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Ukrainian journalist paints a picture of the country under siege

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Street fighting is breaking out in Kyiv. Rocket explosions and air raid sirens fill the sky. Ukrainian journalist Andriy Kulykov is in Kyiv. He covers the conflict for Hromadske Radio. Thank you very much for being with us, sir, especially at a time like this.

ANDRIY KULYKOV: Thank you for being with us in this hard time.

SIMON: Well, sir, tell us what these hard times are like. What have you seen over the past few hours?

KULYKOV: Over the past few hours, I've seen explosions in the sky. If we go back something like 10 hours ago, I felt the shaking of the windows. I also saw very, very few people or cars in the streets. And five minutes away on foot from the place where I live, a rocket hit the newly built skyrise. Luckily it is not inhabited yet. But where my - where the mother of my son-in-law lives, right across from her - again, five minutes on foot - another rocket hit a residential house, and two people died there - two civilians. There were also automated rifles firing. And that's basically all that I have seen today.

SIMON: Are people in bunkers and basements?

KULYKOV: Most of them are. But, of course, some people have to stay outside in spite of everything. And talking to American public is very important, so although I am supposed to be underground at the moment, I took time to talk to you.

SIMON: We're very grateful. Are people seeing President Zelenskyy's messages?

KULYKOV: Yes, people are. We - well, most of us are on Twitter or Telegram or whatever. And they are very anxiously waiting for his messages. Some of them are very much enthusiastic about what he says. Some of them, of course, are not. But that's the nature of a democratic society for you.

I talked today to my friend, who lives in Mariupol. That's a city on the Sea of Azov and one of the major targets of a Russian onslaught since 2014. And this person told me that Zelenskyy should be - should make more concessions to Russia. Other people would say, no, he should not. We stand by him as he stands by us. I do not necessarily share this opinion, but that's the prevalent feeling among the people whom I talked to at the moment.

SIMON: I have to ask, Mr. Kulykov, how do many people feel towards the West right now? Do they feel that Europe and the United States have turned away, have abandoned Ukraine?

KULYKOV: The feelings are and the sentiments are very much confused, and sometimes they change overnight or over several hours. Before the attacks started, many people were sort of annoyed with Mr. Biden, who has constantly warned us that the invasion would start in so and so many hours, or on the 16 of February. When this didn't happen, many people said, well, he is just flaring up the tension in order to gain something in his competition with Russia.

However, when there were always people who said, no, he should say this, he should share American intelligence as this was done, because if you're warned, you are better prepared. And it's better to cry wolf and the wolf does not come than not to cry wolf and the wolf attacks you. So after the actual attack happened, the attitude towards Mr. Biden has considerably changed. And we have never, ever doubted the general sympathy of the American people, American public, although we - most of us know that Ukraine used to be not on the first step of the American scale of values. But then we - we're far away.

SIMON: Mr. Kulykov, let me ask you this finally. I don't have to tell you there are reports from U.S. intelligence that the capital might fall within a few days. Do you see that happening, or is the resistance such that it might actually be able to turn back the Russian assault?

KULYKOV: I want to believe that we will be able to do this, but in the war, of course, you cannot be 100% sure. One thing I can tell you for certain is that we are not going to subordinate ourselves to the Russians. Again, when I say we, this does not mean everyone. Some people are waiting for the Russians to come. Some people are saying whatever happens will happen and we will live under no matter which power it will be.

But many, many people are taking up arms in their hands. Many people are now helping the police. And the territorial defense, which was formed very close to the invasion very recently has already demonstrated that they can fight.

Again, this is war, and every side of the war wants to embellish their own successes and to minimize, at least in wars, the successes of the enemy. So we should sort of seal the information that we receive from both sides and from the West, by the way. But overall, I am pretty sure that the resistance is strong. What will happen? We'll see in several days, but I want to remind that there were predictions that Ukraine will be subjugated during 24 hours. So far, we have been resisting for more than two days - full two days - 55 hours.

SIMON: Andriy Kulykov, reporter in Kyiv, thanks so much, sir. Take care.

KULYKOV: Take care. Bye-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.