 jet engines that power the country’s MiG-29 fighter jets. This indicates that Russia is focused on denying the opportunity to assert air superiority and air defense to Ukraine.
Russian forces are now said to be deep within Mariupol, a major southern port city on the Sea of Azov, north of the Black Sea that has been under siege for weeks. Reports have suggested that Ukraine has temporarily lost access to the Sea of Azov.
Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed a large pro-war rally in Moscow where he praised the Russian unity and exuded confidence in his military’s ability to win the war. The rally was organized to mark the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
However, the invading forces have not been able to take the capital yet. Russian forces have attempted to encircle and cut off the capital, but huge territories around Kyiv, particularly in the south, remain under Ukrainian control.
Putin’s forces have now focused their fighting on other regions. They are engaged in street fightings in Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine; have struck the facility near Lviv in western Ukraine; and remain positioned off the coast of Odesa in the Black Sea region for further strikes.