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The Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv have suffered Russian strikes


We reached two people in Ukraine still fighting, still bearing witness to the invasion happening in their hometowns. After a night of heavy shelling in and around Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, Serhii Prokopenko, a journalist with Gwara Media, described a scene of a decimated university building.

SERHII PROKOPENKO: University at the city's center is destroyed. Glass is broken. And it's really, like, disappointing.

MARTÍNEZ: And in Kyiv, Russian forces continue to advance. Yesterday, five people died after Russia attacked a TV tower there, hitting nearby broadcast facilities. Volodymyr Omelyan is with Ukraine's territorial defense forces in Kyiv. Once Ukraine's infrastructure minister, he volunteered to fight the very day Russia invaded. We reached him earlier this morning in Kyiv.

VOLODYMYR OMELYAN: We are fighting, and I would say that fighting furiously. Almost all Ukrainians took armor and machine guns to counter Russians. They didn't expect such a turn in their philosophy. They thought that every Ukrainian will greet them when they tried to occupy Ukraine, but they failed. They have dramatic losses, even exceeding losses in war in Chechnya. But still, it's tough because it's, like, hard. You kill one, another two come. And definitely, we need more weapons. We need more armor. But we are sure about our success, whatever it takes.

MARTÍNEZ: Has there been anything about the tactics of Russia's military that has either surprised or confused you and the people you are with right now?

OMELYAN: Not really because they were always telling that it's, like, a second army in the world. But it turned out to be very weak. And we crushed many of their brigades. For example, yesterday, near Kharkiv, the best brigade of Russia was totally destroyed by a small Ukrainian group. And like payback for that, they simply dropped vacuum bomb on Kharkiv yesterday night and killed many civilians. But what they do normal is they cannot occupy a single major city. They simply trying to get inside in small groups to take any building to put a flag of Russia on it and picture it as, we took the city, which is fake because it's only number of four or five men in Russian uniform declaring something.

But still, we see that a lot of tanks are approaching Kyiv, coming from Belarus and from Russia. And definitely, their main goal is not to occupy the whole Ukraine, which is not the fact. And only maybe some five or 10% of our territory is occupied right now. But to occupy the Kyiv and to say that we control the capital. We put some puppet government and president in place. And now this is Ukraine. We will never accept it. We will fight to the very end. And with the Western support, with the United States' assistance in military and finance, I believe we will overcome this, A - and as we joke in Ukraine that the best time right now to get rid of Russia in the whole world.

MARTÍNEZ: The last time we spoke, Volodymyr, you were very confident that you and Ukraine would win. Wondering how morale is right now, and is that confidence still at that high level?

OMELYAN: Morale is the same level. We are 100% sure that we will win, no doubt about that. Definitely, they are trying to spread panic among the civilians, bombing them. But they get different response to such actions. People are getting furious. And people are ready to kill Russians - even civilians, which never took any kind of gun in their hands.

MARTÍNEZ: Volodymyr, what's the one thing you want Americans to know right now about what's happening in the capital city of Ukraine?

OMELYAN: First of all, we fight. We will never surrender. Second issue, we are very grateful for your support. It was a great, historical moment for us when yesterday, European Union accepted our appeal to become a member of the European Union. And I hope it will become real very soon. We definitely need some actions from NATO because it's not normal when military aircrafts in the center of Europe bombing cities and villages and killing civilians. And at least we need urgent supply of anti-missile and anti-aircraft systems to clear the skies from invasion. And we will handle the land occupation easily.

MARTÍNEZ: That is Volodymyr Omelyan with the territorial defense units in Kyiv. Volodymyr. stay safe. Thank you very much.

OMELYAN: Thank you. All the best. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.