The latest from Ukraine: New strikes on Lviv
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, HOST:
Now a look at the latest in the war in Ukraine from a city where people are fleeing nearby Russian attacks. This comes as President Biden was over the border in Poland, addressing a crowd of hundreds and calling for unity against the Russian assault. Inside Ukraine, Russian missile strikes hit cities across the country, including the western city of Lviv, not far from the Polish border. NPR's Jason Beaubien joins us from the Ukrainian city of Dnipro. Thanks for being here, Jason.
JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Hey, Danielle.
KURTZLEBEN: First, what do we know about the strikes in Lviv, and why are they significant?
BEAUBIEN: Yeah, well, what we know at this point is that several missiles hit the city. Local officials say five people were injured. The strikes appear to have only hit in industrial areas. But what's significant about this is that Lviv has been something of a refuge. It's known as quite safe. It's a hub for displaced people. There's some, like, 200,000 people who have fled there from other parts of Ukraine. It's also become sort of the humanitarian hub. A lot of the aid supplies are coming through there. So a strike there is unusual, and it is concerning because it is a place where much of the aid work is happening.
KURTZLEBEN: And you're on the opposite side of the country from Lviv in Dnipro. What made you decide to go there?
BEAUBIEN: Well, Dnipro right now is in this incredibly strategic point in eastern Ukraine. You know, in the first days of the war, much of the focus was on the capital, Kyiv. But Russia has grabbed significant amounts of territory here in the east and, you know, territory that surrounds Dnipro in sort of a semicircle that - it starts from down along the coast, along Mariupol, goes along the eastern border with Russia and goes all the way up to Kharkiv. You know, so this is a place where wounded are coming in from the frontlines. You've got displaced people arriving as they flee out of some of these battered cities. You've got injured soldiers and refugees that are - they're coming from the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where there's a lot of fighting. And it's become a supply hub to many of the places with some of the most intense fighting along the Russian border.
KURTZLEBEN: So amidst the war and with that influx of people, how has all of that affected life in the city?
BEAUBIEN: The city is in a sort of a weird limbo. It - similar to Lviv, it's been relatively safe, but you've got people that are fleeing in here from many other places. You've got lots of businesses that are closed. Restaurants have been converted into kitchens that are providing meals to the security forces, to the soldiers, to the displaced people who are now here, living in shelters. So I was talking to the mayor, Borys Filatov, today. He says that Dnipro is the center of the war in the east and it's become a transit hub for the military, and it's inundated with refugees. Here he is speaking through an interpreter.
BORYS FILATOV: (Through interpreter) So everything is used now for shelters for refugees - schools, private offices, people's flats. So everything is used now.
BEAUBIEN: He says the city is on a war footing. It's having a huge impact on the economy, on the tax base for the city. We were talking to him right outside of city hall, which is now this sandbagged bunker, and he says defiantly that the Russians will never take Dnipro.
FILATOV: (Non-English language spoken).
UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: Well, our mayor has been living here for his - for all his life, and his parents are buried here. And no Russian soldiers will be leaving here. I mean, they will all be killed - thousands, if necessary.
BEAUBIEN: Despite the mayor's bravado, there is growing concern, and we're hearing this concern from U.S. and U.K. military officials that as the Russian attempts to take the capital are faltering, Russia could push to grab more of the east of the country. And by that, we're talking about the areas right here around Dnipro.
KURTZLEBEN: You know, one thing we have heard recently from the World Health Organization - and the Associated Press has also documented this - is that there have been dozens of attacks on hospitals and medical facilities. Is that something you're hearing about where you are?
BEAUBIEN: Yes, absolutely. I mean, it's a huge concern here, and it's causing even more of a burden on the hospitals here in Dnipro because for many of the ones here that are still functioning, that have not been hit, they're the ones that are taking in these excess patients that would have been being treated elsewhere. We talked today with a surgeon from one of the trauma units at a local hospital. He didn't want to be identified, but he said there are a lot of people coming in with shrapnel wounds. They're coming in with burns from explosives or from fires that have started after missiles strike residential buildings.
He actually said - and this is somewhat interesting - that, you know, gunshot wounds are not the majority of the injuries that they're seeing, but mostly, it's from rockets and missile attacks. And injured are coming in overland, and they're coming in buses and ambulances. And he even described at one point, there was this car that pulled up, and it had 10 people in it. And they were all injured, and they just sort of piled out at the door of the hospital.
KURTZLEBEN: It's all very hard to hear, Jason. I'm wondering what you're hearing from people coming to Dnipro from these combat zones. What are people telling you about what it's like on the frontlines?
BEAUBIEN: I mean, they're describing it as hell, absolute hell. I talked to this one couple. They were sitting on a park bench by the river here. They had arrived yesterday from Mariupol. It was Pavel Rubanov (ph) and Irina Rumyanceva (ph), and they spent a month sheltering in their house in Mariupol as the Russian forces just pounded the city with rockets and mortars. They had no electricity, they said. They were getting water from a stream. Rumyanceva says Mariupol no longer exists.
IRINA RUMYANCEVA: (Through interpreter) There is no place to go back. All the houses are destroyed.
BEAUBIEN: Finally, they managed to get out in a convoy earlier this week, and it took them three days to get here. Last night, they slept on the floor of a restaurant. They have no idea what they're doing next, where they're going to go. And Rubanov says they're worried that nowhere in Ukraine is now safe.
PAVEL RUBANOV: (Non-English language spoken).
UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: They are afraid that everything that is happening on the eastern part of Ukraine is soon going to be here, the same in Dnipro.
BEAUBIEN: You know, and as I'm talking to them and they're recounting Mariupol, you know, they're - both of them were starting to cry. And then Rubanov says something about Dnipro being their honeymoon. And at first, I think he's joking. But then he tells me, no, they got married on February 22, two days before the Russian invasion. And then they spent a month hiding from the shelling in Mariupol. And now they're here out in the sunshine, sitting by the river, and they laugh and say, no, this is our honeymoon right now.
KURTZLEBEN: That's NPR's Jason Beaubien in Dnipro, Ukraine. Jason, thank you for your work.
BEAUBIEN: You're welcome, Danielle.
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