A pre-dawn missile attack on a military training base in northwestern Ukraine on Sunday morning killed at least nine people, officials said, bringing war dangerously close to NATO forces positioned in just a dozen kilometers from the Polish border and widening the war as Russia seeks to stem the flow of weapons to Ukraine.
Eight missiles were fired at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, according to the Ukrainian military and local officials. Air defense systems intercepted some, but several blocked the base, a key logistics hub and training center for foreign fighters. Colonel Anton Myronovych, spokesman for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said at least nine people had been killed and 57 injured, but reports were still coming in. A paramedic from an emergency hospital in Lviv, about 35 miles away, said 300 people injured in the attack had arrived for treatment.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov called the strikes “a terrorist attack against peace and security near the EU-NATO border” and repeated his government’s calls for allies to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
The base, also known as the Yavoriv military complex, is a vital link in the pipeline to deliver weapons from NATO allies to Ukraine. Russia warned on Saturday that weapons sent to Ukraine would be considered “legitimate targets” for Russian forces. Only hours later, the United States defied Moscow by promising an additional $200 million in weapons and equipment for Ukraine.
Before the war, the base was used by NATO in its efforts to train the Ukrainian army.
Soldiers from the United States, Britain, Canada, Poland, Latvia and many other allies worked at the base, where foreign fighters who volunteered to fight are now organized and trained. The Ukrainian government estimates that some 20,000 people from around the world have signed up to join the fledgling International Legion. That includes several thousand Americans, according to officials familiar with the Legion but not authorized to speak publicly.
It was not known how many Americans were at the base during the attack. An American who volunteered to fight, reached by phone after the strikes, said the facility was bombed and he could not speak.
One of the damaged buildings was located in a section where U.S., Canadian and foreign military instructors had slept before the war, according to Staff Sergeant Jonathan Norris, who served as a U.S. Army broadcast journalist covering the multinational training at the base.
Colonel Myronovych, spokesman for the Ukrainian army, said in an interview with the New York Times on March 11 that “up to a thousand foreigners” were being trained at the base.
The most skilled and well-prepared foreigners have already been deployed to the front line and they are attached to units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” he said.
Austin Ramzy, Benjamin Fouley, Valerie Hopkins and Andriana Zmysla contributed reporting.