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Russia strikes targets in Kyiv as Mariupol theater rescue efforts continue

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

There was more bloodshed in Ukraine today as Russian forces struck targets in the capital, Kyiv, as well as cities in both the eastern and western parts of the country. A fourth day of peace negotiations ended with no breakthrough, and Russia, for the first time, directly struck the western city of Lviv, hitting a military building next to the airport. NPR's Eric Westervelt has the latest.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: Russian forces on the ground continue to make little or no headway, especially in the capital, Kyiv, in the face of strong, ongoing Ukrainian resistance. But Russian missiles and artillery continue to wreak deadly havoc. The mayor said shelling and mortar rounds hit parts of the capital, including a neighborhood close to central Kyiv, wounding at least 19 people. In Kharkiv in the east, the Ukrainian government says 10 people were killed in an attack on an apartment complex. And Mariupol in the southeast is now a devastated city. Father Rostislav Sprenok, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, just escaped Mariupol after enduring weeks of shelling, hardship and horror.

ROSTISLAV SPRENOK: (Through interpreter) You see cars destroyed, lots of people in a panic, people completely disoriented, people, women and children with one goal only - to go to Ukrainian-held territory and continue to leave towards the west, even outside of Ukraine.

WESTERVELT: Rescuers are still trying to reach people believed to be trapped in a theater that was bombed on Wednesday. Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday 130 people have so far been recovered alive from that site, but information on the rescue effort is scarce. It's still not clear how many may have survived. Continued shelling, the Ukrainians say, is hampering rescue efforts. Here's Ukraine's human rights ombudswoman, Lyudmyla Denisova, speaking through an interpreter.

LYUDMYLA DENISOVA: (Through interpreter) We all know now that 130 people have been freed, and we still have about 1,000 people, about 1,300 people left there. So we don't know what the result of the shelling is going to be finally.

WESTERVELT: Father Rostislav, who also works with the Catholic charity Caritas, says that kind of attack is sadly normal now in Mariupol, where he says there is no civilization left.

SPRENOK: (Through interpreter) Russia attacked illegally in a very fascist manner, in a Nazi manner. They destroyed peaceful residents with no regard for anything. They're hitting hospitals, schools, bomb shelters. They're destroying everything.

WESTERVELT: Meantime, here in the western part of the country, Russian cruise missiles hit a fighter jet military repair facility on the edge of the airport just four miles from Lviv Center. The buildings were largely destroyed. One person was wounded. This first Russian attack on the city proper unnerved residents and the scores of displaced Ukrainians who have fled fighting in the east for the relative safety of Lviv. The city has also been a hub for international aid. Deana (ph), who gave only her first name, moved in with family near the airport after fleeing violence in Kyiv. She says she and her daughter were jolted out of bed by the attack.

DEANA: (Through interpreter) The entire building shook. The glass and the windows shook. It was very unpleasant. We left Kyiv because it got very hot there, so we came here. But it's obvious now that we can't stay here because we don't know what will be next.

WESTERVELT: Yefhev Hablahav (ph), who also lives very close to the airport, gently pushed his grandson on a swing in a small park. He said he was awoken by screams from family members as the apartment shook.

YEFHEV HABLAHAV: (Through interpreter) We all heard the explosions. And I heard screaming in the room next door, and that's when we all ran into the bomb shelter.

HABLAHAV: Hablahav says he has no plans to move, but Deana, pushing her distraught toddler in a stroller, says she's now contemplating joining the more than 3 million Ukrainians who've already left. Her husband's back in Kyiv fighting. What can we do? - Deana says anxiously - we don't know what will fall on our heads next time. Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Lviv, Ukraine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.