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Ukrainians fear being forgotten as Russian missiles strike

ALINA SELYUKH, HOST:

A barrage of over 150 Russian missiles and drones struck Ukrainian cities Friday. Buildings hit include apartments, schools and churches, killing at least 30 people and wounding over 160. That's according to the Ukrainian government. And officials there say it's the largest aerial attack since the war began in February of 2022. NPR's Elissa Nadworny is in Ukraine and has more details from Lviv. Hi, Elissa.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: Hi, Alina.

SELYUKH: Elissa, tell us more about the strikes. What all happened?

NADWORNY: So the attacks were all across the country. There were some energy infrastructure hit in the east, but largely the attack hit mostly places where civilians live and visit - more than 45 apartment buildings, 100 private homes. In the city of Dnipro in central Ukraine, the attack hit a shopping mall and a maternity hospital. Artem Risukhin was in Dnipro visiting his family for Christmas. He planned to see the movie "Ferrari" Friday night at that shopping mall that was hit.

ARTEM RISUKHIN: The world somehow is growing tired of news from Ukraine while we try not to get tired of being bombed, of being terrorized.

SELYUKH: He sounds so exhausted.

NADWORNY: Yeah. And you know, in Kyiv, a commercial warehouse was hit. This morning, the mayor said the bodies of four more people were found in the rubble. The other thing that happened, Alina, is that one of Russia's missiles appears to have briefly entered the airspace of Poland, a NATO member, according to the military there. It only lasted about three minutes in Polish airspace, reaching just about 24 miles inside Poland before flying back to Ukraine.

SELYUKH: So I understand Ukrainian officials are saying that its air defense systems managed to shoot down most of the missiles, even though there were a lot of them. Right?

NADWORNY: Yeah, that is right. And, you know, what's different now versus, say, a year ago is Ukraine has new Western-supplied air defense systems, including the Patriot missile defense system from the U.S. And so, yeah, they were able to shoot down a lot of those missiles. Russia was likely testing and aiming to weaken those defenses with the volume and kind of all of these missiles and drones at once.

SELYUKH: What has been the response to this attack in Ukraine?

NADWORNY: For Ukrainians who've had kind of a quiet fall, it's been terrifying. Olga Alieksieieva, who has two kids in Dnipro, said the hardest part was watching her 5-year-old be so afraid.

OLGA ALIEKSIEIEVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

NADWORNY: He told her, Mom, I don't want to die. He said it over and over again. You know, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave an address about the attacks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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

NADWORNY: He said Ukraine would respond, though he didn't provide any details. And the Ministry of Defense of Russia claimed that Ukraine sent drones and U.S.-made HARM missiles into Russian territory in the aftermath. But Ukraine has not confirmed that.

SELYUKH: Any response from abroad?

NADWORNY: The U.N. Security Council and many foreign leaders have expressed outrage, including President Biden, who urged Congress to approve billions of dollars in funding for Ukraine. That is currently stalled. The Ukrainian minister of foreign affairs said he wanted the sound of explosions in Ukraine to be heard all across the world, and according to the Institute for the Study of War, Russia will likely continue to do these large-scale aerial attacks to beat down Ukrainian morale and limit the country's military capabilities. I mean, just this morning, Alina, we've had air raid sirens go off across Ukraine. So officials here are bracing for more attacks to continue this whole weekend.

SELYUKH: NPR's Elissa Nadworny reporting in Ukraine from the city of Lviv. Thank you so much, Elissa.

NADWORNY: Thanks, Alina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.
Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.