Ukraine claims to retake a critical Kyiv suburb as Russian forces intensify attacks

Ukrainian forces are claiming new successes Tuesday against Russian invaders. A counteroffensive has retaken a strategically important town west of Kyiv, and the southern port city of Mariupol continues holding out despite being hammered from air, land and sea. Jane Ferguson reports in southwestern Ukraine.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ukrainian forces are claiming successes tonight against Russian invaders. A counteroffensive has retaken a strategically important town west of Kyiv. And the southern port city of Mariupol continues holding out, despite being hammered from air, land and sea.

    Meanwhile, the White House announced that President Biden will unveil new sanctions when he meets with allies this week in Europe. And the top Kremlin spokesman said that Russia would use nuclear weapons only if its very existence was threatened.

    But we begin again tonight with Jane Ferguson, who starts her report in Southwestern Ukraine.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    The people of Mykolaiv are forced to run for cover, as they come under attack by the Russian army. This time, the explosions are closer than ever.

    We have heard not only the air sirens, but now these alarms and people telling everybody to get into the bunkers. Up until now, it has been mostly fighting and shelling on the outskirts of town, but these rockets are now starting to land right here in the center.

    The Russian military is trying to move West from the nearby city of Kherson, one of the few urban centers they control, in an effort to take all of Ukraine's Southern Black Sea coastline. This time, a Russian rocket crashed straight through a small hotel. It was closed, owing to the war, but residents in the apartment building behind it were left shaken, cleaning up the damage to their homes.

  • Alla, Mykolaiv Resident (through translator):

    We live here. We were out and just arrived home, and this is what happened. They called us on the phone to tell us what happened. I haven't gone inside yet. We are too afraid to go inside. Now we clean up. There is a lot to do.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    That collective sense of initiative is seen in this village also to the east of Mykolaiv and in the way of the Russian army as it tries to advance towards the city.

    Local volunteers hand out food, donated by individuals and aid organizations.

  • Vitaliy Posmitny, Kulbakino Resident (through translator),:

    Our town is on the front line. Today and almost every day, we are being shot at, so we cannot go to town to shop for food. Also, the businesses that were here are now closed.

    The prices of food are rising every day, and people cannot provide for themselves. That's why we decided to set up this center. This will help people at least a bit.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Six thousand people used to live here. Now only about 2,000 remain, local people tell us, as homes have been destroyed and life become simply too dangerous.

    The people of Mykolaiv are even donating food to the city's zoo. Items not fit for humans are being dropped here to keep the animals alive, like these sheep killed in the fields during the fighting and brought in by a farmer.

  • Victor Diakonov, Lead Biologist, Mykolaiv Zoo (through translator):

    All sort of people and organizations help us, including ordinary citizens. Old ladies bring a sack of apples or some bread. NGOs donate hay to us or any other food that could not have been used for people, but they are bringing it to us, to the zoo.

    Other zoos from across Europe have also donated specialist food to us.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Victor Diakonov is the lead biologist at the zoo.

  • Victor Diakonov (through translator):

    The animals are afraid. Some of them refuse to eat, especially when the explosions are constant.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Three rockets have landed in the compound, including one right by the tiger enclosure, but the zoo hasn't lost any of its residents so far.

    The Mykolaiv Zoo is 120 years old, Ukraine's oldest, and it hosts its most diverse collection of animals. Residents of the city are trying their best to preserve it, some volunteering here to help prepare food for the animals, as, all across the country, citizens of Ukraine continue to collectively resist the Russia's invasion.

    And, on most battlefields, Ukrainian troops are holding their ground.

  • Soldier (through translator):

    We have everything. We have Javelins. We have all we need.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    In the south, the government said today its soldiers are trying to take back Kherson, the first city to fall under Russian control. And a Ukrainian counteroffensive around Kyiv continues its efforts to drive back the Russians from the outskirts of the capital.

    Ukraine's military also said it retook the strategic town of Makariv, about 40 miles west of Kyiv. A senior U.S. defense official said Russian forces have not moved closer to the capital, even though parts of the suburbs of Irpin, Bucha, and Gostomel remain under Russian control.

    But White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said today Moscow will never truly win the war.

  • Jake Sullivan, U.S. National Security Adviser:

    Whether Russia takes a city or takes a town or takes more territory, they are never going to be able to achieve the purpose that they set out, which was to subjugate this country, to bring this country to heel, because the Ukrainian people have made it clear that they will not be subjugated, no matter what it takes.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    And President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is also willing to do whatever it takes to defend his country.

    Last night, he said Ukraine could consider dropping its bid to join NATO if Russian troops withdraw and Moscow guarantees Ukraine's security. but, he said, any peace deal must be approved by the Ukrainian people.

  • Volodymyr Zelenksyy, Ukrainian President (through translator):

    To be honest, the issues of security guarantees, we are talking here about constitutional changes, change of Ukrainian law. Whatever happens, this will not be decided only by the president.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Jane Ferguson joins me now.

    Jane, so many fronts to watch here.

    We know the capital city has been on lockdown again through tonight, the mayor saying they anticipate more attacks. Tell us what you know about the situation in Kyiv right now.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    It's been, Judy, another 36-hour lockdown or curfew across the city. That's the third extended lockdown since this war began almost four weeks ago.

    The mayor had said that they had expected increased attacks, although it was actually quite a quiet day in this city. We were able to get out using our press accreditation and drive around. There were checkpoints everywhere, otherwise, the streets utterly abandoned.

    And it was relatively quiet, from a perspective of artillery fire. But the Ukrainian authorities are often saying and those that we talk to within the Ukrainian military say that they are continuing to arrest what they call Russian saboteurs inside the city, or those who have been planted here by the Russian government as part of the original plan to try to destabilize and take over Kyiv.

    Now, just as we come to air, we have actually heard a massive uptick in shelling on the outskirts of the city just behind me in the distance. And we can hear the booms really fairly constantly right now. And that happened, that just started about five or 10 minutes ago.

    We did have an air raid siren a couple of hours ago, but this is really just the beginning of what seems like some pretty heavy fighting just outside the city.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Jane, how significant are these pushbacks that you're reporting on tonight again in your piece?

    I mean, is there a sense that the Ukrainian resistance is holding on?

  • Jane Ferguson:

    The Ukrainian resistance has been holding on across the country pretty well.

    But what we're seeing now is this counteroffensive, pushing Russian forces back from certain cities. That's very important for several reasons. First of all, trying to get their artillery positions further back helps to try to protect the cities from certain types of weaponry to try to push them beyond the actual reach of the city.

    The other thing, of course, is the psychological element here. If they can get the Russians literally on the back foot, and not just have them stalled, then that could, at least from a morale perspective, really change things on the ground here.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Jane Ferguson reporting for us again tonight from Ukraine.

    Thank you, Jane.

    The "NewsHour"'s reporting from Ukraine is supported in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

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