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A look inside the war in Ukraine from the capital city of Kyiv

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This morning, we are getting an inside look at the war in Ukraine from the capital city of Kyiv. Today, leaders of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia travel there to meet with Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a show of support. Zelenskyy cautiously says the latest round of talks with Russia have gone relatively well. They continue today. But Russia continues to pummel many parts of the country, including a new round of missile attacks on the capital city this morning.

Our co-host Leila Fadel is on the streets of Kyiv, and she joins us now. Leila, you have spent the last two weeks in the western part of Ukraine, in the city of Lviv.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Right.

MARTIN: Now you're in Kyiv. How different are things in the capital?

FADEL: I mean, Rachel, really different. In Lviv, the signs of Russia's invasion show up in the form of funerals of soldiers killed defending Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of displaced people arriving to find safety, air raid sirens that typically warn of Russian strikes at least an hour away and most often much further away. There's been no direct hits on that city. But here in Kyiv, the sounds of artillery, Russian strikes - that's commonplace. I mean, just this morning, Rachel, I woke up to the sound of an explosion - three Russian strikes in Kyiv, according to local officials. They say the strikes hit residential buildings, and Russian forces are about 10 miles away from downtown.

When we got here yesterday, in just a 10-minute drive, we leached (ph) through dozens of tank traps in the streets and checkpoints fortified with sandbag-filled dumpsters or concrete slabs so that if Russian forces show up, it won't be easy for tanks to roll into this city. It's also a city that feels a lot emptier than when you were here, Rachel. So many people have left to find safety. Right now, in the center of the city where I am, it's eerily quiet. This once-bustling city of about 2.8 million feels so empty. People that remain are largely here because they want to stay. They want to save their city from Russian forces. Almost everyone is a fighter or a volunteer for the cause.

MARTIN: So Leila, for so many days now, we've seen these photos of this stalled Russian convoy outside of Kyiv. I mean, is there any, like, sustained Russian presence in the capital city at this point?

FADEL: Inside the capital, no. Russian forces are still on the outskirts of Kyiv. They haven't breached the city center. But they've rained terror in suburbs, especially in the northwest, in places like Irpin. Despite 20 days of war, though, the Russians haven't captured this capital. This is the prize that Russia wants, Ukraine's seat of power. But the Russian forces have pushed hard toward Kyiv from the beginning of this invasion and still don't have it. I should also note that Russia has so far been unable to capture any of Ukraine's largest cities. They've reached out to China for military assistance, but the U.S. has warned China that there will be consequences if China does what Russia has asked.

MARTIN: What are your conversations with people? I mean, how are they coping with living in this constant state of anxiety?

FADEL: Yeah, I mean, they stay inside at night. They close the curtains. They hope Russians don't show up at their door, or they get caught in the crossfire of the fighting. One older man we heard from yesterday is trying to get evacuated from a Kyiv suburb where Russian forces are. He's scared to go outside because people are getting shot. And yesterday I watched an older couple kiss their daughter goodbye. They embraced for a long time. Their daughter was headed to Prague to stay with a friend to find safety. They didn't want to go with her and - because they didn't want to be a burden, and also, Sergei Kuzminka (ph), the dad - he can't leave 'cause of martial law, and he said they don't even go to the bomb shelter anymore. And this is him speaking.

SERGEI KUZMINKA: Because this shelter is very old and not suitable for the safety of people, if something happens, this houses will be the grave for all who comes there.

FADEL: They don't want to be buried alive.

MARTIN: Our co-host Leila Fadel talking to us from Ukraine's capital, Kyiv. Thank you, Leila.

FADEL: You're welcome, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.