Russia destroys aircraft repair plant near western city of Lviv

Three loud explosions were heard early on Friday, before a thick plume of black smoke rose above Lviv. Photo Courtesy: Reuters

(BBC): Russian missiles have hit an aircraft repair plant near Lviv in western Ukraine, a city that has become a safe haven for people fleeing the war.

Emergency vehicles raced to the site of the strike, just 6km (four miles) from the city centre, after three loud explosions were heard early on Friday.

No-one was injured in the attack.

It is the closest the conflict has come to Lviv, a key humanitarian supply route and a hub for hundreds of thousands of people who have fled.

Western Ukraine has so far been quieter than the rest of the country. Russia launched its invasion on three fronts – from the north, east and south – leaving cities such as Lviv relatively unscathed.

But there are signs that may be changing, after Friday’s strike and a deadly missile attack on a military training base outside the city on Sunday.

“There have been air raid alarms here every morning, but now the strikes are actually landing,” Valentin Vovchenko, 82, told the AFP news agency from Lviv. “We fled Kyiv because of the attacks but now they’ve started to hit here.”

The city’s mayor, Andriy Sadovy, confirmed that the military aircraft maintenance facility had been destroyed by cruise missiles.

The facility, which was not in operation at the time, is only a short distance from the Danylo Halytskyi International Airport. Mr Sadovy, however, said the airport itself had not been hit.

Ukraine’s air force said six cruise missiles had been fired in total from the Black Sea. Two of them were destroyed by anti-aircraft missiles.

“The Russians are going for the infrastructure that is keeping Ukrainian aircraft in the air,” Prof Michael Clarke, the former director of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank, told the BBC.

Lviv is just 80km from Poland, a country that has taken in more than two million Ukrainians who are seeking refuge from a conflict that has destroyed homes and upended lives.

Prof Clarke said that, given the facility’s proximity to the Polish border, the strike could be seen as “an attempt to frighten the West out of helping Ukrainians as much as they have been”.