Russian invasion of Ukraine updates: Kyiv readies for 'relentless defence'

Russian invasion of Ukraine updates: Kyiv readies for 'relentless defence'
21 min read
The New Arab is providing live updates of the latest on the ground and additional analysis on the conflict's significance. 
Ukraine continues to resist Russia's brutal invasion [ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty-file photo]

Ukraine prepared today for a "relentless defence" of Kyiv as the capital faced possible encirclement by Russian forces who also launched an airstrike on a military base outside the city of Lviv, near the Polish border.

In a video address posted on social media late on Saturday night, President Volodymyr Zelensky was adamant that the Russians would not take Ukraine.

"The Russian invaders cannot conquer us. They do not have such strength. They do not have such spirit. They are holding only on violence. Only on terror. Only on weapons, which they have a lot," he said.

Local officials said Russian forces had fired eight missiles at a military training ground about 25 miles (40 kilometres) northeast of Lviv, which is a hub for joint exercises between Ukrainian soldiers and NATO allies.

The head of the Lviv regional administration, Maxim Kozitsky, said there was no information yet on casualties.

The New Arab is providing live updates of the latest on the ground and additional analysis on the conflict's significance. 

Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram for more updates. 

6:00 PM
The New Arab Staff

The New Arab concludes its live coverage of the latest updates from the Russian invasion of Ukraine for Sunday. 

Here were today's key developments: 

35 dead near Polish border

Thirty-five people die and more than 130 are injured when Russian troops launch air strikes on a military training ground outside Ukraine's western city of Lviv, near the border with Poland, local officials say.

Mykolaiv strike

Nine people are killed in a strike on the southern city of Mykolaiv, the regional governor says. The city lies on the road to the port city of Odessa, around 100 kilometres (62 miles) away.

Russia encircling Kyiv

Russian forces advance ever closer to the capital from the north, west and northeast. Russian strikes also destroy an airport in the town of Vasylkiv, south of the city.

Only roads to the south remain open and Kyiv is preparing to mount a "relentless defence", according to the Ukrainian president's office.

US journalist killed

A US journalist is shot dead and another wounded in Irpin, a frontline northwest suburb of Kyiv, medics and witnesses say. Papers found on the American reporter's body identified him as 50-year-old video documentary shooter Brent Renaud, of New York.

Mariupol aid convoy blocked

A convoy of aid heading for the besieged southern port of Mariupol, where residents have been trapped without running water and power for close to two weeks, is blocked at a Russian checkpoint.

Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says it hopes to arrive today. The mayor says more than 1,500 civilians have been killed in the city.

Join us tomorrow for more on the latest news and analysis on Russia's war on Ukraine.

Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram for more.

5:18 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia says it attacked Ukraine training facility, killed up to 180

Russia has said it had attacked the Yavoriv training facility in western Ukraine, adding the strike had killed "up to 180 foreign mercenaries" and destroyed a large amount of weapons supplied by outside nations.

Defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov told a briefing that Russia would continue its attacks against what he called foreign mercenaries.

Ukrainian regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said 35 people were killed and 134 wounded in the attack.

Konashenkov said Russia had used high precision long range weapons to strike Yavoriv and a separate facility in the village of Starichi. He said both bases were being used to train foreign mercenaries and store weapons.

"As a result of the strike, up to 180 foreign mercenaries and a large amount of foreign weapons were destroyed," he said.

4:44 PM
The New Arab Staff

Power restored to Ukraine's Chernobyl plant, seized by Russian forces: Kyiv

Electricity supply has been restored at Ukraine's retired Chernobyl nuclear power plant that was seized by Russian forces in the first days of the invasion, energy officials in Kyiv has said.

"Today, thanks to the incredible efforts of (Ukrainian energy) specialists, our nuclear power engineers and electricians managed to return the power supply to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which was seized by the Russian occupiers," Ukraine's Energy Minister German Galushchenko said in a statement.

