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Russian military forces and Russian-backed separatists strike targets in Ukraine

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Russia has begun an attack on Ukraine. We're going to get some perspective on what's happening in Ukraine from NPR's Tim Mak, who's outside the capital, Kyiv. Tim, you spent the last couple hours there at the capital, which came under bombardment before dawn broke. Can you tell us what happened, what's been targeted, and is the attack still happening?

TIM MAK, BYLINE: So the residents of Kyiv and cities all across Ukraine were woken up overnight by bombing. And where we were in central Kyiv, we heard explosions in the early morning hours, and more since then have been reported. And what we're seeing is reports all over the country of military installations and airports being targeted by these attacks. And the situation is obviously very fluid, but what seems obvious is that the country appears to be under assault from multiple directions, and Putin's objective appears in these initial hours to degrade the Ukrainian military's capabilities.

MARTINEZ: What's the reaction been in Ukraine that you've been able to see? How are Ukrainians responding to this aggression?

MAK: Well, I think one of the initial reactions is that of shock. I actually arrived on one of the last commercial flights into Kyiv last evening, and Ukrainians were pointing out almost immediately that this was a city that was not panicking despite the threat of an invasion. And the situation has obviously changed drastically overnight. Many residents of Kyiv are trying to evacuate towards the west. There are lines at ATMs, gas stations, supermarkets. And traffic is at a standstill, leaving it really very difficult for people to leave town.

MARTINEZ: Ukraine's president, Zelenskyy, spoke with President Biden. What did they talk about?

MAK: Well, they spoke about what Biden called the, quote, "flagrant aggression" of Russia's president, Putin. Biden also said he condemned the attack by the Russian military and would be taking steps to rally international condemnation against the Russian government. The U.S. president also said that America would continue to provide help to Ukraine.

MARTINEZ: I know that Zelenskyy spoke a little while ago. What did he have to say?

MAK: Well, he's been updating the public at a somewhat regular interval. He said that they're handing out weapons and that they'll do so continuously to protect their country. Zelenskyy basically said that the best asset that the country had was its national unity. He imposed martial law on Ukraine, and he urged his citizens not to panic. He said, quote, "we are strong," adding "glory to Ukraine."

MARTINEZ: That's NPR's Tim Mak outside the capital, Kyiv. Tim, thank you very much.

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