Live Updates: If Americans turn against support for Ukraine, they will lose NATO, Zelenskyy says

Published February 24, 2023 at 7:07 AM EST
Zelenskyy Holds Press Conference On First Anniversary Of Russia's Full-Scale Invasion
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks to the media in Kyiv on Friday.

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On the first anniversary of Russia's invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took questions from a global press corps to appeal for support from around the world.

Here's what we're following:

Why isn't Russia's air force more involved in the war?

Posted February 24, 2023 at 5:01 PM EST
Why is the Russian air force not more involved in the war? I rarely see any news regarding Russian strikes from the air, or anything regarding their air superiority. — Matt

A year ago, most everyone expected Russia to dominate the skies with its much larger and more modern air force.

But Ukraine’s air defenses were surprisingly effective, shooting down many Russian fighter jets and helicopters in the first couple months of the war.

As a result, Russia essentially stopped flying fighter jets over Ukraine. Numbers are hard to come by, but Russia had an estimated 1,500 fighter jets before the war began and still has the vast majority of them, probably 1,400 or more.

Russia is keeping those fighter jets grounded for now and is attacking with cruise and ballistic missiles, as well as drones. Ukraine shoots most of these down with its air defense missiles. For Ukraine, the problem is it’s running low on these missiles. If it runs out, then Russia could unleash its fighting planes.

I wrote about this recently, noting that we’re seeing air battles daily, but pilots are rarely involved. This will increasingly be the future of air warfare.

Reporter's Reflection

I interviewed dozens of children in Ukraine. The trauma shows up in different ways

Posted February 24, 2023 at 4:35 PM EST

No child in Ukraine is unaffected by the war. More than 5 million children have been displaced from their homes, and many have lost loved ones, witnessed violence and, in some cases, experienced it firsthand.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve interviewed dozens of children and their families, across Ukraine and the world. Kids are acting out, they’re angry and sad, clingy and regressing (sucking their thumbs). They “play” war and dream about driving tanks. They are scared. “My son grew up in an instant,” one mom of a 6-year-old in Lviv told me.

"The trauma of war can present itself in many ways," says Yuliia Luchnikova, a school psychologist in Dnipro. "This state of being in Ukraine isn't normal."

When I met Eva and her mom in a shelter in Kyiv, Eva, 7, was bubbly and talkative, constantly raising her hand during an underground lesson for children. But her mom told me Eva was afraid of seeing dead bodies on the street in Kyiv. Death in Ukraine is everywhere, she said.

A group of children in Ukraine
Elissa Nadworny
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NPR
Seven-year-old Eva was bright and bubbly during a lesson, but her mother said she showed signs of fear of the war.

In the central city of Dnipro, we spent time with Vera, 10, and her family. Vera told us she watches YouTube videos about people traveling. "I just watch people live a peaceful life, not like this."

In Kharkiv, a 9-year-old named Sasha told us he “takes three deep breaths and then three normal breaths” when he feels scared or uncomfortable. It’s a tip his father taught him when the war started. He told us it’s been helping.

A boy seen through a window in Ukraine
Claire Harbage
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NPR
Sasha, age 9, said he takes deep breathes when he's scared.

I met Nastya, 10, and her dog Lucky, at the train station in Western Ukraine. She and her mom lived for eight days underground in the besieged city of Mariupol, but then Nastya started having panic attacks. “I love Ukraine very much,” Nastya’s mom told me, “but I can’t handle seeing my daughter like this.” They were on their way to Poland.

A girl in a red jacket eats an ice cream
Elissa Nadworny
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Varya, age 6, says her pets kept her company during the stress of evacuating.

I met Varya Lysenko when she was 6 years old. She told me her pets (a cat, a dog, and two hamsters) kept her company when her family fled Chernihiv in March. “Even the hamsters were brave!” she says. “They are not afraid of anything.”

Will the U.S. take action against countries that buy oil from Russia?

Posted February 24, 2023 at 4:16 PM EST
Do you think that we will eventually take action against countries that purchase oil and other products from Russia? — Harris

The global oil economy is really complicated. It’s perhaps the only thing more complicated than sanctions enforcement, and this question touches on both.

It is theoretically possible for the U.S. to sanction countries that maintain economic ties with Russia. The best precedent for this is perhaps the Helms–Burton Act which extended U.S. sanctions on Cuba toward any foreign company doing business with both Cuba and the U.S. at the same time. When President Bill Clinton signed that law in 1996, several countries accused the U.S. of violating their sovereignty, passing their own laws to make the U.S. regulation effectively unenforceable.

That said, there wasn’t much of a political will for third countries to sanction Cuba at the time. It’s possible today’s situation with Russia might make such a policy more politically palatable if the U.S. attempted it again, though I can’t find any serious proposal in the government to do just that.

Keep in mind that India and China are among the two biggest importers of Russian oil, and sanctioning over a third of the world’s population would be very difficult, if not impossible.

What the U.S. has done, though, is build a coalition to leverage the global oil market against Russia’s energy sector. Earlier this month, the G7 imposed a $100 price cap on crude oil, but that’s largely symbolic, with the current market hovering around $76. Meanwhile, Russia reportedly spends only $44 per barrel on production, meaning there’s still plenty of profit flowing into the country, even with the price cap and market rate where it is now

The G7’s price cap could be lower, but that would effectively eliminate profits from Western oil suppliers, where production costs have traditionally been higher than in Russia.

Reporter's Reflection

What workers on an abandoned rail line signaled about the things to come

Posted February 24, 2023 at 4:02 PM EST
Poland_Railro
Ben de la Cruz
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NPR
A crew repairs an abandoned rail line that once connected a rural part of southern Poland to Ukraine.

It was two weeks into the war, and the wave of humanity fleeing across the border from Ukraine into Poland felt overwhelming.

It was the fastest exodus of refugees in Europe since World War II, and the scene at crossings was organized chaos as aid groups rushed to meet people and help.

I was traveling with an NPR team to Poland's southernmost crossing with Ukraine, on the outskirts of the tiny town of Krościenko, when we spotted some workers toiling away on old rail tracks about a mile from the border.

They were rushing to rebuild an abandoned line that connected the two countries, in the hopes it could be revived to help ferry refugees to safety.

It was slow, manual labor. They were using pick axes and dragging out old rail ties with their hands.

At the time, we had no idea how long the war could last, but this felt like the most tangible sign that Poland was prepared for it to drag on and on. On the first anniversary, and with still no end in sight, I can’t help but think how right they were.

➡️ Read more about the abandoned rail tracks.

How does the U.S. train Ukrainian forces to use the weapons it's providing?

