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Russia is moving its attacks into western Ukraine

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

A short time ago, we had a graphic illustration of life in this unpredictable Russian war on Ukraine. Air raid warnings sounded in this city in the western part of the country. We went downstairs to a bomb shelter where people gathered with their pets and families. Russian missiles have been striking cities here in western Ukraine today, and this suggests one way that Russia may be adapting after its early failures.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's Ryan Lucas also spent some time in a bomb shelter in western Ukraine today and then came up at the all-clear signal to tell us what's going on.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: The strikes that happened were in the cities of Ivano-Frankivsk and Lutsk in the west of Ukraine. In both places, the Russians appear to be targeting airfields, although the strike in Ivano-Frankivsk at least was only near the airport there. But both of these cities are in western Ukraine, as we have said. They are hundreds of miles from the fighting that's raging in the country's north and east and south. In the early days of the war, Russia did hit military targets this far west and actually a little bit farther west, but cities out here have generally been safe and unscathed in this war so far.

INSKEEP: OK, so maybe that's changing, or at least it has changed for this day, as we watch to see what Russia does after its frustrations of the early two weeks of this war. There was an offensive against Ukraine's capital, Kyiv. It seems very much to have stalled for many days. Any change?

LUCAS: There is a bit of change there. It does appear to be moving. There was that long Russian convoy that was backed up for something like 40 miles outside of Kyiv. Satellite imagery released by Maxar Technology now shows that that convoy appears to have dispersed. Some of the tanks and other vehicles appear to have moved into wooded areas. Ukrainian forces had been harassing this convoy, hitting it with anti-tank missiles, really slowing Russia down, but with this redeployment now, Russia's offensive against Kyiv could be entering a new phase. Here's the city's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, speaking last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VITALI KLITSCHKO: (Non-English language spoken).

LUCAS: He's saying that Kyiv is under threat and that the city, along with the military, is turning Kyiv, essentially, into a fortress. But of course, a renewed Russian offensive wouldn't be good news for Kyiv, but it also would be bad news for several towns and villages on the capital's outskirts because those towns and villages have been heavily hit by fighting for several days, and residents are desperate to get out.

INSKEEP: Are civilians having any more success in getting out of the hardest-hit areas?

LUCAS: Well, this has really been a daily struggle here. The first attempts at a cease-fire in several places to allow civilians to evacuate did break down after evacuation routes were shelled and civilians were killed. But in the past few days, some of these cease-fires have held, and people have been able to escape. Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said last night that over the last two days, more than 80,000 people were able to escape cities under Russian attack. They've gotten out of the northeastern city of Sumy and some nearby towns, but that's really an exception. These temporary cease-fires have failed more often than not. The most notable example of that is Mariupol in southern Ukraine. That's where a maternity hospital was hit earlier this week. We saw horrific images from that. The mayor and residents say the city has no power, no heat, no water, food is running low. Vereshchuk, the deputy prime minister, put it this way.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

IRYNA VERESHCHUK: (Non-English language spoken).

LUCAS: Mariupol, she says, is truly a humanitarian catastrophe, but today there are efforts yet again to get a cease-fire to help civilians get out.

INSKEEP: Ryan, thanks for your reporting. Really appreciate it.

LUCAS: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: NPR's Ryan Lucas is in Lviv, Ukraine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.