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Story Publication logo March 18, 2022

Russia Strikes near Poland’s Border as the Assault on Kyiv Brings More Civilian Carnage


Ukraine refugees flee to Hungary

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President Biden spoke with China's leader, Xi Jinping, Friday for nearly two hours about the war in Ukraine, and warned Xi against any possible Chinese support for Russia's invasion. Meanwhile, the astounding carnage persisted in Ukraine, with civilians becoming the main victims. Russian airstrikes hit near the Polish border as troops continued to target Kyiv. Jane Ferguson reports from the capital city.

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Judy Woodruff: President Biden spoke with China's leader, Xi Jinping, today for nearly two hours about the war in Ukraine. The White House said Mr. Biden warned Xi against any possible Chinese support for the Russian invasion. Meantime, in Ukraine, the deadly carnage continues, with civilians the principal victims. Russian airstrikes hit near the Polish border to the west and rocket and artillery fire continued to target Kyiv. That's where Jane Ferguson begins tonight's coverage.

And a warning: Images and accounts in this report may be upsetting.

Jane Ferguson: Another morning brings another neighborhood of Kyiv under attack. The people of this community will never know why they were the target of Russia's bombs today, a missile lobbed from miles away thrown in anger by a thwarted army stuck outside the city. At least one person was killed and several wounded. This morning's attack hit a residential neighborhood. This building is just filled with civilian apartments, now completely ripped open onto the street. The bomb itself landed right here just feet away, leaving a huge crater now being cleaned up. This area is packed with civilians, and you can see, in the distance here, that building is a childhood nursery. The days here have taken on a dark sort of routine, attacks in the early morning, followed by the mournful cleanup. Those returning to their homes hours later pick through the debris. We entered one building where residents were trying to salvage belongings. Svintlana called us into her shattered apartment. "Look at me. I have cuts all over me," she tells us. You were here? She's a single mother living here with her 12-year-old son. This morning, like any other, she was making coffee by the window in her kitchen.

Svintlana, Kyiv Resident (through translator): I was standing here, and the explosion was there. My son was over there, and I screamed at him, "Go and hide." And he saw that something was burning, and he hid behind the wall, and I turned around, and this had happened.

Jane Ferguson: Svintlana is not just in shock. She's angry.

Svintlana (through translator): Look at this. Look at me. Please show this on the news. I want everyone to see me and to see my apartment. Look at me. These are deep wounds, not scratches. Look at me. I am bleeding. Am I a military target? This is the clear murder of people. He was counting on us being killed.

Jane Ferguson: A colleague bandaged a deeper wound on her arm.

Svintlana (through translator): My son was very frightened. He was asking: "Mommy, are you alive?" And I said yes, but the blood was running all over my face. I tried to cover it with my hand, but he saw the blood. I'm afraid. What if another bomb comes in?

Jane Ferguson: She sent her son away to the bomb center immediately. Tonight, she will join him and the millions of others in Ukraine forced from their homes, yet still defiant. Beyond the capital, the war continues relentless. Near the Polish border, Russian missiles hit a facility used by Ukrainian forces to repair Soviet-era jets. It was the closest strike yet to Lviv. The city had until now been largely spared from Russian bombing. It has also been an important hub for relief efforts and civilians fleeing the worst attacks in the east.

Maksym Kozytskyy, Governor of Lviv (through translator): This strike is a confirmation that they are not at war with the Ukrainian army, but with civilians, children, women, displaced people.

Jane Ferguson: And further south, people still try to escape the besieged city of Mariupol, where Russian bombs this week destroyed a theater that sheltered women and children. Today, authorities said 130 have been rescued, but more than 1,000 may still be trapped. Elsewhere in the city today, residents buried loved ones near their damaged apartments. Bodies scattered both above ground and in fresh graves.

Alexander, Mariupol Resident (through translator): My mother-in-law was born in 1936. She had a Russian passport, Russian citizenship. She is there.

Jane Ferguson: A senior U.S. defense official said today Russian advances remain largely stalled, but the cities of Chernihiv, Sumy, and Mariupol are still encircled. To help Ukraine, the U.S. and allies have accelerated weapon shipments, which, today, Russia again threatened to target.

Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister: Any cargo moving into Ukrainian territory, which we would believe is carrying weapons, would be a fair game.

Jane Ferguson: But the U.S. has raised concerns that China would be the one sending weapons to Russia. Earlier today, President Biden spoke with China's Xi Jinping for nearly two hours. In their first conversation since Russia's invasion, Xi reportedly called for peace, but did not condemn Moscow. And in what the U.S. called a direct conversation, President Biden said China would suffer consequences if it were to send material support to help the Russians.

Judy Woodruff: And Jane joins me now from Kyiv. So, Jane, we heard in your reporting that, despite these missile strikes, that the Russian ground forces are largely stalled. The Ukrainians have been able to hold them off. Is there a sense that they could — that the Ukrainians could continue to do this and push them back even farther?

Jane Ferguson: There is a hope for that here on the ground in Kyiv, Judy. There have been some counteroffensives actually launched outside Kyiv to try to push the Russians back. Now, that could potentially tip things in this war. Not only have the Russians, of course, been fought to a standstill, but if they could actually make them — if they could push them back on the battlefield, then what that would do for morale here would be enormous. We know that some of the more professional units of the Ukrainian forces have been pushing out to do that. We have not been able to find out any more information about how successful they have been, but, in recent days, there has been that push. We have to remember as well that we're also getting increasing reports of more weaponry and more aid coming in, whether it's vehicles, also body armor, and potentially more of these anti-tank missile systems, which have been hugely impactful on the battlefield here. Much has been said about no-fly zones and whether or not that could help the Ukrainian forces, but, really, it's these handheld missile systems that take out tanks and helicopters that have been most menacing to the Russian forces. At the same time, you also have, on the other hand, the Russian forces struggling, struggling with supplies, struggling even with food. We have spoken with villagers outside of Kyiv who have just recently escaped areas under Russian control, and they say Russian soldiers are going to houses and asking for food. So, it's not just about the momentum that the Ukrainians are facing, but it's the huge, massive problems and logistical challenges that the Russians are too.

Judy Woodruff: And, Jane, you have also been talking to many of the Ukrainian people who have stayed behind. They have stayed in their country. What are you hearing from them in terms of how committed they are to seeing this through?

Jane Ferguson: People here in Kyiv have really pushed into getting involved in much more voluntary work. Everyone you talk to who says that they have stayed, they don't say they're just hunkering down. They say that: We have stayed to help with the war effort. Everywhere we go, we see people, not just volunteers with organizations, but individuals, people who will come down from the apartment blocks with a plate of sandwiches for those who have recently been evacuated from the fighting and from areas where people have been held up. So there is this real sense here of solidarity that you can feel in Kyiv. In other parts of the country, of course, there are areas like Mariupol and Kharkiv and other cities that are massively under attack, that are facing even more fierce bombardments. And it's clear that some of the strategy behind those bombardments is to try to break that resolve of the Ukrainian people, that sense that many Ukrainians have that they very much so have the moral high ground in this war, that they are the wronged party. But certainly what Ukrainians say to us every time we talk to them after an attack. So, so far, we're seeing a huge amount of unity and coherence here within the capital and across the country.

Judy Woodruff: It's just a remarkable thing to watch. Jane Ferguson reporting for us again tonight from Kyiv in Ukraine. Thank you, Jane.


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