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Crowds of people are trying to leave Ukraine as Russia invades from all sides


Russia's assault on Ukraine continues on several fronts and in multiple parts of the country. Overnight, Russian military officials claim they hit a weapons depot in the west of Ukraine with a missile strike. Kyiv, the capital, continues to hold off a Russian ground offensive. And to the south, Russian naval ships blockade the Black Sea coast. NPR's Jason Beaubien joins us now from Lviv. Jason, thank you for being with us.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Good to be with you.

SIMON: What can you tell us about the latest on the fighting in the country?

BEAUBIEN: Yeah. I mean, despite calls for humanitarian corridors and pledges of humanitarian corridors being opened up, we're still getting significant fighting and significant missile attacks on many parts of the country. The Russian advance on the capital does appear to be stalled, but you're getting missile and mortar hits that are hitting residential areas right on the outskirts of Kyiv. The coastal city of Mariupol in the southeast - that remains besieged. Even in areas that Russia claims to have liberated, like Luhansk - military officials there saying heavy shelling hit 54 buildings, including 19 high-rise apartment buildings just yesterday. Then there was a fighter jet repair complex at the airport here in Lviv - that was targeted yesterday by a series of cruise missiles. Yeah, so it's sort of all over the country at this point.

SIMON: And the number of people leaving, becoming refugees, seems to be continuing, too.

BEAUBIEN: Absolutely. You know, I just came in a few days ago, and when I crossed the border, there were large crowds of women and children waiting at the border to cross into Poland. The U.N. - they just updated their numbers of people who've been displaced by the fighting, and the numbers really jumped dramatically. The U.N. said that they weren't getting much information out of the north and east of the country. Now they're saying it's 3.3 million refugees outside of Ukraine and 6.5 million people displaced in Ukraine. This is, you know, nearly 10 million people in a country of 44. So obviously, that's just a huge percentage of the population. And the concern is that if this Russian offensive makes more progress, continues, that number could rapidly grow even more.

SIMON: Been just over three weeks since the invasion began. What do people in Ukraine tell you about how they're surviving?

BEAUBIEN: Yeah. You know, we've been talking to people in different parts of the country. It's much more difficult in the east and around Kyiv, you know, that are under constant attack. They're constantly dealing with air raid sirens. But people are telling us that there are shortages of fuel and other supplies in many of these besieged areas. Here in Lviv, the city is packed with people who've fled from other parts of Ukraine. We just came out of our bunker, out of our basement 'cause of an air raid siren.

You know, people are putting on a tough front. They're talking about the fighting against the Russians and defending their country. But one of the things I've noticed - so many of the conversations I'm having, they're - you just get to this point where people just start tearing up. I was talking with Anna Penkova. She's from Kharkiv. She was at an aid distribution site here in Lviv, and she'd come to try to get some clothes and medicine for her children.

ANNA PENKOVA: (Non-English language spoken).

BEAUBIEN: You know, she says, "I love my city. I love my country, and I don't want to leave it." But you can just hear how emotionally drained she is. You know, people are constantly having to flee into the basement from these air raid sirens. Anna Penkova - she's worried about her parents. They refuse to leave their homes. So it's taking a huge emotional toll in addition to the hundreds of lives that have been lost and hundreds of millions of dollars in damages that have already occurred because of this fighting.

SIMON: NPR's Jason Beaubien in Lviv, thanks so much.

BEAUBIEN: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.