Missiles break the calm of Lviv and an opera

A safe haven offering passage for people seeking to enter or exit Ukraine, the city of Lviv was shaken from its lull on Saturday afternoon as at least five Russian missiles struck just east of the city , injuring five people.

The first of the blasts hit around 4.45pm, minutes after a public opera performance outside the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater in Lviv and featuring a singer from Kharkiv – the city that has been the target of the Russian invasion – was cut. short by overhead sirens.

The reaction has been quiet, with the city mostly spared the violence, now treating these sirens as false alarms. But then came the explosion. Even as some people moved towards the shelters, others gathered, shouting “Glory to Ukraine”.

At the Ukrainian Media Center, housed in the top two floors of a three-storey bar by the government, the excitement on Saturday was about the lifting of the alcohol ban, which has been in place in Lviv since the start of the war. The muffled detonations in rapid succession in the evening caused a surprise. The severity of the attack only hit when a plume of dark smoke rose above the buildings to the east and continued to hang there for hours, visible from all over the city.

There was speculation as to whether a telecommunications tower or an oil depot had been hit, both located just 2km from the bar.

With more missile strikes later in the evening, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi tweeted: “We are awaiting information from the military administration. Please do not share photos/videos. Stay in the shelters.

The head of the military administration of the Lviv region, Maksym Kozytsky, confirmed the missile attacks. On his official Telegram channel, he posted: “Reports that there was an impact on a residential building or other infrastructure have not been confirmed. According to preliminary data, five people were injured. He also said the threat of a missile strike was still present, asking people to stay indoors or in shelters.

There was no word on the type of missiles used or the actual targets.

But there was no doubt as to the significance of the explosions, being the closest the Russians had come to attacking Lviv. They reported that Moscow was not averse to hitting high-value targets in the city – despite its location so close to NATO borders and despite the number of foreign journalists stationed there to cover the war.

At 70 km, Lviv is far further from the Polish border than the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, also known as the Yavoriv military base, which was attacked by Russian missiles on March 13. But given the importance of the city, the missile strikes on Saturday marked the march of the war in western Ukraine.

Russia also appeared to be sending a signal further west, with the attacks coming just before US President Joe Biden delivered a speech in Poland.

The latest strike near Lviv came on March 18, when missiles hit the airport just outside the city and targeted an aircraft repair factory, with no casualties.

With war finally upon us, however, the people of Lviv seemed resigned and stoic. Only a few sought the safety of the shelters, the others quickly resumed what they were doing, ignoring the first responders rushing to the spot.

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