Posted February 24, 2023 at 3:35 PM EST
The United States has decided to provide M1 Abrams battle tanks to the Ukrainian armed forces. The United States may provide fighter jets in the near future. How does the United States provide members of the Ukrainian armed forces with the training that is required to effectively operate these weapons systems? — Omar

Ask any U.S. military member who’s worked with the Ukrainians and they’ll tell you the Ukrainians are extremely tech-savvy and extremely fast learners.

After Russia first invaded in 2014, the U.S. military stepped up training for the Ukrainian military in western Ukraine. U.S. trainers continued working in Ukraine right up until the full-scale Russian invasion a year ago.

Now the U.S. and European militaries are training Ukrainian forces in Europe. Most U.S. training takes place at U.S. military bases in Germany.

The U.S. is also training about 100 Ukrainians on the Patriot anti-missile system in Oklahoma. This training has been picking up steam. The Western countries have gone from training the Ukrainians on specific systems to training larger units on how to carry out coordinated attacks.

In addition to training from NATO countries, the Ukrainians have figured out their own "war hacks" to make do with whatever they have in hand.

Best of

A look back: The lives lost

Posted February 24, 2023 at 3:15 PM EST
Mourners place flowers and stuffed animals on the grave of 11-year-old Anastasiya Grycenko at her funeral in Kharkiv on Sept. 20.
Pete Kiehart for NPR
Mourners place flowers and stuffed animals on the grave of 11-year-old Anastasiya Hrytsenko at her funeral in September in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded at least 18,955 civilian casualties in Ukraine since the start of the war, with 7,199 people killed and 11,756 injured as of earlier this month.

The OHCHR says most of those were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact, including shelling from artillery and airstrikes. And it believes these numbers are a considerable undercount, since it has many delayed and uncorroborated reports.

For every life lost, there are countless others left shaken and grieving. Here are some of NPR's stories about the human toll of the war.

Best of

A look back: Forced to flee

Posted February 24, 2023 at 2:55 PM EST
A sign saying "CHILDREN" in Russian on the back of a car coming from Mariupol.
Becky Sullivan
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NPR
A sign saying "CHILDREN" in Russian on the back of a car coming from Mariupol.

More than 8 million refugees have fled Ukraine, the largest movement of people in Europe since World War II.

Some have been deported by Russia, while others have sought shelter and safety in neighboring European countries. Some have managed to return to Ukraine already.

Here are some of NPR's stories about those who left, those who couldn't and those who refused.

Q & A

A history lesson: How geopolitics plays out in the discourse in both countries

Posted February 24, 2023 at 2:35 PM EST
How does the history of Russia and Ukraine as constituent republics of the USSR play into the discourse in both countries? — Anya

Legally speaking, Russia and Ukraine have different relationships to their predecessor states.

Even though both Soviet republics ostensibly managed their own foreign policies, Russia was represented at the United Nations as the USSR, and all issues directed at Russia went through the USSR. Conversely, Soviet Ukraine had its own U.N. ambassador while also being represented by — and therefore rubber stamping — decisions made by the Soviet Union’s delegation.

When the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991, the new Russian Federation inherited all of the USSR’s treaties, diplomatic relationships, even embassies. Meanwhile, Ukraine had to pretty much start from scratch, establishing its own treaties and erecting embassies for the first time without approval from Moscow.

So in Ukraine, people mark the fall of the Soviet Union with “Independence Day,” while in Russia, it’s understood as a reformation of the same state with its roots in the Russian Empire.

Many Russian nationalists, though, perceive Ukraine as a breakaway region of greater Russia. During President Putin’s marathon state address on Feb. 21, he accused Western countries of attempting “to deprive Russia of these historical territories that are now called Ukraine,” making war the only way to “protect the people in our historical lands.”

So, in recent years, Ukrainians have reached further into their history to argue that Ukrainian independence existed before the fall of the Soviet Union, or even the Russian empire before it. “Independence Day,” marking the dissolution of the Soviet Union, is now referred to as “the restoration of independence.” Events relating to Ukraine’s brief period of independence after WWI are now national holidays, as are days that celebrate a Ukrainian Cossack state that existed around the 17th century.

And even though the fall of the Soviet Union was notable for its lack of bloodshed, many in Ukraine refer to today’s conflict as a true “war of independence.”

➡️ Here's a timeline of major events in the Russia-Ukraine relationship since the Soviet Union fell.

How the war has transformed Ukrainians, in their own words

Posted February 24, 2023 at 2:16 PM EST
A woman takes a picture Friday at a memorial near Maidan Square in central Kyiv for those killed during the war with Russia.
Thibault Camus/AP
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AP
A woman takes a picture Friday at a memorial near Maidan Square in central Kyiv for those killed during the war with Russia.

"Everybody's a different person today in Ukraine than they were 12 months ago, and ... many people have risen to the occasion," says NPR's Frank Langfitt, who has been covering the war on the ground throughout the past year.

Click here to listen to various Ukrainians, from refugees to soldiers, describe how the war has transformed their lives.

A 16-year-old tells Morning Edition's Leila Fadel: "I had to leave because I didn't want my father or me to possibly see each other die in the most horrible ways."

An older soldier says: "I'm [an] old person but I'm ready to fight to protect my grandchildren. I can still hold the weapon and I remember how to use it."

An interior design student who enlisted in the army says he's not scared: "They came to our land, so they have to be scared, not us."

Here's what Ukraine's neighbors are saying today

Posted February 24, 2023 at 2:04 PM EST

Presidents and prime ministers of the countries physically closest to Ukraine continue to show their support for the country on social media.

Maia Sandu, the president of Moldova, a country that shares the majority of its eastern border with Ukraine, shared a video message “firmly” supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia's invasion, calling its people “brave.”

Ukrainian refugees in Moldova have begun receiving mental and psychological health care.

Two of Ukraine’s larger neighbors, Poland and Romania, also expressed their support on Twitter.

Andrzej Duda, Poland’s president, said in a tweet there is “no freedom” for Ukraine “without solidarity.” He shared a video message along with the #solidaritywithukraine tag, encouraging “the world” to support Ukraine. In April 2022, almost two-thirds of Poland’s people said at least one person from their household had supported Ukrainian refugees.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis addressed Ukranians directly. “You are not alone,” he said in a tweet earlier in the afternoon local time. The country has spent over $67 million on Ukrainian refugee aid since the start of the invasion.

Hungary and Slovakia, which both share a border with Ukraine and each other, also shared supportive messages to Ukraine’s people.

Katalin Novák, Hungary’s president, shared a video message alongside other government leaders from around the world, wishing for peace. Over 2 million Ukrainian refugees have entered Hungary since the start of the invasion.

Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová said Slovakia will continue to stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes, so justice can be delivered.” The country provided $4.7 million worth of military material to Ukraine last year. 

A Ukrainian lawmaker reflects on a year of war — and what they need next

Posted February 24, 2023 at 1:48 PM EST
Ukraine MP Lesia Vasylenko speaks at a conference in England in October 2022.
Paul Ellis
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AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian member of parliament Lesia Vasylenko speaks at a conference in England in October 2022.

A year out from the beginning of the Ukrainian war, Ukrainian member of parliament Lesia Vasylenko says she had hoped to already see its end.

“Honestly, I was hoping that a year in, we would be already celebrating victory,” Vasylenko told Morning Edition's A Martínez on Friday. “I guess it was very naïve, wishful thinking.”

In hindsight, she blames part of the war’s longevity on slow support from Western allies at the beginning.

“If the world had shown the same kind of bravery that the Ukrainian people showed in those first hours of the 24th of February,” she said, “a lot of the deaths, a lot of the casualties and the destruction could have been prevented.”

For months, Vasylenko has juggled lawmaking and international advocacy with parenting from afar. Her three kids were evacuated in March.

But as Ukraine enters its second year of war, Vasylenko said she hopes to see mobilization efforts re-energized.

“Victory is all of Ukrainian territories de-occupied, brought back under the Ukrainian flag,” she said.

That includes regions like Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed nine years ago.

“For me, it's not enough just to kick the Russians out from Ukraine,” she said. “There must be responsibility. There must be justice.”

That means reparations and apologies from Russian leadership, but also from the Russian people, who have “endorsed, supported or stayed quiet through this time of pain for Ukraine.”

Listen to their full conversation here.

Would Russia invade Ukraine's neighbors? Zelenskyy says maybe

Posted February 24, 2023 at 1:41 PM EST

The press conference is over now, but here's one more question we caught on a second listen: Asked whether he thought it was possible that Russia might invade a neighboring country, Zelenskyy said he did think it was possible.

"President Putin needs to demonstrate success and victories. He's not going to demonstrate success on the battlefield in Ukraine," Zelenskyy said, according to a translation provided by theWashington Post. He specifically pointed to Moldova, which shares three borders with Ukraine.

"It's better to prevent such capabilities through sanctions," he added.

Country star Brad Paisley releases a new song featuring Zelenskyy

Posted February 24, 2023 at 1:39 PM EST

Country singer Brad Paisley released a new song on Friday to mark the anniversary of the war in Ukraine.

It's called "Same Here" and includes over a minute of conversation between him and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Around the 3-minute mark, the guitar music softens in the background as listeners hear the two men greet each other. Then Paisley asks Zelenskyy how to say "same here" in Ukrainian.

"We speak different languages in our life, yes, but I think we appreciate [the] same things: children, freedom, our flag, our soldiers, our people — the biggest treasure we have — and friends," Zelenskyy says. "And we are proud of our army, who defend our freedom and will defend our life."

Then the song continues, with Paisley singing: "However you talk, whatever you think, from the songs that you sing to the drink that you drink ... we can love each other like crazy and want someone to share your hopes and fears."

Zelenskyy continues: "We are fighting for our children, for our parents, to defend our houses and families ..."

"There is no distance between our countries in such values," Zelenskyy concludes. "That is very important, to see that they are really in many, in many things, really the same."

Paisley — who is a celebrity ambassador for Ukraine's UNITED24 fundraising effort — told the Associated Press that he thought it would be a long shot to get Zelenskyy to participate in the song directly — but that Zelenskyy not only approved of it but also suggested changes.

“I think he understands that art is how you reach the most people, especially in the heart,” Paisley said of Zelenskyy, who was an actor and comedian before being elected president in 2019.

Paisley wrote "Same Here" with Lee Thomas Miller and Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith. It's part of an album that will be released later this year.

Paisley says royalties from the song will go to UNITED24 to build housing for displaced Ukrainians.

Zelenskyy wraps after nearly 2 hours of questions

Posted February 24, 2023 at 1:25 PM EST

Zelenskyy is wrapping up after more than two hours of answering questions. He covered a range of topics, canvassing an international spectrum of concerns and priorities.

Zelenskyy reiterated that Ukraine will prevail, but can only do so with expanded support from countries around the world.

Though he's made similar pleas in the past, today's inclusion of a global press corps broadened his message for an international audience. His appeal may vary slightly from country to country, but above all, supporting Ukraine is a moral issue, he said.

Reporter's Reflection

As a journalist, I don't think I've ever been more worried about someone

Posted February 24, 2023 at 1:13 PM EST
A view of the destroyed Fabrika shopping mall in the city of Kherson in July 2022.
STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
A view of the destroyed Fabrika shopping mall in the city of Kherson in July 2022.

I traveled to Ukraine three times last year for NPR — once before the war started, and twice since it’s been happening.

On that first trip, I went with a team as far east as we could go into the Donbas region (much of which is now occupied by Russia), and also as far south as we could go into Kherson and right up to the boundary line with Crimea.

On that southern trip, NPR international correspondent Daniel Estrin, photographer Claire Harbage and I met a young college student named Vitaliy who spoke nearly perfect English. We interviewed him and got his number. Twelve days later, Russian tanks rolled from Crimea into Kherson.

I was back in the U.S. when the invasion started, but I had Vitaliy’s number. We called him onAll Things Consideredthat day to see how he was doing. And we kept up with him for months as the war unfolded around him. He showed us the bomb shelter he spent nights in, took us to the protests after Russia took control of his town and told us how hard it was to find food.

A picture taken in July shows craters on Kherson's Antonovsky bridge across the Dnipro River
STRINGER
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AFP via Getty Images
A picture taken in July shows craters on Kherson's Antonovsky bridge across the Dnipro River

And then finally, as the battle for Ukraine to take back Kherson grew closer and closer and Vitaliy and his mom grew more desperate, Vitaliy walked us through his decision to leave Ukraine — by fleeing south, through Russia, and into the neighboring country of Georgia.

He shared all these moments with us through voice memos on the Telegram messaging app. And for me, as a journalist, I don’t think I’ve ever been more worried about someone. It was an incredibly risky journey, and I had to wait days to find out if he had made it.

I still keep in touch with Vitaliy sometimes, and we’re friends on Instagram. He and his mom have started a new life — for now — in Germany. But he celebrated from afar when Kherson was liberated, and hopes to go back one day.

➡️Read more about Vitaliy's decision to escape Ukraine.

'They will lose NATO,' Zelenskyy says of Americans turning against aid to Ukraine

Posted February 24, 2023 at 1:00 PM EST

A journalist from ABC News asked Zelenskyy what he thought about the growing sentiment that American support in Ukraine is wavering.

