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Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, hitting infrastructure and other targets

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Russian forces continued their attack on Ukraine for a second day in a row, hitting cities across the country. In the capital of Kyiv, air raid sirens sounded at 8 a.m. that sent hundreds of families back into the subway system for shelter. NPR correspondent Franco Ordoñez visited some of those families this morning, and he's on the line. Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi, Sacha.

PFEIFFER: Franco, things had been relatively calm in Kyiv for several months. How have these attacks changed that?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, it's really struck a panic in the city. As you know, things have been relatively calm here for months. But last night and for much of the morning, streets became eerily quiet after the attacks. Businesses closed down, restaurants closed. I spoke with a family sheltering in the Dorohozhychi metro station. People haven't done that since the earliest weeks of the war. While her daughter played cards, Inna Philipchuk (ph) told me sadly how familiar it felt being back on those cold, granite floors.

INNA PHILIPCHUK: (Speaking Ukrainian).

ORDOÑEZ: She's saying it reminds her of the first days of the war when they were sitting in the same spot. She pointed around all the different corners of the room that she said she knows too well. Her 13-year-old daughter, Maria, told us she was supposed to have her first algebra lesson today, but that obviously got canceled.

MARIA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

ORDOÑEZ: She says she had also plans to go for a walk with her friends. But some of their families decided to go to Poland.

PFEIFFER: Franco, are they worried that Russia is going to continue these attacks on Kyiv?

ORDOÑEZ: Yes. They just don't know what's going to happen. I mean, not as many people were in the metro station today as there were yesterday, I'll note. But it's hard, you know, to figure this out. You know, here is Ina's husband, Gene, talking about how the bombings take him back to some of the hardest days of the war.

GENE: For me, it's a kind of deja vu. It happened again. But this experience was so hard that you try to pack it in a package and put somewhere in a far square not to think about it.

ORDOÑEZ: I also spoke with another couple who was sitting nearby. They told me it doesn't feel the same. Here's Anna Savenko.

ANNA SAVENKO: (Speaking Ukrainian).

ORDOÑEZ: She says she has a lot more confidence now in Ukraine's military and its air defense systems. But she says it's still no way to live. She was supposed to have the day off today, but instead, she was spending it in the subway system. The worst part, she told me, was the uncertainty. She just didn't know what was going to happen next. She didn't know what Russian President Vladimir Putin will do.

PFEIFFER: We mentioned that Kyiv wasn't the only city hit by these Russian airstrikes. What has been happening elsewhere in Ukraine?

ORDOÑEZ: Yes, it was the second day of strikes. You know, at least 19 people were killed yesterday in the blast that took out water supply and power stations. At least one more person was killed this morning in an attack on the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia. And power was knocked out for hours in the western city of Lviv. And here in Kyiv, they just announced there'll be power rationing in the city. There was an emergency meeting of G-7 leaders who pledged more support for Ukraine. And President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked them for more modern and effective air defense systems.

PFEIFFER: Franco, how do these attacks change the outlook of the war?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, on the one hand, it could be a signal of a major escalation in the war, but on the other, it's also raised questions about Moscow's capability. In a public address, Zelenskyy said last night that it would not deter Ukraine. He said it was a sign of Russia losing and that Moscow was resorting to terrorist tactics because they could not win on the battlefield.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: (Speaking Ukrainian).

ORDOÑEZ: He's saying Ukraine cannot be intimidated and that they're more united than ever. You know, let's also be clear that these were attacks on civilian infrastructure. It does not change the calculus on the battlefield where Ukraine has had the upper hand in recent weeks. And the United Kingdom's top spy chief, for example, said today that Russian forces were exhausted and Putin is making strategic errors in judgment.

PFEIFFER: NPR's Franco Ordoñez in Kyiv, thank you.

ORDOÑEZ: Thanks, Sacha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.