"Our Ukrainian energy engineers, by risking their own health and lives, were able to avert the risk of a possible nuclear catastrophe that threatened the whole of Europe," he added.

Power had been cut to the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster, though the UN's atomic watchdog said there was "no critical impact to safety".

Chernobyl [Getty]
4:37 PM
The New Arab Staff

More than 140,000 civilians evacuated from Ukraine front lines, deputy PM says

More than 140,000 civilians have been evacuated from conflict zones in Ukraine, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in an interview on national television on Sunday.

Vereshchuk said a humanitarian convoy once again failed to reach the besieged port city of Mariupol, due to Russian shelling.

"The column has stayed in (the Russian-occupied city of) Berdiansk, and will tomorrow again attempt to reach Mariupol,” she said.

Ukrainian refugees [Getty]
4:10 PM
The New Arab Staff

Second Ukraine mayor abducted by Russian troops

A Ukraine mayor was abducted by invading Russian forces today, the second such kidnapping in days, bringing strong condemnation from the European Union.

"The army of the Russian Federation captured the mayor of the city of Dniprorudne," in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast region of southeast Ukraine, the regional administration head Oleksandr Starukh said on Facebook.

On Friday the mayor of southern Ukraine's Melitopol was kidnapped by Russian soldiers occupying the city, because "he refused to cooperate with the enemy", according to the Ukraine parliament.

"The EU strongly condemns the kidnapping of the mayors of Melitopol and Dniprorudne by Russian armed forces," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a post on Twitter.

"It is yet another attack on democratic institutions in Ukraine and an attempt to establish illegitimate alternative government structures in a sovereign country," he added.

European Council President Charles Michel also condemned "in the strongest terms Russia's indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Ukraine as well as Russia's kidnapping of the mayors of Melitopol and Dniprorudne and other Ukrainians. "These kidnappings and other pressure on Ukrainian local authorities constitute another flagrant violation of international law," he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Saturday on the leaders of France and Germany to help secure the release of the mayor of Melitopol.

"During the night and today we are talking to our partners about the situation with our mayor. Our demand is clear: he must be released immediately... I have already phoned (German) Chancellor Olaf Scholz. I have spoken to (French) President Emmanuel Macron... I will speak to all the necessary people to get our people released," Zelensky said in a video released by the Ukrainian presidency.

3:54 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Qatar foreign minister calls on all parties to 'exercise restraint' in call with Ukraine counterpart

Qatar's foreign minister called on all parties to "exercise restraint" and to avoid further escalation over Ukraine in a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, a Qatari foreign ministry statement said on Sunday.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told Ukraine's Dmytro Kuleba that Qatar urged "all parties to exercise restraint, resolve disputes through constructive dialogue and diplomatic methods, and to settle international disputes by peaceful means," the statement said.

(Reuters)

Qatar's FM spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart [ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty-archive]
3:18 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russian bloggers bid tearful farewell to Instagram

Russians were relishing their final moments scrolling through Instagram today, while bloggers and small businesses that rely heavily on the platform scrambled to lure followers elsewhere online.

Moscow announced this week that access to the social network would cease, accusing Instagram's parent company Meta of turning a blind eye to calls for violence against Russians.

In a farewell post, reality TV star Olga Buzova - who has racked up the second-largest audience in Russia with 23 million followers - was in dispair and disbelief.

"Right now, I'm writing this post and crying," she wrote, annotating the text with a crying emoji. "I hope this isn't true."

Fashion blogger Karina Nigay, who meanwhile boasts nearly three million followers, was still processing the fact of the looming ban.

"I'm in a state of resentment and nowhere near a state of acceptance," she said.

The move comes as part of long-running efforts by President Vladimir Putin to rein in control of what Russians can and cannot access on the internet.

These efforts have quickened to a dizzying pace since he announced Russia's sweeping military incursion in Ukraine and as authorities work to control how the conflict is seen at home.

Russia's media regulator Roskomnadzor said this week that Instgram was being taken down for allowing posts urging violence against Russians.