"I would like to thank all of the American people who are supporting Ukraine," Zelenskyy said.

"That percentage of Americans you mention, I can tell them one thing: If they do not change their opinion, if they do not understand us, if they do not support Ukraine, they will lose NATO, they will lose the clout of the United States, they will lose the leadership position they're enjoying in the world," Zelenskyy said.

He leaned heavily on mentions of NATO, saying that if Americans failed to support the alliance, they might be involved in future conflicts themselves and lack support.

Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have supported financial and military aid for Ukraine, and while there’s been no evidence that money is ending up in the wrong hands, some have concerns over where it’s going, as NPR has reported.

Congress had already promised greater oversight, including a hearing scheduled for next week. On Friday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., introduced a resolution of inquiry asking President Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to provide the House with “all relevant information about how taxpayer dollars are being used in Ukraine.”

A similar resolution she introduced in November (when the House was controlled by Democrats) had unanimous Republican support.

➡️ Read more about America's stances toward supporting Ukraine.

Ukrainians are lining up in droves for new Banksy postage stamps

Posted February 24, 2023 at 12:52 PM EST
Stamps and envelopes of a now-famous Banksy mural, pictured Friday, went on sale in Ukraine on the anniversary of the start of the war.
Sergei Supinsky
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AFP via Getty Images
Stamps and envelopes depicting a now-famous Banksy mural went on sale in Ukraine on Friday on the anniversary of the start of the war.

Back in November, the anonymous graffiti artist Banksy made headlines for a new mural painted on the side of a building destroyed by shelling in Borodyanka, Ukraine. In it, a small child throws a man on the floor — and both are dressed in judo clothing.

Today, Ukrainians are lining up outside the post office in Kyiv to get their hands on new postage stamps depicting that very scene, Reuters reports.

"We thought that this exact stamp, this exact painting would be the best representation of what every Ukrainian feels about our enemy," the head of the Ukrainian Postal Service, Ihor Smilianskyi, said before postmarking the first stamp.

As NPR has reported, some have speculated the man in the mural represents Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a known martial arts fan.

People glue stamps on envelopes at the main Kyive post office Friday while others wait to buy new Ukrainian stamps depicting the Banksy mural.
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images
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AFP
People glue stamps on envelopes at the main Kyiv post office Friday, while others wait to buy new Ukrainian stamps depicting the Banksy mural.

The new stamp hit shelves today and will have a circulation of 1.5 million copies or 250,000 stamped sheets, according to Ukrainian news site BYKVU.

And it's not the first wartime stamp to cause a stir in the country.

In April, Ukrainians waited in line for hours to buy stamps commemorating the now-iconic scene at Snake Island, where Ukrainian defenders responded defiantly to Russian troops' calls to surrender.

Q & A

When will the war end?

Posted February 24, 2023 at 12:41 PM EST
When will it be over? What’s it going to take to get Russia out of Ukraine? — Sam

Who knows? Most think at least another year. Both armies have suffered staggering losses and neither has anything that looks like a knock-out blow in them.

This is a grinding trench and artillery war of attrition. The invasion has been a disaster for President Vladimir Putin and in order to justify it at home he at least has to take control of Ukraine’s Donbas region, after which he can falsely claim that the army saved Russian citizens persecuted by Ukraine.

➡️ Read more about what analysts are saying about the possible end to the war.

Q & A

A look at how Russia is framing the war

Posted February 24, 2023 at 12:40 PM EST
Is Russia still using the concept of denazification as justification for the war? How does this contrast to official Russian government acknowledgement of their own extensive domestic network of neo-Nazi and far-right groups? — Anya

From the very beginning of the war, President Putin has drawn parallels between the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in WWII and the current military campaign against supposed “neo-Nazis” in Ukraine. That hasn’t let up, if only because it’s a powerful emotional and recruitment tool. Twenty million Soviets — Russians, Ukrainians and others — died fighting Hitler’s armies. In other words, the war affected nearly every family here.

But the Russian goal of “denazification" as a stated offensive goal has not faded into the background. Instead, the Kremlin has "flipped the script" from being the aggressor to the victim.

How? Putin illegally annexed four territories from Ukraine in September and now presents Ukraine’s efforts — backed by the West — to take back its own territory as a fascist attack on the Russian homeland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address at the Gostiny Dvor conference centre in central Moscow on February 21, 2023.
Dimitry Astakhov
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Sputnik via AFP/Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his annual state of the nation address in Moscow on Tuesday.

And you’re right: The Russian government largely ignores its own far-right networks — if only because they currently both share the same imperialist designs in Ukraine.

In that sense, your question about the “constituent republics” gets to the heart of it. People often accuse Putin of wanting to resurrect the Soviet Union. Yet one could argue that Putin is more interested in gathering the lands of the Russian empire. In fact, in his speeches about Ukraine, he criticizes the Soviet leadership for creating Ukraine, the Soviet republic that later became an independent country, on a whim.

In his mind, the communist leadership tore Ukraine from its true home in the Russian empire.

➡️ Read about Putin's latest national address on the invasion.

Q & A

Will the congressional funding dry up?

Posted February 24, 2023 at 12:30 PM EST
Numerous Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are threatening "no more blank checks" with regard to funding support for Ukraine. Yet the White House repeatedly asserts: "Whatever it takes, for however long it takes." Where exactly have these appropriations been coming from? Is this an open-ended budget line? Or is it more like the Lend-Lease Act employed during World War II? — Trevor

The U.S. Congressapproved four separate spending bills for Ukraine in the past year totaling $112 billion. More than half has been for military help. The rest is funding the Ukrainian government (this helps pay the salaries of Ukrainian government workers) and humanitarian aid to help the millions of Ukrainians who have been driven from their homes.

All these measures were approved when both the House and the Senate were controlled by Democrats. As you noted, some Republicans are saying the U.S. should stop funding Ukraine. But at this point, they are a relatively small number. Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly support aid for Ukraine, and most Republicans do as well.

The money Congress has already approved will help cover Ukraine’s needs for the next several months. But at some point later this year, President Biden is certain to seek more money for Ukraine, and we’ll see how the Republicans in the House respond.

➡️ My NPR colleague Franco Ordonez recently published a helpful breakdown on U.S. funding.

Q & A

What does Ukraine want the world to know?

Posted February 24, 2023 at 12:25 PM EST
What do the Ukrainian people want the world to know besides their need for our support and military aid? — Erik

There seems to be some degree of sensitivity in Ukraine to Russia’s claims it’s waging a proxy war with the West over Ukraine. A lot of the Ukrainians I’ve talked to, while they appreciate the Western weapons supplies, say this is their war to fight. They say Ukrainians bear the brunt of the war. Apart from a few exceptions, almost all of the tens of thousands of people who have died in this war have been on Ukrainian territory.

