Almost three weeks after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, its forces are expanding their offensive to the west of the country. Here are five important developments from this weekend.
Russian missiles kill dozens at military training center near Polish border
At least 35 people were killed and 134 injured in a Russian missile strike on the Yavoriv military training base in western Ukraine early Sunday local time, Ukrainian authorities said.
The base is located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Lviv and less than 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from the Polish border. It’s home to the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, which hosts training exercises with Western military personnel.
On Sunday, Russia said up to 180 foreign mercenaries were killed by the strikes, but Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesperson Markiyan Lubkivsky told CNN the claims were “pure Russian propaganda.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said there had been “some damage” to the facility, but the Pentagon was “still assessing and talking to the Ukrainians” about the extent of it.
No American service members were at the training facility because they had all left weeks earlier, Kirby told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
The strikes show increased Russian focus on the west of the country, he added. “This is the third… facility or airfield that the Russians have struck in western Ukraine in just the last couple of days, so clearly, at least from an airstrike perspective, they’re broadening their target sets,” Kirby said.
Explosions in Kyiv as Russian forces inch closer
At least two people died and three more were hospitalized after a residential building in Obolon, a suburb of the capital, Kyiv, was hit by shelling early on Monday morning, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said.
Several heavy explosions also reverberated across Kyiv at 11 a.m. local time (5 a.m. ET) Monday.
They appear to have been caused by Ukrainian air-defense batteries aiming at either Russian aircraft or cruise missiles. Trails of smoke heading into the sky could be seen from central Kyiv.
On Saturday, the UK Ministry of Defence said the bulk of Russian ground forces were now only 15.5 miles (25 kilometers) from the center of the Ukrainian capital.
Thousands dead in Mariupol as conditions grow even worse
More than 2,500 people have been killed by the Russian bombardment of the southern city of Mariupol, according to Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, and the humanitarian situation continues to worsen.
“The Russians are just wiping the city out,” Arestovych said on Monday.
A shipment of humanitarian supplies has been unable to reach the city due to heavy shelling, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said on Sunday.
“The city of Mariupol was subjected to shelling and aerial bombardment all day long,” Vereshchuk said. “The humanitarian cargo remained blocked in the city of Berdyansk halfway to the occupied city.”
On Sunday morning, a Mariupol resident recorded a video diary revealing the desperate situation for civilians. The footage, posted on Twitter, shows looted shops and people trying to cook outdoors in sub-zero temperatures.
“There’s no humanitarian aid and will not be. The evacuation of peaceful people is impossible,” the resident said.
“People are in a devastating situation. Water, food are coming to an end, people are forced to break into shops, in search for necessities.”
Mass protests in occupied Kherson and accusations of treason in Melitopol
The strategic city of Kherson in southern Ukraine has been occupied by Russian forces since March 3, but on Sunday hundreds of people took to the streets to protest the occupation.
In recent days, at least one Kherson regional council official warned that occupation forces were laying the groundwork for a “Kherson People’s Republic.”
City mayor Ihor Kolykhaiev said the demonstration was “a peaceful protest to show that the citizens’ position is that Kherson is Ukraine.”
Russian forces have been accused of abducting local Ukrainian officials in two other cities.
On Friday, the mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, was seen on video being led away from a government building in the city by armed men.
A short time later, the Russian-backed Luhansk regional prosecutor claimed that Fedorov had committed terrorism offenses and was under investigation.
Galina Danilchenko was installed as the new mayor of the city, but Ukraine’s prosecutor general has opened an investigation after a group of Melitopol City Council members issued a written statement on Sunday accusing her of “the high crime of treason, for attempting to set up an occupying government in Melitopol.”
Separately, Yevhen Matveyev, the mayor of Dniprorudne in Zaporizhzhia region, was abducted by Russian troops on Sunday, according to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba.
US-China talks scheduled after Moscow reportedly asks Beijing for military support in Ukraine
Russia has asked China for military support, including drones, as well as economic assistance for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, according to conversations CNN had with two US officials.
Potential assistance from the Chinese would be a significant development. It could upend the hold Ukrainian forces still have in the country, and provide a counterweight to the hefty Western sanctions imposed on Russia’s economy.
When asked by CNN about the reporting of Russia’s request for military aid, Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the US, said in a statement: “I’ve never heard of that.” The Russian embassy in the US did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
US and Chinese officials will meet in Rome on Monday for talks that experts say could have far-reaching consequences not only for the war in Ukraine, but for China’s role in the world and its relationship with the West.
The meeting, between China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, comes as concerns grow in the West that Beijing is not only siding with Russia by not condemning its aggression in Ukraine, but could take further steps to aid its strategic partner.
CNN’s Tim Lister, Alex Stambaugh, Andrew Carey, Mick Krever, Paul P. Murphy, Julia Kesa, Emmet Lyons, Mariya Knight, Josh Pennington, Jonny Hallam, Simone McCarthy, Jim Sciutto, Sam Fossum, Kaitlan Collins and Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.