Russian forces advance as fighting intensifies in Ukraine

The United Nations overwhelmingly voted to denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine Wednesday as the week-long war grinds on in the north, east, and south of Ukraine. The UN also reported that more than 800,000 Ukrainians have fled for surrounding nations. Meanwhile, Russia said 500 of its troops have been killed, though the numbers are thought to be higher. Nick Schifrin reports from Lviv.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The United Nations overwhelmingly voted to denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine today, as the now week-long war grinds on in the north, the east, and the south of Ukraine.

    Meantime, the U.N. also reported that, as of now, more than 800,000 Ukrainians have fled for surrounding nations. After refusing comment for days, the Russians today said nearly 500 of its troops have been killed and been — 1,500 have been wounded. Those numbers are believed to be actually much higher.

    Meantime, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court have formally opened an investigation into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine. And after Vladimir Putin raised Russia's nuclear alert level on Sunday, the U.S. said today that it would cancel the test of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile, in the interest of not raising tensions further.

    Nick Schifrin is in the city of Lviv in Western Ukraine, and he begins our coverage.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today, in Ukraine's second largest city, the brutal bombardments of Russia's unrestricted warfare. A Russian rocket gut Kharkiv's police and intelligence headquarters, also damaged, Karazin University, one of the first universities in the Russian empire, destroying a part of Russian heritage Moscow is claiming to protect.

    Nearby, a cruise missile hit Kharkiv's city hall. A volunteer filmed just before impact. And despite promises to only target the military, Russian strikes demolished residential buildings. Residents salvaged what they could carry.

    After the bombing, another resident filmed the damage inside his apartment.

    Darya Grygoryeva, Resident of Ukraine: My city destroyed too much. People suffered. All the time, we're sitting in the basement hiding.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Thirty-seven-year-old Darya Grygoryeva is from Kharkiv. Yesterday morning, she and her family braved a gauntlet of attacks, and fled the city.

  • Darya Grygoryeva:

    I cannot feel myself safe now, because my heart still feels like jumped out the chest.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But despite her and her husband's trauma, they are trying to protect and shield their children.

    How are your children doing?

  • Darya Grygoryeva:

    They said that it is very scary. Kids that could hear the sounds for a long time, they start crying. We tried to keep them safe all the time. We didn't allow them to come close to windows.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    When your children ask you what was going on, what did you tell them?

  • Darya Grygoryeva:

    I just said that it is not safe to stay in our city anymore. I didn't say that it is a war. I'm not ready to say it. I don't want them to know it.

    I want them to be safe, and I want them to stay human, you know? I want them to believe that the war are — exists only in games. But it's not.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Outside Kyiv, there are suburbs that are burning. The targets have included homes and playgrounds. And in the city center, women and children shelter inside subway stations. Maternity hospitals have moved their operations underground.

    Others tried to flee the city over a bridge the Ukrainian military destroyed to halt oncoming Russian tanks. According to a British assessment, Russia now controls territory in red in the north, northeast, and southeast, and is advancing toward Kyiv in the north, Mariupol in the southeast, and Mykolaiv in the south. Russian soldiers also surround five cities, and are expected to further advance in three separate areas.

    But the U.S. and Ukraine say Russia is struggling with basic logistics. Soldiers who don't have enough food ransacked a convenience store for anything to eat. U.S. officials say the giant convoy near Kyiv is also struggling to get enough fuel.

    But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned today, there are miles to go before they sleep.

  • Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian President (through translator):

    The time will come when we will be able to sleep. But it will be after the war, after the victory. Today, you, Ukrainians, are a symbol of invincibility, a symbol that people in any country can become the best people on earth at any moment.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    This is literally a bomb shelter.

    Oleg Boynoifsky, Resident of Ukraine:: Bomb shelter, yes.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And so you thought this would be the safest place to be?

  • Oleg Boynoifsky:

    : Yes.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Twenty-eight-year-old Oleg Boynoifsky is not hiding beneath this Soviet era factory. He's doing what he can to help fight the war, volunteering to receive donations from Ukrainians and other Europeans and ship it to families near the front.

    Why does everyone want to help? Why is it important for you, it seems for every Ukrainian, to pitch in?

  • Oleg Boynoifsky:

    : Because it's our land. We are fine here. It's already 30 years from end of Soviet Union, and now we are rising as a nation, as a country.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Are you afraid?

  • Oleg Boynoifsky:

    No, I'm mad. I'm mad, angry, and I want to finish it. But I want to save as many lives as we can.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    To save lives, they take medicine, bags of clothes, and replacement prized possessions for traumatized children. They make the long journey east by car, or, if the roads are blocked by Russian soldiers, by train.

    Rostyslav Radysh engineered this effort with his phone. He launched this Telegram chat last week. Today, it has more than 22,000 members, digital resistance, where previous Ukrainian efforts failed. In 1932, the Soviet Union forced a famine on Ukraine that killed millions.

    Rostyslav Radysh, Resident of Ukraine: It's not a new war for us, because of, in previous age, Russians also wanted to kill everybody in Ukraine.

    But, in previous age, we didn't have a big and good communication between Ukrainians. And it was harder than it is at this moment. Now, when we can send messages, and now when we can be united.

  • Oleg Boynoifsky:

    We will win this war. I know it for sure, because we are on our land. And everyone is fighting for our country, not only soldiers. It's 48 million people that want to live on this land and want to be free.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today, President Zelensky referred to an attack yesterday that damaged a memorial to the tens of thousands of Jews killed in the single largest Nazi massacre of World War II and said today's Russian government wants to — quote — "erase our history, erase our country, erase us all."

    In the face of existential threats, Ukrainians are trying to maintain their resilience. Darya, the woman we spoke to earlier who fled Kharkiv, says she wants return to her city to rebuild it.

    But, Judy, she admitted she didn't know when or if that would be possible.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So moving, these stories.

    Nick Schifrin reporting for us live tonight from Lviv in Ukraine.

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