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Ukrainian troops battle Russian troops to keep hold of Kyiv

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There's fierce fighting in Ukraine. Ukrainian troops are battling Russian troops to try to keep hold of the capital, Kyiv. Sirens wailed through the night. The city was hit by missiles and rockets. Fighting is reported in many parts of the country. Meanwhile, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy released another defiant video from the streets of Kyiv.

We go now to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, who's in central Ukraine. Eleanor, thanks for being with us.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: It's great to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And from what you can glean, what's the latest?

BEARDSLEY: Well, as you said, fierce fighting in and around Kyiv in the streets and across the country. And it's hard to get, you know, exact information, and it's very chaotic. But Ukrainian soldiers appear to be holding their ground, though I have to remind you that U.S. intel has said that the city of Kyiv could fall. But it seems that Ukrainians are putting up a very good fight, and there are videos going around of heroic moments. Ukrainians are sending them around, so everyone is following and behind their army.

You know, Scott, in the last three days I have been here, I have seen Ukraine transform into a country at war. I mean, it's completely changed, and people just have fallen right into this new rhythm. You know, in front of a town hall yesterday and across the country, hundreds of men of all ages are signing up to fight. I met several father-son pairs enlisting together. And last night, just as we arrived in a little town for the night, air raid sirens were going off, and we joined the residents down in the basement of a school.

(CROSSTALK)

BEARDSLEY: They had set up benches for everyone. In a second little bunker room, there were beds with blankets for children. There was snacks and water. And people had brought their dogs and cats down in cages. So this is new to everybody. But I spoke with Marina Kluchnikov, who was there with her husband and two children. She's actually from Kyiv, and they came here and rented an apartment a couple hours from the city to be safer. And here's what she told me.

MARINA KLUCHNIKOV: I'm glad we have this place. I feel safe. It's the only thing that matters right now because - you know, I'm not thinking about many things right now because I think it's no use to think about what you left behind. The only thing is matters is today and right now.

SIMON: And, Eleanor, tell us, please, about President Zelenskyy's videos, which, I must say, have been interesting and inspiring.

BEARDSLEY: Oh, yeah, they're inspiring Ukrainians. You know, remember, the Russians want him gone. They want regime change. And he has said himself that he and his family are top target for the Russians. But he's not fleeing. Neither is his government. And in a new video this morning, he speaks to his countrymen from outside in the streets in Kyiv. He lets them know he's there. Let's listen to him for a minute.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: (Non-English language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: He says, "good morning, Ukrainians. There's a lot of fake information online that I'm calling for the army to surrender weapons and evacuation is underway." He said, "listen to me. I'm here. We will not surrender, and we will defend our country."

So, you know, Zelenskyy was not very popular, and he's been perceived as weak by many Ukrainians. But he's winning people over. One Ukrainian told me, I didn't like him, I didn't vote for him, but I'm proud of my president today. So he's inspiring the country, really.

SIMON: Boy, what does daily life look like right now?

BEARDSLEY: Daily life is going down into a bunker if you're in a town or trying to leave a big city to get to a country home or the border. The highways are packed. It takes several days to go maybe 200 miles. Everyone is trying to get somewhere or hunker down. But people have really just turned to this new life. They're enlisting and thousands volunteering to fight, and everyone is into this fight to protect their homeland.

SIMON: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley, thanks so much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.