But the official website Gosuslugi, which hosts government services, said Instagram would be pulled beginning March 14 citing Russians' "psychological health" and efforts to protect children from "bullying and insults".

Gosuslugi also recommended that Russians return to homegrown platforms that were abandoned as Instagram and Faceook's popularity ballooned.

Olga Buzova [Getty]
3:34 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine says its troops are counter-attacking in two regions

Ukraine’s armed forces are launching counter-attacks against Russian troops in Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region and eastern Kharkiv region, Interior Ministry official Vadym Denysenko said in an interview on national television today.

When asked about the possibility of Russian troops blockading Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Denysenko answered: "There is no blockade at the moment, and it is not foreseen for the near future."

Reuters was not able to verify the statement about the counter-attacks.

2:48 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russian default no longer 'improbable', but no trigger for global financial crisis - IMF

Russia may default on its debts in the wake of unprecedented sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, but that would not trigger a global financial crisis, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has said today.

Georgieva told CBS's "Face the Nation" program that sanctions imposed by the United States and other democracies were already having a "severe" impact on the Russian economy and would trigger a deep recession there this year.

The war and the sanctions would also have significant spillover effects on neighbouring countries that depended on Russia energy supplies, and had already resulted in a wave of refugees compared to that seen during World War Two, she said.

The sanctions were also limiting Russia's ability to access its resources and service its debts, which meant a default was no longer viewed as "improbable," Georgieva said.

Asked if such a default could trigger a financial crisis around the world, she said, "For now, no."

2:34 PM
The New Arab Staff

Bahamas orders halt to financial operations with sanctioned Russian entities

The Bahamas has ordered its financial institutions to halt all transactions with Russian entities that have been put under sanction by Western nations, the country's financial regulators said in a statement.

The government of the Caribbean nation has vocally condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but appears to remain conflicted over how aggressively it can participate sanctions efforts without damaging its relatively small economy.

Reuters has reported that oil and fuel tankers controlled by Russia's Sovcomflot had been rerouted to the Bahamas after they had been unable to deliver cargoes due to the sanctions.

"Regulated entities, that are licensed or authorised to operate from or within the Bahamas, (are directed) not to engage in transactions with sanctioned persons, entities or business linked to Russia and Belarus," reads the late on Saturday statement signed by the central bank and four other regulatory agencies.

It was not immediately evident how much Russia-linked money is held in Bahamian financial institutions.

Regulatory agencies, including the central bank, have not responded to requests for details on local banks' exposure to Russian funds.

2:06 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

American journalist killed by Russian fire: reports

A US journalist has been shot dead and another wounded today in Irpin, a frontline northwest suburb of Kyiv, medics and witnesses told AFP.

Danylo Shapovalov, a surgeon volunteering for the Ukrainian territorial defence, said one of the Americans died instantly and he had treated the other.

A third victim, a Ukrainian who had been in the same car as the Americans, was also wounded.

Ukrainian officials were quick to blame Russian forces for the shooting but the exact circumstances were unclear. AFP reporters heard small arms and artillery fire in the area.

Papers found on the American reporter's body identified him as 50-year-old video documentary shooter Brent Renaud, of New York.

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1:38 PM
The New Arab Staff

White House adviser to discuss Russia's war in Ukraine with China's top diplomat

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will meet with China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Rome on Monday to discuss Russia's war against Ukraine and its impact on regional and global security, a source familiar with the plans has said.

The meeting had been in planning for some time as part of a broader effort by Washington and Beijing to maintain open channels of communication and manage competition, but the war in Ukraine would be "a significant topic," the source said.

"This meeting is taking place in the context of Russia's unjustified and brutal war against Ukraine, and as China has aligned itself with Russia to advance their own vision of the world order, and so I expect ... the two of them will discuss the impact of Russia's war against Ukraine on regional and global security," the source said.

No specific outcomes were expected from the meeting, the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It is important for (People's Republic of China) officials to hear directly from the national security adviser his assessment of how we see the situation," the source said.

