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Russian missile attack strikes cities across Ukraine

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Russia has carried out its largest air assault yet on Ukraine. More than 100 missiles fell on cities across the country, including the capital, Kyiv. Targets included a shopping mall, a maternity hospital and multiple apartment buildings. Ukrainian officials say the new Western-supplied air defense system shot down most of the missiles. Still, more than a dozen people were killed. NPR's Elissa Nadworny joins us from Ukraine's eastern border with more. Hello, Elissa.

ELISSA NADWORNY, BYLINE: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: So what did Ukrainians wake up to this morning?

NADWORNY: Well, all across Ukraine this morning there were missiles and drones. Lviv was hit, Dnipro, Kyiv, Odesa - so many cities. Ukraine's air force says that it's the largest air attack since the full invasion began in February of 2022. According to Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs, more than 16 people were killed, over 100 wounded. And those numbers are rising as more people are being discovered in rubble.

MARTIN: It sounds like a large number of civilian targets were hit.

NADWORNY: Yeah. That's right. And, you know, the largest number of those that were killed happened in the city of Dnipro, where the attack hit a shopping mall and a maternity hospital. And Dnipro, you know, is a relatively quiet city in central Ukraine. In Kyiv, the capital, a factory was targeted, and the mayor there said rescuers were still searching for people buried under the debris. In a statement, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that targets all across the - all across Ukraine included things like educational institutions, schools, high-rise buildings, private houses and even a commercial warehouse.

MARTIN: Is Ukraine doing something in response?

NADWORNY: Well, Zelenskyy said in his statement that Ukraine would respond, though he didn't provide any clear details. The minister of foreign affairs said he wanted the sound of explosions in Ukraine to be heard all across the world. I mean, this is kind of a moment where folks here are worried about kind of fatigue of this war. And today they said, look, this is nowhere near over. And Russia is certainly nowhere near, you know, discussions of stopping. The attacks by Russia today were intended to test and, honestly, to drain Ukraine's air defense systems. Like, these are the Western-supplied air defense systems that include the Patriot system, which was provided by the U.S. Now, you know, one silver lining here is that the systems are working. They limited the damage. They shot down the majority of those missiles. That's according to Zelenskyy.

But Michel, it's been a quiet fall in Ukraine, and that's kind of allowed Russia to stockpile this barrage of weapons. Ukrainian officials are bracing for more attacks like the one today to continue. I mean, they - this is what they feared, that this would happen during winter, that this would hit critical infrastructure, civilian infrastructure. I mean, even now, as we speak, Michel, there are air raid sirens in most of the country, all across Ukraine again. And the air force is saying the threat alert remains extremely, extremely high.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Elissa Nadworny. She is on Ukraine's eastern border. Elissa, thanks for this reporting, and we do hope you will stay safe.

NADWORNY: Thank you, Michel. Always a pleasure to chat. 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.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
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.