Russian strikes hit Lviv as Vladimir Putin makes only ‘minimal progress’

British armed forces minister James Heappey said Moscow had failed to take Ukrainian territory for ‘a week or so’.

18 March 2022

Russia expanded its missile strikes to Lviv in the west of Ukraine as British intelligence suggested Vladimir Putin’s invasion had made only “minimal progress” this week.

Armed forces minister James Heappey said on Friday the early-morning attack on the city that has swelled with people sheltering from elsewhere in Ukraine showed Russia was broadening its strikes.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said several missiles hit a facility for repairing military planes near the city’s international airport and also damaged a bus repair site.

Shelling around the capital of Kyiv also continued as the number of refugees estimated to have fled exceeded 3.4 million.

In other developments:

– Ofcom revoked Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT’s UK licence with immediate effect after the regulator said it was not “fit and proper”.

– Russia was accused of “dirty tricks” after two Cabinet ministers including Defence Secretary Ben Wallace were targeted with hoax calls from an impostor posing as Ukraine’s prime minister.

– More than 150,000 people have registered interest in the UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme to house Ukrainian refugees.

Mr Heappey said indiscriminate shelling on cities were “very probably” war crimes and said the Russian President bears the ultimate “culpability” for atrocities.

“The areas of Ukrainian territory that have been taken by the Russians haven’t changed for a week or so. The Russians are way behind in their plan; they are failing to achieve their military objectives and that may be some cause for optimism,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“But what that doesn’t show is that in the cities that are besieged, Mariupol, most concerningly, but Kharkiv, Sumy and others as well there is just this incredible weight of artillery fire being used indiscriminately to flatten those cities irrespective of who is beneath the shells as they fall.”

No causalities were immediately reported in the strikes on Lviv, which has had its population swelled by some 200,000 people seeking refuge from attacks across Ukraine.

Mr Heappey said that “it’s very much a part of war that you would go after each others’ supply lines but clearly the airstrike on an airbase in western Ukraine last week and strikes on to Lviv airport last night show that the Russians are start going after Ukrainian depth as well”.

An intelligence update from the Ministry of Defence said that Ukrainian forces were continuing to “frustrate” Moscow’s attempt to encircle cities despite heavy shelling.

“Russian forces have made minimal progress this week,” it added.

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