It seems like a number of American officials understand that, having summed up their position as “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.”

Shortly before Russia invaded last February, less than a third of Ukrainians supported foreign boots on the ground in Ukraine. Conversely, that roughly tracks with the results of an Ipsos poll from January, which found about 7 in 10 people in Western countries think they should “avoid getting involved militarily” in Ukraine, while also “supporting sovereign countries when they are attacked by other countries.”

Northeast Ukrainian Community groups gather at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Polls show that most people in post western countries should avoid military involvement in the conflict.
Ian Forsyth
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Getty Images Europe
Northeast Ukrainian Community groups gather at Grey’s Monument in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

According to a poll by the independent Razumkov Centre, a majority of Ukrainians said they believe Ukraine is “heading in the right direction” in light of the war. This includes overwhelming domestic support for joining NATO and the European Union, despite both blocs expressing hesitation to Ukraine’s membership for decades preceding the war.

Ukraine expert Terrell Jermaine Starr recently told me, “every step that Ukrainians took towards Europe came as a direct result of Russian aggression.”

As such, many Ukrainians are against the war, with “no war” becoming a common slogan. But polls show that does not equal pacifism, with the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians supporting a prolonged defensive war.

“We want peace around the world,” 70-year-old Kyiv resident Nina Albul recently told my colleague Hanna Palamarenko, “but we also want the world to know that it’s okay for enslaved people to fight back.”

Zelenskyy: If Gen. Milley thinks Ukraine cannot push Russia out, 'I would've heard'

Posted February 24, 2023 at 12:19 PM EST
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during today's press conference.
Efrem Lukatsky/AP
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AP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during his press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Friday on the first anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine war.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he does not believe Gen. Mark Milley, America’s highest-ranking military officer, thinks Ukraine cannot achieve its goal of pushing Russia out of Ukraine.

“I know Gen. Milley personally,” Zelenskyy told NPR in today's press conference. “I haven’t heard that from him. … If Milley really thinks that, I think I would have heard that before.”

Zelenskyy said the United States’ support in providing weapons and humanitarian assistance is important, but so is the support of the public.

“During my visit to Washington, D.C., I saw people with Ukrainian flags in the streets, so I know that the U.S. support is very, very important,” Zelenskyy said.

The U.S. Department of Defense announced in early February another round of security assistance for Ukraine, including $1.75 billion in funds for Ukraine’s air defense.

“There’s another thing: believing in our victory,” Zelenskyy said. “This is what Biden’s visit was about, and President Biden came to us, and Gen. Milley hasn’t been here yet.”

Zelenskyy downplays his own safety, saying his task is to make the country stronger

Posted February 24, 2023 at 12:13 PM EST

Asked if his travel schedule was evidence he was no longer a threat to Putin or his safety was security, Zelenskyy demurred, focusing only on his role as president.

"What am I doing? My task as the president, as the leader of our country, is to make our country stronger," he said, according to a translation shared bythe Washington Post."Whether I'm doing that right or wrong is [an open question]."

"My task is doing everything possible to make sure the world support is not weaker," he said. "And then it's important to show gratitude for the world. To show we're not alone."

More than a dozen people are arrested in antiwar demonstrations across Russia

Posted February 24, 2023 at 12:09 PM EST

There were scattered antiwar demonstrations across Russia to mark the anniversary of the invasion, with at least 20 people detained by police, according to the independent monitoring group OVD-Info.

Online videos showed police arresting demonstrators for laying flowers at impromptu memorials — including at monuments to Ukrainian cultural figures in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In other cases, protesters were detained merely for standing with picket signs calling for an end to the war.

Protesting without government permission has long been in force in Russia. Yet, amid the start of the conflict in Ukraine, the Kremlin criminalized “discrediting” the armed forces or sharing “false information” about the military campaign with up to 15 years in prison.

According to OVD-Info, nearly 20,000 Russians have been detained since the start of the war.

Just In

Zelenskyy says those who left Kyiv are the ones who disappointed him the most

Posted February 24, 2023 at 11:52 AM EST

A Ukrainian journalist asked President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who has disappointed him the most.

"All those who left on the 24th of February," he said as some in the audience audibly gasped. "All those who left Kyiv, all those who left cities and towns and all those who were supposed to defend Ukraine's security."

As part of the same question, Zelenskyy said the de-occupation of Bucha was the most "horrible" night of the war so far.

"We saw that the devil is not out there somewhere; he is on Earth," Zelenskyy said.

Earlier Friday, in his daily video address, Zelenskyy had said Ukraine would do everything possible to allow those who were "forced to stay abroad" (as well as those living under Russian occupation) to return.

Just In

Zelenskyy says China's peace policy paper is a 'good thing' but needs clarification

Posted February 24, 2023 at 11:40 AM EST

Zelenskyy took a critical eye towards China's policy paper calling for a cease-fire in Ukraine, saying China's call for a cease-fire is more like a "declaration" than an actual plan.

"I think this was a good thing, but it begs the question: What will these words be followed with?" Zelenskyy said, according to aWashington Posttranslation."Our task is to get everyone together."

He noted that China's paper mentions territorial integrity, but didn't specify which country (Ukraine or Russia) should maintain that integrity.

"There's parts I disagree with," Zelenskyy said. "There's parts the world would disagree with."

Blinken says abandoning Ukraine would mean abandoning the U.N. charter itself

Posted February 24, 2023 at 11:36 AM EST
Members of the Security Council listen as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a meeting concerning the war in Ukraine at United Nations headquarters on Friday.
Michael M. Santiago
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Getty Images
Members of the Security Council listen as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a meeting concerning the war in Ukraine at United Nations headquarters on Friday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is one of the international officials speaking at today's U.N. Security Council meeting on the anniversary of the war's beginning.

He opened his remarks by underscoring the damage Russia has wrought, Ukraine's resilience and the reaction from the international community.

"Over the last year Russia has killed tens of thousands of Ukrainian men, women and children; uprooted more than 13 million people from their homes; destroyed more than half of the country's energy grid; bombed more than 700 hospitals, 26,000 schools and abducted at least 6,000 Ukrainian children — some as young as 4 months old — and relocated them to Russia," he said.

And yet, he said, the spirit of Ukrainians remains unbroken, if not stronger than ever.

Blinken praised the unity and resilience of the Ukrainian people, as well as the way the international community has come together to stand behind them.

