© 2022 Maine Public
header.jpg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Russian forces continue attack on Kyiv and seize Europe's biggest nuclear power plant

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is now in its second week. Fighting remains intense in central Ukraine as Russia continues to pound the capital of Kyiv, while in the south, Russian forces seized control of Ukraine's largest nuclear power plant. NPR's Ryan Lucas is in western Ukraine and joins us with the latest. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: This military attack on a nuclear power plant raises all kinds of concerns. So what's the latest on the situation there?

LUCAS: Right. We're talking about the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia southeastern eastern Ukraine. This would be a big deal no matter the size of the plant. But Zaporizhzhia isn't just any old facility. This is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. It's a key source of electricity for Ukraine. Russian forces attacked the facility yesterday. The fighting sparked a fire at an administrative building on the site. That fire has been put out. But the fire and the fighting at the plant raises concerns about possible radiation leakage. But Ukrainian and international experts say there's no sign at this point that there's been any sort of radiation leakage. Russian forces, though, are now in control of the plant, although Ukrainian workers there are continuing to run the operations at the facility.

SHAPIRO: What about the fighting in other parts of the country?

LUCAS: Well, the Russian push for the capital of Kyiv remains stalled, as it has for a couple of days now. That big, 40-mile-long Russian convoy north of the city still is not moving, but the south is very much a different situation. Russia is making headway there. In the southern port city of Kherson, Russians are in control of much of the town, including key buildings and facilities. That includes communications. I was able to get Kherson resident over a landline this afternoon. Her name is Yevgenia. She didn't want to give her last name because of concerns about her safety. But here's a bit of what she had to say.

YEVGENIA: We're trapped here, I can say, because we cannot leave. We cannot go. It's dangerous. We - I am really scared. I am really scared.

LUCAS: She says the Russians took over the TV broadcasting facilities and are now pumping in Russian television and propaganda, although satellite TV is still providing Ukrainian stations. And she says the cell phone service was cut this afternoon. And she's afraid that this is just the beginning. She's worried that their internet will be cut soon. And then residents, she says, will truly be cut off from their friends and family, as well as the rest of Ukraine.

SHAPIRO: So as Russians appear to be consolidating their position in Kherson, is there any indication of where they are headed next?

LUCAS: Well, they appear to have set their sights on the port city of Mykolaiv. That's located about 35 miles away from Kherson. The regional governor of Mykolaiv said today that Russians have already pushed into parts of the city. He says a school has been taken over and the principal shot. I managed to get in touch with someone inside Mykolaiv. His name is Ihor Smilov. He's a 33-year-old businessman. Here's a bit of what he said.

IHOR SMILOV: (Speaking Russian).

LUCAS: What he's saying here to us in Russian is that people have built barricades in the streets of the city and that the city is essentially one big fortress at this point. But he says that Russian forces are shelling the city. He says Russian drones are in the skies above. The fighting for now is mainly on the outskirts, but people are bracing for a full-on Russian assault, he says. And many civilians are trying to get out of the city of the can.

SHAPIRO: And speaking of people trying to get out, more than a million Ukrainians have fled in the first week of this war. Has that exodus slowed at all?

LUCAS: The U.N. now puts that number at more than 1.2 million people. It says that more than 165,000 left yesterday, which is down from the day before. But look. The refugees are just the people who have left, Ukraine who have left the borders of the country. There are also huge numbers of people who are internally displaced. And here in western Ukraine, where I am, there are tons of people from Kyiv and Kharkiv, two cities well east of here that are very much under Russian bombardment.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Ryan Lucas reporting from western Ukraine. Thank you.

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