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Ukrainians adjust to the new reality of war

A civil defense guard stands at a checkpoint in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine's capital, and street fighting broke out as city officials urged residents to take shelter.
Emilio Morenatti
/
AP
A civil defense guard stands at a checkpoint in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. Russian troops stormed toward Ukraine's capital, and street fighting broke out as city officials urged residents to take shelter.

Updated February 27, 2022 at 7:30 AM ET

Following a night of heavy fighting in Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv, residents are grappling with the new reality of war in everyday life.

In a span of just a few days, Russian troops has made progress, harming civilians as well as military targets. The United Nations refugee agency says 368,000 Ukrainians have already fled the country.

Ukrainian journalist Andriy Kulykov, who has been in Kyiv covering the conflict for Hromadske Radio, tells NPR's Scott Simon that he saw explosions in the sky and felt his windows shaking overnight. Kulykov also heard automatic rifles firing overnight.

"I also saw very, very few people in cars in the streets," Kulykov says.

ATMs are often out of cash, he says, and people have taken to standing in lines at convenience stores for cigarettes and fizzy drinks shortly before curfew starts each day at 5 p.m.

Ukrainian journalist Andriy Kulykov has been in Kyiv covering the conflict for Hromadske Radio.
/ Andriy Kulykov
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Andriy Kulykov
Ukrainian journalist Andriy Kulykov has been in Kyiv covering the conflict for Hromadske Radio.

He says about a 5-minute walk away from where he lives, a rocket hit a new high-rise building, which has not been inhabited yet. But nearby in a different building, two civilians died when their home was hit, he says.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. officials offered President Volodymyr Zelenskyy the opportunity to evacuate Ukraine, but he declined, saying, "The fight is here."

Ukrainians are closely monitoring updates from President Zelenskyy

Kulykov says Ukrainians are eagerly listening to Zelenskyy's messages. "Some of them are very much enthusiastic about what he says; some of them, of course, are not. But that's the nature of a democratic society," Kulykov says.

He says he's talked to some Ukrainians who believe that Zelenskyy should make more concessions to Russia, but the prevalent sentiment is that Ukraine's president is standing by his people and they will remain standing by him.

In terms of how Ukrainians are feeling toward the U.S., Kulykov says many were annoyed with President Biden before the attacks started, thinking that his repeated warnings of an imminent Russian invasion was just "flaring up tensions." But after the attacks started, Kulykov says, the attitude toward Biden has considerably changed.

"We have never ever doubted the general sympathy of the American people," he says.

Kulykov says it's currently unclear whether Ukrainian forces will be able to hold off Russian advances. But he says many in Ukraine are taking up arms, helping the police and defense forces.

"I am pretty sure that the resistance is strong. ... There were predictions that Ukraine will be subjugated during 24 hours. So far, we've been resistant for more than two days," Kulykov says.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.