"The vast majority of [U.N.] member states have voted multiple times to condemn Russia's violations of the U.N. charter and reject its illegal attempt to seize Ukrainian territory," he said.

On Thursday, the U.N. adopted a resolution calling for an end to the war in Ukraine and demanding Russia's immediate withdrawal from the country.

Blinken added that countries around the world continue to stand with Ukraine because "we all recognize that if we abandon Ukraine, we abandon the U.N. charter itself, and the principles and rules that make all countries safer and more secure."

Any outcome that legitimizes Russia's seizure of territory by force will weaken the charter and tell would-be aggressors everywhere that they can get away with invading other countries, Blinken warned.

"Russia fights for conquest, Ukraine fights for its freedom," Blinken said. "If Russia stops fighting and leaves Ukraine, the war ends. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends."

Just In

Zelenskyy calls for countries around the world to participate in a peace summit

Posted February 24, 2023 at 11:23 AM EST
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks at a press conference in Kyiv on Friday. An image of himself is projected behind him.
Claire Harbage
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NPR
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks at a press conference in Kyiv on Friday.

According toaWashington Posttranslation of Zelenskyy's remarks, the Ukrainian leader praised the 41 states who've supported Ukraine's territorial integrity plan, but called for "the whole world" to engage.

"The more countries that engage, the more successful we'll be," he said, proposing the idea of a global peace summit.

He called out India and China by name, saying his peace formula is "democratic," posing small risks to countries who support it.

In a separate question, Zelenskyy offered an explanation to countries siding against Ukraine, saying they were susceptible to misinformation from Russia.

Twin boys were rescued from Ukraine. Now they're turning 1

Posted February 24, 2023 at 11:19 AM EST

A set of twins born in and rescued from Kyiv at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are celebrating their first birthday on Saturday.

Ari Shapiro of NPR’s All Things Considered and Leila Fadel of NPR’s Morning Edition said the twins’ parents were “desperate to save” the newborns. Shapiro and Fadel documented their journey from a hospital in Ukraine’s capital city to a hospital in Poland.

Twin babies lie in hospital beds connected to medical tubes
Project Dynamo
Twins Lenny and Moishe, about a year ago.

“It was like a storm, a winter’s day,” Sasha Spektor, the babies’ father, said about the trek across the Polish border. “The war didn’t want to let them go, but we got them out. Thanks [to] the good people of Ukraine.”

Spektor and his partner, Irma Nuñez, now live in Chicago — and their days look a bit different than they did a year ago.

“They’re so uneventful right now,” Spektor said.

The couple’s days now consist of changing the almost-1-year-olds’ diapers, giving them baths, and keeping them fed.

“They’re special in a way that is common to everyone raising a child,” Nuñez said.

But they still recall their evacuation from Ukraine.

“I remember thinking, I’ve seen this movie before and I didn’t like it,” Nuñez said. “I mean, this is before the happy ending, of course, when it was unclear what direction things were going to go. It was hard.”

pektor (blue gown, second from left) standing with volunteers who helped transport Lenny and Moishe to Poland.
Project Dynamo
Sasha Spektor, in the blue gown, stands with volunteers who helped transport Lenny and Moishe to Poland.

Lenny and Moishe, the two twin boys, are part of that happy ending.

Shapiro said Lenny is the dancer of the pair because he bounces up and down all the time. Moishe, Shapiro said, is like a “little Ukrainian tank” who “bulldozes into whatever he wants.”

Listen to the latest on Spektor, Nuñez, Lenny and Moishe here.

Just In

Zelenskyy holds a moment of silence for journalists lost in the conflict

Posted February 24, 2023 at 11:05 AM EST

The Ukrainian president began his remarks by thanking journalists for covering the war and held a moment of silence for those lost to the conflict.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has swapped the army green sweatshirt that has become his daily uniform with a black sweatshirt as a sign of mourning on today's anniversary.

He kept his opening comments short in order to get into questions. We'll bring you some of those momentarily.

Just In

Secretary of State Blinken echoes China's calls for peace but says terms must be just

Posted February 24, 2023 at 11:03 AM EST

Speaking at a special U.N. Security Council meeting this morning, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for a just and durable peace in Ukraine — but he added that it requires Russia to withdraw.

Blinken said he knows many countries around the world are calling for peace, but no one should be fooled by calls for a temporary cease-fire.

"No member of this council should call for peace while supporting Russia’s war on Ukraine and on the U.N. Charter," he said in a general warning to China. "In this war, there is an aggressor and a victim."

Several European diplomats welcomed China's call for Russia to avoid using nuclear weapons but urged China to do more to pressure Russia to abide by the U.N. charter — which means withdrawing from Ukraine.

Just In

Germany is skeptical about China's peace plan

Posted February 24, 2023 at 10:51 AM EST
Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, pictured here at an EU parliament press conference on Feb. 10, pledged continued solidarity with Ukraine on the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion.
Ludovic Marin
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AFP via Getty Images
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, pictured here at an EU parliament press conference on Feb. 10, pledged continued solidarity with Ukraine on the anniversary of Russia's invasion.

Marking a year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged continued solidarity with Kyiv and shared his conviction that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not achieve his goals.

Speaking in an interview with public broadcaster ZDF, Scholz was typically cautious with his words, refusing to talk of Ukraine “winning” the war but instead “defending its independence, integrity, state sovereignty and freedom.” Scholz also reiterated his warning about escalation and how he will act only side by side with Western partners.

Scholz is meeting President Biden at the White House next Friday, where this coordinated response is expected to be top of the German leader’s agenda.

Germany’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier — whose role is mainly ceremonial — also assures Kyiv that Berlin can be relied upon. He was speaking at an event commemorating the Ukrainians who have lost their lives in the conflict and honoring those who continue to suffer Russian attacks on a daily basis.

Steinmeier expressed skepticism about China’s 12-point peace plan, casting doubt on Beijing as a neutral mediator. He called upon China to advocate for peace under the umbrella of the United Nations and to talk to Kyiv as well as Moscow. Steinmeier — who as former German Foreign Minister under former Chancellor Angela Merkel enjoyed close ties with Moscow — also made it clear that Putin has it in his powers to stop the war.

Just In

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is speaking now

Posted February 24, 2023 at 10:38 AM EST

Zelenskyy is addressing reporters' questions now from an undisclosed location.

We'll bring you highlights and key moments as we have them. Stay tuned.

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's great-granddaughter on the war's impact on Russia

Posted February 24, 2023 at 10:13 AM EST
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (left) meets with U.S. President John F. Kennedy (right) at the U.S. Embassy during their summit meeting in Vienna in June 1961.
Central Press/Getty Images
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Hulton Archive
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (left) meets with U.S. President John F. Kennedy (right) at the U.S. Embassy during their summit meeting in Vienna in June 1961.

