US troops will stay in Poland despite Russia’s missile attack on western Ukraine’s Yavoriv military facility, which is about 15 miles from the border of Poland, a senior Pentagon official told Stars and Stripes on Monday. The US currently has about 8,750 troops in Poland, more than half of which were deployed in recent months as tensions escalated in the region.
The Russians targeted the site over the weekend with several missiles. Ukrainian officials have said 35 people were killed in the attack, while the Russian Defense Ministry said “up to 180 foreign mercenaries” were killed.
Since Russia’s invasion started, Ukraine says thousands of foreign volunteers have signed up to join the fighting against Russia. Former US and British soldiers that say they were at the Yavoriv base gave their account of the Russian attack to Buzzfeed News.
Russia also said that its attack on Yavoriv destroyed “a large quantity of foreign weapons.” It’s not clear if there are recently-delivered foreign weapons at Yavoriv, but the US and NATO have been working to pour weapons into Ukraine via the Polish border. Before the missile strikes, Russia warned that it could target Western arms shipments.
The Russian attack on Yavoriv is a strong message to the US and NATO since the facility has been used by US and NATO troops in the past to train Ukrainian troops. A Florida National Guard unit of 165 soldiers was at the Yavoriv facility as recently as February when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered them to leave.
The Pentagon official told Stars and Stripes that Russia launched the attack on Yavoriv from bombers inside Russian airspace. The official said that a no-fly zone wouldn’t have stopped the attack. “For the advocates of a no-fly zone, this is an example of [how] a no-fly zone inside Ukraine would have had no effect on this particular set of strikes,” the official said.
In order to impose a no-fly zone, the US and NATO would have to shoot down Russian planes, which would mean direct war with Russia. Despite the risk of nuclear war, there are still growing calls for a NATO-imposed no-fly zone over Ukraine.