KRAKOW, Poland — Russia attacked a key military base just outside the once-safe city of Lviv in western Ukraine on Sunday, killing at least 35 and wounding more than 100 others as the Biden administration faced mounting pressure to intervene more forcefully on behalf of the embattled Ukrainians.
The apparent shooting death of an American journalist at the hands of Russian troops outside Kyiv added more fuel to the growing chorus of critics who say the U.S. can and must help facilitate the transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine, enforce a no-fly zone and take other steps to repel the invasion. Administration officials again rejected those calls, saying the Kremlin would interpret them as an American escalation, potentially paving the way for a devastating global war involving nuclear weapons.
Still, it seems increasingly clear that the current level of Western help likely won’t hold off Russian advances in Ukraine. Although Moscow’s invasion has moved more slowly than initially thought, Russian troops are making gains in the south and are inching closer to Kyiv.
Ukrainian officials pleaded with the U.S. again on Sunday to implement and enforce a no-fly zone over the country to deprive Russia of its air power advantage. They also pleaded for aircraft, more anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft weapons, and a host of other military hardware that they said could help turn the tide against the Russian invaders.
“It’s very hard to accept that the sky over Ukraine wouldn’t be closed. I think that this is a big problem for Ukraine, for Ukrainians. And we are not feeling alone and we are not accusing anybody. We can understand the threats coming from the Russian Federation as a huge nuclear power. But from the other side, we [are] still waiting for the weapons, for the aircraft, for the anti-air systems to protect Ukrainians from the air,” Markian Lubkivskyi, a top adviser to the Ukrainian defense minister, told ABC’s “This Week.”
“Our army is very good on the ground. A lot of Russians died already, and they are killed as aggressors on Ukrainian land. But, please, help us with the weapons, help us with the systems,” Mr. Lubkivskyi said. “We will survive. We will protect ourselves, but, please, I’m asking on behalf of the ministry, all other partners, including United States, United Kingdom, we are very grateful for your support. We understand all things related to the threats as I mentioned, but please be brave.”
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The West suffered its own casualties on Sunday. American journalist and filmmaker Brent Renaud was reportedly killed by Russian troops in Irpin, just outside Kyiv. U.S. officials condemned the shooting, which also wounded at least one other journalist.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called the death of Mr. Renaud, a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker, “one more example of the brutality” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin appears hellbent on capturing all of Ukraine and driving Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from power no matter how many civilians are killed or how many Ukrainians are driven from their homes in the process.
As the horror unfolded in Ukraine, Pope Francis directly addressed Mr. Putin on Sunday. He pleaded for an end to a war that is entering its third week.
At the conclusion of the Angelus prayers, the pontiff implored Mr. Putin, “In the name of God, I ask you: stop this massacre.”
Francis noted the devastation wreaked by Russian forces in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, named for the Virgin Mary, to whom his congregation had just petitioned in the Angelus prayers.
A new front
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Mariupol is under siege by Russian troops, with widespread reports of no electricity or water.
Now, Russia’s assault has expanded to the far western reaches of Ukraine.
The strike Sunday on the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv, less than 15 miles from the Polish border, adds another front to the war and more incentive for the West to ramp up its assistance. The facility sits about 36 miles from Lviv, a city once considered a safe haven from the invasion. The site is a major depot for Ukrainian military weapons and equipment.
Military instructors from the U.S. and other NATO countries have used the center in Yavoriv to train Ukrainian military personnel. The U.S. withdrew all of its troops from Ukraine in the weeks leading up to the Russian attack.
Since the invasion, the base has reportedly been used to process and train members of Ukraine’s recently established international legion of foreign fighters flocking to the war.
Given its proximity to the border with Poland, the assault on Yavoriv is sure to further exacerbate tensions between Russia and NATO. The Western alliance has vowed to defend every inch of its land from any Russian military aggression.
Biden administration officials have vowed to fight Russia if it moves into NATO territory. Still, Mr. Sullivan again rejected efforts to move combat aircraft into Ukraine and doubled down on the administration’s decision last week to scuttle a Polish plan to move planes to Ukraine via U.S. military bases in Germany.
“Our focus is on anti-air systems as well as other forms of assistance,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Right now, we are not looking at the provision of the fighter jets in question to Ukraine. We are looking at other methods of getting the Ukrainian defenders advanced capabilities to be able to blunt the Russian advance and protect Ukrainian towns and cities.”
Officials also again rejected the idea of a no-fly zone, again saying it could provoke a much bigger war.
“‘No-fly zone’ has a nice air policing sound to it, but I participated in one as a young officer on an aircraft carrier way back in the early ’90s. It is combat. You have to be willing to shoot and to be shot at,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told ABC News. “President Biden has made it clear that U.S. troops are not going to be fighting in Ukraine, and there’s a good reason for that because the United States getting involved in combat in Ukraine right now or over the skies of Ukraine right now leads to war with Russia. And there’s very little that you can see that would make sense for this war to be escalated between two nuclear powers.”
Republican critics say the U.S. is missing a golden opportunity to help the Ukrainians. They reject the notion that Washington needs to worry so much about escalation because Mr. Putin ratchets up the conflict daily.
“I don’t understand why this is any worse, from a Russian point of view, than other things we’ve already done or that we’re talking about,” Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, told CNN, referring to the provision of fighter aircraft to Ukraine.
“To me, Vladimir Putin seems to be saying everything is escalatory and yet they are escalating every single day by coming into Ukraine” with more military assets and new weapons, Mr. Portman said.
• Ben Wolfgang reported from Washington. Mark A. Kellner contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.
• Joseph Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at email@example.com.
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