Nikita Khrushchev led the Soviet Union from 1958 to 1964, during the height of the Cold War.

His great-granddaughter, Nina Khrushcheva, spent the last few months in in Russia researching a book about him. Now back in the U.S., she spoke to Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep about the view — and impact — of the war over there.

"That's the only thing they talk about, actually, even if on the surface sometimes it seems nothing has happened," she says. "It's almost like a society in a suspended state ... [Russian President Vladimir] Putin discussed it as an existential battle between Russia and the West, but since there is no exit really, there is no understanding of how that existential battle is going to be resolved and what's next."

Khrushcheva, an author and international affairs professor at the New School in New York City, calls the war a "very terrifying" moment for most Russians, adding that "the despair is palpable." She acknowledges that Ukrainians are living a nightmare, but says many in Russia also feel like they're in a bad dream.

Khrushcheva says Putin's rhetoric has changed over the last year. It initially focused on saving the "Russian brothers" in occupied east Ukraine, and is now more like "the Lord Voldemort fight for the Ministry of Magic against everybody else for eternal glory."

Russian public opinion may show support for that fight, but she warns not to trust it because people against the war risk facing arrest.

"But if you recast it and rethink how these questions are asked and what people really mean, I would say that about 70% — those 70% who say they support Putin — actually want out of it, although they don't see how Russia can get out of it," she says. "Because if we are indeed threatened by the West, what else [are] we gonna do."

She says the exodus of dissenters from Russia has been profound — most people she knows have left since the war started, and she estimates that number to be around 1.5 million. And in many other parts of the country, she says, people are burying their dead and "being told not to talk about it."

She says the tension between the U.S. and Russia reminds her of the animosity associated with the Cold War.

"And that's the thing that Putin did," Khrushcheva says. "Suddenly it became back between the two systems — although Russia doesn't have a separate system, and yet he managed to do it."

Listen to their full conversation here.

Q & A

What happened to the Ukrainians who fled the country?

Posted February 24, 2023 at 9:50 AM EST
Families arrive at the main train station as they flee the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk in April 2022.
Fadel Senna
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AFP via Getty Images
Families arrive at the main train station as they flee the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk in April 2022.
What are the Ukrainian refugees who fled their country doing now? Are they able to get jobs in their host countries? Are they able to continue their careers? — Laurel

The U.N. says more than 8 million Ukrainians have fled to Europe since Russia invaded last year.

The OECDsays displaced Ukrainians have generally found work more quickly than other refugees. That’s because most displaced Ukrainians have at least finished secondary education, and many have college and graduate degrees.

Those who spoke foreign languages, especially English, have had even more job options. Ukrainians who settled in neighboring Poland have learned Polish, which has some similarities to Ukrainian. Many have continued their careers, working in tech, education or manufacturing here.

I’ve also met displaced Ukrainians who have re-started their businesses in European countries, mostly Poland.

➡️ Read more about what it was like to flee the war.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is requesting an audit of aid to Ukraine

Posted February 24, 2023 at 9:37 AM EST

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a vocal criticof U.S. aid to Ukraine, plans to introduce a resolution today that would force an audit of where exactly that money is going.

The Georgia Republican announced her plans in a Thursday interview on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight, in which she questioned the notion that there is bipartisan U.S. support for "fighting a war in Ukraine that does nothing for Americans except force them to pay for it."

Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have supported financial and military aid for Ukraine.

The war does have implications beyond Ukraine: The U.S. views Russia as a larger threat to global security and is obligated to defend its NATO allies in the region.

She said she would introduce a resolution of inquiry, which is essentially a House resolution seeking factual information from the executive branch.

"It's going to force Congress to give the American people an audit, and that is exactly what the American people need: an audit of Ukraine," she said. "Because we have no idea where all this money's going."

Greene introduced the same resolution back in November when Democrats narrowly controlled the House. She told Carlson that "every single Republican" had voted in favor of it last time.

For context: Recent polling shows that most Americans still think the U.S. should have a role in the war, though that number has slipped. And there's more support among Democrats than Republicans when it comes to specific actions like accepting refugees, supplying Ukraine with weapons and distributing funds to the country.

Congress has given Ukraine more than $112 billion in military and economic support over the past year, a figure that's raised eyebrows among some voters and lawmakers. While there's no evidence to suggest that money has ended up in the wrong hands, the war is far from over.

Congress is promising greater oversight, as NPR has reported.

Government watchdogs have ramped up reviews, the most recent congressional funding package built in more funding for oversight of the aid and the House Armed Services Committee plans to hold a hearing next week. Republican leaders have also asked for more regular updates on checks and balances in the spending.

Reporter's Reflection

The war has claimed countless lives. The story of an 11-year-old's death sticks with me

Posted February 24, 2023 at 9:13 AM EST

One of the things that struck me during my reporting in Ukraine this past year is what I came to think of as an omnipresent undercurrent of trauma. Things may look normal, but the tears are just below the surface.

I can’t even count how many times we’d be interviewing someone and then they’d start crying. Someone would be talking tough and denouncing Russian President Putin as a monster one moment and then they’re breaking down the next.

Since the invasion, I did five trips to Ukraine, and it’s hard to convey how much this war has rattled people.

I remember approaching a couple in Dnipro early in the war. At the time, Mariupol was getting pounded by the Russians. It turned out that the couple had gotten married in Mariupol just before the invasion. Then they had to flee.

A picture taken on December 19, 2022 shows the Russian-controlled Azov Sea port city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine. Thousands, including the family of 11-year-old civilian casualty, fled the city as it came under Russian attack. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP) (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)
Stringer
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AFP via Getty Images
A picture taken in December shows the city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine. Thousands, including the family of an 11-year-old civilian casualty, fled the city as it came under Russian attack.

At first, they were joking about how this was now their version of a honeymoon. They leaned against each other. They seemed very much in love. And then as we talked it was as if the weight of the world caught up with them. Their loss, their fear, their sadness came rushing out.

The story about the death of 11-year-old Nasta was different.

The grief was so great that it was out in the open from the first moment we started working on it. And it wasn’t just Nasta’s mother, Iryna, who was in tears. It was all the people gathered in her neighborhood to pay their respects, to her open coffin. It was the family members at the grave. It was the caretaker at the missile crater where she was killed. Everyone was inconsolable.

And unfortunately, this is just one death in a war that’s claiming thousands of lives.

➡️ Read the full story of 11-year-old Nasta's funeral.