The White House [Getty]
1:26 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russian delegate says talks with Ukraine may soon produce draft agreements

A Russian delegate to talks with Ukraine was quoted today as saying they had made significant progress and it was possible the delegations could soon reach draft agreements, although he did not say what these would cover.

RIA news agency quoted Leonid Slutsky as comparing the state of the talks now with the situation when they first started, and saying there was "substantial progress".

"According to my personal expectations, this progress may grow in the coming days into a joint position of both delegations, into documents for signing," Slutsky said.

It was not clear what the scope of any such documents might be. Ukraine has said it is willing to negotiate, but not to surrender or accept any ultimatums.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday there had been some "positive shifts" in the talks, but did not elaborate. On Saturday the Kremlin said the discussions between Russian and Ukrainian officials had been continuing "in video format". 

1:09 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russians fire warning shots at protesters in seized city: report

Russian troops fired warning shots at peaceful protesters today, as thousands demonstrated in the southern city of Kherson, which was seized by the Russian army earlier this month, a local broadcaster reported.

Waving national flags and chanting "Kherson is for Ukraine" and "Glory to Ukraine", several thousand protesters gathered in a show of defiance on the central Freedom Square, the Suspilne Kherson public broadcaster reported.

At one point, troops fired several volleys, which Suspilne Kherson reported were "warning shots".

The video showed protesters shouting "Fascists" and "Go home!" in Russian.

Some wrapped themselves in Ukrainian flags, standing next to tank traps that still littered the square. On Sunday, the city marked 78 years since its liberation from the Nazis.

One protester held a hand-drawn placard saying "Kherson is Ukraine".

Protests in Kherson [Getty]
12:55 PM
The New Arab Staff

Russia says nearly half its reserves are frozen, counts on ties with China

Russia has said today that it was counting on China to help it withstand the blow to its economy from Western sanctions, which it said had frozen nearly half of its gold and foreign currency reserves.

“We have part of our gold and foreign exchange reserves in the Chinese currency, in yuan. And we see what pressure is being exerted by Western countries on China in order to limit mutual trade with China. Of course, there is pressure to limit access to those reserves," Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said.

"But I think that our partnership with China will still allow us to maintain the cooperation that we have achieved, and not only maintain, but also increase it in an environment where Western markets are closing."

12:45 PM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine human rights ombudswoman accuses Russia of using phosphorus munitions

Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman accused Russia today of using banned phosphorus munitions in an overnight attack on the town of Popasna in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region.

The ombudswoman, Liudmila Denisova, shared a photograph purporting to show the alleged attack, but did not say if Ukraine had concrete evidence.

"The bombing of a civilian city by the Russian attackers with these weapons is a war crime and a crime against humanity according to the Rome convention,” she said in an online statement.

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12:24 PM
The New Arab Staff

More than 250 detained in Ukraine protests across Russia

Russia detained more than 250 people for protesting Moscow's "military operation" in Ukraine today, as the conflict continues for a third week.

OVD-Info, which monitors arrests during protests, said police had detained 268 people during demonstrations in 23 Russian cities.

A young woman was shouting "peace to the world" as she was taken away by two policemen, the journalist saw.

Some of the riot police had the letter "Z" in the colours of the Russian flag on their helmets.

The letter, seen on Russian tanks and vehicles in Ukraine, has become a symbol of support for what Moscow calls its "special military operation".

In Russia's second city Saint Petersburg, AFP saw multiple arrests, including a protester being dragged across the ground.

The city's central Nevsky Avenue was closed off by police with a dozen police vans parked along the road.

According to AFP, several journalists were detained.

Dressed in a yellow hat and blue jacket, 20-year-old Kristina said she was "expressing her protest" by wearing the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

"It's scary to go outside, of course, they are detaining everyone. Many of my friends have been detained in the past few days, some were even expelled from university," she told AFP.

