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Kyiv and other cities remain in Ukrainian hands but Russia isn't letting up


Much of what we see in the war in Ukraine is through pictures and video - snapshots of reality quickly shared around the world. A few of those images suggest the brutal force that Russia may yet bring to bear in the conflict. The initial Russian moves seem to have failed. Kyiv and other cities remain in Ukrainian hands. Video shows remarkable numbers of blown-up or burned-out Russian tanks and trucks. But in the last day, satellite video has shown a Russian convoy of tanks, trucks and artillery many miles long, and another video shows an explosion in a civilian area in a major Ukrainian city.

That last image is where we start our conversation with NPR's Tim Mak in Ukraine. Tim, what were you able to learn from that video?

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Well, look; there are just so many dramatic videos, but there's this one particular one that's one of bombardment in the city of Kharkiv. That's in the northeast of this country, and it's just 25 miles from the Russian border. So in this video, we see the embattled city. There are a series of explosions in the northeast area of that town. NPR geolocated that video and found that it was a residential area that was targeted for explosions. And it was filled with a shopping mall, a bank, apartments and even a sushi and wine shop. There was another video distributed by the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior of this pale-faced woman who had been dragged or had crawled herself away from the scene of this explosion. Her leg is bleeding, and this camera settles on a very graphic scene. Here's Olga Shutalova (ph). She's another resident of Kharkiv who spoke to us.

OLGA SHUTALOVA: Dead and injured are lying on the streets. Fragments of bombs and shells are found on playgrounds and in country-yards where a thousand civilians live.

MAK: So you heard her say that the dead and injured are lying in the streets. Kharkiv's mayor says that dozens of civilians have been injured, and there have been at least nine deaths, including four people who were killed as they left a bomb shelter to try and get some water. In Mariupol - that's a port city in the far southeast of Ukraine - there are widespread power outages, and heating plants are being damaged as Russian airstrikes increase.

MARTINEZ: And what about the capital of Kyiv?

MAK: Well, the capital of Kyiv remains in Ukrainian hands for now. Across the city of Kyiv, there's - there are these kind of message of defiance. There are these billboards that are going up in Russian. One reads, Russian soldiers stop. How can you look your children in the eyes? Leave. Stay human. The capital city remains under threat, however. Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said that hundreds of saboteurs have been sent to undermine the defense here, and there is new satellite imagery that's been provided to NPR by the company Maxar, and it shows columns of tanks approaching the outskirts of Kyiv. This column contains armored vehicles, artillery, logistics support vehicles, and it's many, many miles long, so there remains a lot of peril for Ukrainians still in the capital city.

MARTINEZ: What does this mean for civilians on the ground?

MAK: Well, you know, the U.N. Refugee Agency now estimates more than half a million people have left Ukraine, and there are many, many more trying to find a way out. I went down to the train station in Lviv - that's in western Ukraine - and it's become a hub for Ukrainians trying to leave the country through Poland. Here's Pavlo Titko, a leader of a relief agency of the Order of Malta. That's a humanitarian group that is feeding refugees on the ground here.

PAVLO TITKO: (Through interpreter) I think the situation is very bad because we are cut from Kyiv. The bridge is blown up, and we are short of supplies of flour.

MAK: He says he's concerned that in just a matter of a few short days, there will be widespread food shortages across this country, to say nothing of areas closer to the fighting.

MARTINEZ: That's NPR's Tim Mak in western Ukraine. Tim, thank you.

MAK: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.