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After months of escalation, Russia has begun an invasion of Ukraine


Russia has begun an attack on Ukraine. Right now, we'll get perspective on what's happening in Ukraine from NPR's Tim Mak, who is on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, and Franco Ordonez, who is following how the White House is responding to the invasion. Tim, let's start with you and the latest from Ukraine. You spent the last couple of hours in the capital, which came under bombardment before dawn broke. Can you tell us what happened, what's been targeted, and is the attack still going on?

TIM MAK, BYLINE: So the residents of Kyiv and cities all across Ukraine were woken up overnight by bombing. And where we were in central Kyiv, we heard explosions in the early morning, and there have been a lot of reports of more explosions since then. So far, what we're seeing is reports of military installations and airports being targeted by these attacks, and the situation is obviously very fluid. The country seems to be under assault from multiple directions, and Putin's objective appears, at least in these initial hours, to degrade Ukrainian military's capabilities.

MARTÍNEZ: Tim, what's the reaction been in Ukraine? I mean, how are Ukrainians responding to this aggression from Russia?

MAK: Well, I think that one initial reaction is that of shock. I arrived last evening on one of the last commercial flights into Kyiv, and Ukrainians were pointing out that this was a city that was not panicking despite the threat of an invasion, and the situation has obviously changed drastically overnight. Many residents of Kyiv are trying to evacuate towards the West. There are long lines that we've observed all day at ATMs, gas stations and supermarkets. In fact, right now, as I speak to you, we're in line to get gas. Traffic is at a standstill leaving town, making it really difficult for people to leave.

MARTÍNEZ: Let's move to Franco Ordonez now. Franco, what's been the reaction from the White House?

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: You know, President Biden quickly denounced the attack after Vladimir Putin announced the operation would begin, and in a statement, Biden said it was, quote, "unprovoked and unjustified." He called it a premeditated war, and he promised that the world would hold Russia accountable. He also said that he and the first lady are praying for the, quote, "brave and proud people of Ukraine." Biden did speak with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last night about the steps the West would take in response. You know, he was already going to meet with G-7 leaders virtually this morning about the crisis, and he says he'll also make a public address this afternoon to announce further consequences that the U.S. and allies plan to take on Russia.

MARTÍNEZ: Tim, Ukraine's President Zelenskyy spoke with President Biden. What did they talk about?

MAK: Well, yeah, Franco mentioned that call [unintelligible] President Biden called, quote, "flagrant aggression" of Russia's President Putin. Biden said he condemned (ph) the attack by the Russian military and would be taking steps to rally the international community against the Russian government. Biden also said that America will continue to provide aid to Ukraine.

MARTÍNEZ: Tim, all right, Tim, hey - yeah, Tim. Let's see if his line can get ironed out. He is in Kyiv, on the outskirts of Kyiv, so let's go to Franco now. Franco, this move from Vladimir Putin is now going to prompt further consequences. What can you tell us about new sanctions that are expected?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, the president has already announced that the White - what the White House describes as the first tranche of sanctions. You know, those have included sanctions against two major Russian financial institutions, along with the government's ability to access Western financing. Also, sanctions were imposed against the Russian-owned company that is building the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. And Biden warned that those were just the start. The administration has been kind of telegraphing what could come next. That could include targeting more Russian elites, more Russian banks and export controls, which would be basically cutting Russia off from some critical technology like semiconductors. The administration and bipartisan members of Congress have been talking about providing additional assistance to Ukraine and allies and partners as well.

MARTÍNEZ: Let's go back to Tim. Tim, your line cut out when you were telling us about what Zelenskyy and Biden spoke about.

MAK: So obviously the situation is really quickly evolving. You know, there are - there's a lot of lines at the supermarkets, at gas stations. In fact, we're at one right now. Basically, it's a very fluid situation.

MARTÍNEZ: And President Zelenskyy, I know, spoke a little while ago. What did he say?

MAK: Well, he was talking about how the Ukrainian government is handing out weapons and asking folks in this country to protect their land. He said that those who have combat experience should be taking up arms and that their greatest asset was their national unity.

MARTÍNEZ: Franco Ordonez, President Biden, you mentioned, is going to have a call with leaders of the G-7 later today. What could possibly get accomplished there on this call?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, A, it's a critical time. The United States and allies have been warning about this situation for weeks. And really, the call is all about making sure that allies are on the same page and committed to carrying out the plan that, you know, they laid out if Russia invades. It's to give an update, you know, because the reality is this is going to cause some pain. Gas prices are likely to go up, and some of the leaders could face some political pushback, as we're actually seeing here in the United States as well. The reality is that Europe's economy is even more intertwined with that of Russia's, especially for energy. So this is going to be hard, and Biden and the allies are going to be encouraging each other to stick together.

MARTÍNEZ: And Tim, let's go back to you for a second. You mentioned you were in line waiting to get gas. How long is that line? How many people are around you? And just watching video from Kyiv, the freeway, the traffic looks like it's not moving at all. How bad is it where you're at?

MAK: Well, you can definitely see a lot of bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way going west from Kyiv. We've been in line for gas now for quite some time, waiting to go on air with you folks. But we finally got to the front of the line, so we're hoping to continue moving.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Tim Mak in the capital, in Kyiv, and NPR's Franco Ordonez in Washington, D.C. My thanks to you both.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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.
Tim Mak is NPR's Washington Investigative Correspondent, focused on political enterprise journalism.