12:01 PM
The New Arab Staff

Anti-war protests across Europe, small rallies in Russia

Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather today in cities across Europe to protest against the ongoing war in Ukraine, with small rallies taking place in Russia as well despite a crackdown by authorities against such demonstrations.

Trade unions called a protest in Berlin where sunny weather was expected to boost the turnout. Organizers planned to march from the city's Alexanderplatz - a large square named after Russian Tsar Alexander I - to a site near the Brandenburg Gate.

Protests were also planned in Warsaw, London, Madrid, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Stuttgart.

In Russia, where protests against the war in Ukraine have typically met with a heavy police response, rights group OVD-Info said 135 people had been detained in 20 cities as of early afternoon Moscow time.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian nationals in Taiwan and supporters staged a march in Taipei to protest the Russian invasion.

11:44 AM
The New Arab Staff

UK's Sunak urges firms to leave Russia

British finance minister Rishi Sunak called on more British companies today to wind down their existing investments in Russia and said new investments should be halted after President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine.

"While I recognise it may be challenging to wind down existing investments, I believe there is no argument for new investment in the Russian economy," Sunak said in a video message on Twitter.

"I am urging asset owners and managers to think very carefully about any investment that would in any sense support Putin and his regime."

Several major British firms have announced they will sell or reduce their interests in Russia - such as power giants BP and Shell and investment firm Aviva - and Sunak said others doing so would have the government's backing.

"I want to make it crystal clear that if firms or investors decide that they need to end their financial relationship with Russia, then the government fully supports you," he said.

11:38 AM
The New Arab Staff

Ukraine is working with Israel and Turkey to set up talks with Russia, says negotiator

Ukraine is working with Israel and Turkey as mediators to finalise a location and framework for peace negotiations with Russia, Ukrainian presidential adviser and negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak has said today.

"When it is worked out, there will be a meeting. I think it won't take long for us to get there," he said on national television.

11:25 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

UK's PM faces new scrutiny over Russian lord

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson must answer "serious questions" over his appointment of a Russian-born newspaper baron to the House of Lords, the Labour opposition today, after new media revelations.

Longstanding speculation about Johnson's friendship with Evgeny Lebedev - whose father was a KGB officer - has revived since Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Sunday Times newspaper reported that Johnson was warned about granting a peerage to Lebedev two years ago by Britain's foreign intelligence service MI6, but he pressed ahead anyway.

The agency had flagged security concerns about the owner of London's Evening Standard newspaper as long as a decade ago, and the then head of MI6 had refused to meet him, it reported.

"In light of the further revelations today, I think the prime minister has got serious questions to answer: What did he know? And did he override security advice?" Labour leader Keir Starmer told Sky News.

Starmer has written to the commission that vets appointments to the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber of Britain's parliament, to demand an unprecedented review of Lebedev's peerage.

Johnson in 2020 reportedly overrode objections by the commission to make his friend "Baron Lebedev, of Hampton in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and of Siberia in the Russian Federation".

Their friendship dates from when Johnson became mayor of London in 2008.

Boris Johnson [Getty]
11:08 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Russian firm Gazprom says continuing gas shipments via Ukraine at same volume

Russian natural gas company Gazprom says it is continuing gas shipments via Ukraine, with volumes at 109.6 million cubic metres today, up from 109.5 million a day earlier.

(Reuters)

10:55 AM
The New Arab Staff

Sanctions have frozen around $300 bln of Russian reserves, FinMin says

Foreign sanctions have frozen around $300 billion out of $640 billion that Russia had in its gold and forex reserves, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said in an interview with state TV aired today.

Siluanov said the West was putting pressure on China to limit its trade with Russia and in order to hamper Moscow's access to the part of state reserves that Russia holds in the Chinese yuan.

"But I think that our partnership with China will still allow us to maintain the cooperation that we have achieved, and not only maintain, but also increase it in an environment where Western markets are closed," he said.

Siluanov also said Russia will fulfil its state debt obligations and will pay roubles to its debt holders until the state reserves are unfrozen, RIA state news agency reported.

9:55 AM
The New Arab Staff

Regional official says death toll from Russian airstrike on military base in western Ukraine has risen to at least 35

Waves of Russian missiles pounded a military training base close to Ukraine’s western border with NATO member Poland, killing 35 people.

More than 30 Russian cruise missiles targeted the sprawling training facility that is less than 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the closest border point with Poland, according to the governor of Ukraine's western Lviv region. 

Lviv governor Maksym Kozytskyi said most of the missiles fired today "were shot down because the air defense system worked". 

The ones that got through through killed at least 35 people and wounded 134, he said.

9:46 AM
The New Arab Staff

Russia said to strike western Ukraine as Zelenskiy warns of desolation

Russian forces launched a missile attack on a large Ukrainian military facility near the Polish border today, officials have said, in what appeared to be the westernmost attack of the war.

"The occupiers launched an air strike on the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security" in Yavoriv, the Lviv regional military administration said in a statement.

"According to preliminary data, they fired eight missiles."

Initial reports indicated "there are no dead, but information about the injured and wounded is being clarified," said Anton Mironovich, spokesman for the Academy of Land Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, according to Interfax Ukraine news agency cited.

The 360 square-km (140 square-mile) facility less than 25 km (15 miles) from the Polish border, is one Ukraine's biggest and the largest in the western part of the country. Ukraine holds most of its drills with NATO countries there.

The mayor of another city in western Ukraine, Ivano-Frankivsk, said Russian troops also continued to hit its airport, with no initial reports of casualties.

9:32 AM
The New Arab Staff

NATO chief says Russia may use chemical weapons - German paper

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said today that Russia might use chemical weapons following its invasion of Ukraine and that such a move would be a war crime, according to an interview in German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

"In recent days, we have heard absurd claims about chemical and biological weapons laboratories," Stoltenberg was quoted by Welt am Sonntag as saying, adding that the Kremlin was inventing false pretexts to justify what could not be justified.

"Now that these false claims have been made, we must remain vigilant because it is possible that Russia itself could plan chemical weapons operations under this fabrication of lies. That would be a war crime," Stoltenberg was quoted as saying.

He added that although the Ukrainian people were resisting the Russian invasion with courage, the coming days are likely to bring even greater hardship.

Jens Stoltenberg [Getty]
9:01 AM
The New Arab Staff

9 killed in Russian strike in western Ukraine

At least nine people were killed and 57 wounded when a Russian airstrike hit a military training base in western Ukraine close to the Polish border, a local official has said today.

The governor of the Lviv region, Maksym Kozytskyi, said Russian forces fired more than 30 cruise missiles at the Yavoriv military range, located 30 kilometres (19 miles) northwest of the city of Lviv and 35 kilometres (22 miles) from Ukraine’s border with Poland.

The assault brought the war closer to the border with Poland. A senior Russian diplomat has warned that Moscow considered foreign shipments of military equipment to Ukraine "legitimate targets".

The United States and NATO have regularly sent instructors to the range, also known as the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, to train Ukrainian military personnel. The facility has also hosted international NATO drills.

Russian fighters also fired at the airport in Ivano-Frankivsk, a city in western Ukraine located 250 kilometres (155.34 miles) from Ukraine’s border with Slovakia and Hungary.

8:45 AM
The New Arab Staff

Russia strikes military base outside Ukraine's Lviv

Russian troops launched multiple air strikes on a military training ground outside Ukraine's western city of Lviv, near the border with Poland, a local official said today.

Russia "launched an air strike on the International Centre for Peacekeeping and Security", head of the Lviv regional administration, Maxim Kozitsky, said on his verified Facebook page.

The military base in Yavoriv, located some 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Lviv, was a training centre for Ukrainian forces with foreign instructors, including from the United States and Canada.

It was also a hub for joint exercises of Ukrainians soldier with NATO allies.

Kozitsky added that eight missiles were fired at the military base.