Q & A

No, it doesn't feel like we're headed toward a global conflict

Posted February 24, 2023 at 8:56 AM EST
Could we be headed towards a world war? — Jakob

Unlikely. It is in neither side’s interest. NATO does not want a full-scale war in Europe, and Russian President Vladimir Putin knows he would lose a conflict with a 30-member military alliance led by the Americans.

One reason that countries such as Germany have been reluctant to send heavier weapons to the Ukrainians is that Berlin does not want to give Putin any pretext for escalation. That said, war is, by its nature, unpredictable. Just ask Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand,whose improbable assassination in Sarajevo sparked World War I.

The White House announces more support for Ukraine and sanctions on Russia

Posted February 24, 2023 at 8:42 AM EST
President Biden speaks with children after delivering a speech at the Royal Castle Arcades in Warsaw, Poland on Tuesday.
Omar Marques
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Getty Images
President Biden speaks with children after delivering a speech at the Royal Castle Arcades in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday.

The Biden administration is marking today's anniversary by announcing a slew of additional actions aimed at supporting Ukraine and holding Russia accountable.

The White House announced Friday that it will be implementing more sanctions on Russia, as well as increasing tariffs and export restrictions on products from the country.

The U.S., in coordination with its G-7 partners, will impose sanctions on more than 200 individuals and entities in Russia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East that are supporting Russia's war effort. Those include financial institutions, political officials and figures in industries like defense, technology, energy, metals and mining.

G-7 leaders are also meeting today to announce new economic actions against Russia, the White House said, and will support establishing an "Enforcement Coordination Mechanism" that the U.S. will chair for the first year.

"To ensure Russia pays for Ukraine’s long-term reconstruction, G7 countries will continue to keep Russia’s sovereign assets immobilized until there is a resolution to the conflict that addresses Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and integrity," it added.

Plus, even more support for Ukraine

The Department of Defense announced an additional security assistance package for Ukraine, including new aerial systems, electronic warfare detection equipment and ammunition. That's in addition to the 32nd security assistance package that President Biden announced this week during his surprise trip to Kyiv.

The U.S. began disbursing $9.9 billion in grant financing to Ukraine to address needs in health care, education and emergency services there. The White House is crediting bipartisan support in Congress, though some are pushing for more oversight into how that money is being used.

And it's announcing more support for Ukraine's energy infrastructure, too. The Department of Energy is preparing to deliver a third shipment of critical electrical transmission grid equipment to Ukraine by early March, and the Biden administration says it will work with Congress to provide up to $250 million in additional emergency energy assistance to Ukraine and up to $300 million for Moldova.

You can read more here about the other Russia- and Ukraine-related actions the U.S. has taken this past year.

Reporter's Reflection

One year of the war through a photographer's eyes

Posted February 24, 2023 at 8:32 AM EST
In January 2022 a woman walks towards what was the only crossing between the rest of Ukraine and the northernmost occupied territory, manned by guards on both sides who check documents in Stanytsia Luhanska.
Claire Harbage
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NPR
In January 2022, a woman walks toward what was the only crossing between the rest of Ukraine and the northernmost occupied territory, manned by guards on both sides who check documents in Stanytsia Luhanska.

NPR photographer Claire Harbage's first visit to Ukraine was in January 2022, shortly before the Russian invasion.

Since then, Claire has been on many trips across the country working with teams reporting on people who have been affected by the war.

Here are some of her favorite images.

Displaced people from eastern Ukraine spill out of the train station in Lviv, Ukraine last March. At this point more than 2 million people had already fled the country as a result of Russia's invasion.
Claire Harbage
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NPR
Displaced people from eastern Ukraine spill out of the train station in Lviv, Ukraine, last March. At this point, more than 2 million people had already fled the country as a result of Russia's invasion.
A girl looks out the window of a train leaving the station in Lviv for Poland after waving farewell to her father last March.
Claire Harbage
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NPR
A girl looks out the window of a train leaving the station in Lviv for Poland after waving farewell to her father last March.
Ukrainian journalist-turned-soldier Viktor Dudar's mother (center) grieves at his grave as he's laid to rest Tuesday in Lviv, Ukraine.
Claire Harbage
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NPR
Ukrainian journalist-turned-soldier Viktor Dudar's mother (center) grieves at his grave in March as he is laid to rest in Lviv, Ukraine.
Pavlo Rebenko, a Ukrainian war crimes prosecutor, enters the rubble around a house to look at a human skeleton in Moshchun, Ukraine.
Claire Harbage
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NPR
Pavlo Rebenko, a Ukrainian war crimes prosecutor, enters the rubble around a house to look at a human skeleton in Moshchun, Ukraine.
Ukrainian Col. Roman Kostenko stands in a redbrick farmhouse with a gaping hole in one of the walls in May. This is where Kostenko taught soldiers how to set explosives.
Claire Harbage
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NPR
Ukrainian Col. Roman Kostenko stands in a farmhouse with a gaping hole in one of the walls in May. This is where Kostenko taught soldiers how to set explosives.
People ride scooters in Kyiv in April looking at buildings that were damaged by Russian a missile strike the previous week.
Claire Harbage
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NPR
People ride scooters in Kyiv in April looking at buildings that were damaged by a Russian missile strike the previous week.

➡️ See more of Claire's images on The Picture Show.

On the ground

In Kyiv, a ceremony for fallen soldiers marks a dark year

Posted February 24, 2023 at 8:19 AM EST
Military visit the memorial wall of the fallen defenders of Ukraine, where photos show the faces of soldiers who were killed in the Russian-Ukrainian war in Kyiv on Friday.
Claire Harbage
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NPR
A member of the military visits the memorial wall of the fallen defenders of Ukraine, where photos show the faces of soldiers who were killed in the Russian-Ukrainian war in Kyiv on Friday.

This chilly day marks a year since Russia invaded Ukraine, and, in Kyiv, Olha Komarnytska was mourning her husband, Ivan. He enlisted when the war began and was killed on the frontline three months ago.

This morning, she attended a ceremony in Kyiv, where his portrait was hung on a memorial wall for fallen soldiers — the same memorial Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President Biden visited on Monday.

“I have no words,” she says. “It’s hard, it’s complicated. This year has gone by as if it were a month, but a long, long month. I can’t even bring myself to say the name RUSSIA.”

She and other women whose husbands had died in combat held Ukrainian flags and blue and yellow flowers.

Zelenskyy handed out awards to the wives and daughters of fallen heroes and said the past year was one of “pain, sorrow and unity.”

Russian attacks in the past year have killed thousands, including many civilians, and more than 8 million people have fled Ukraine because of the war.

People bring flowers to lay at the memorial wall of the fallen defenders of Ukraine in Kyiv.
Claire Harbage
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NPR
People bring flowers to lay at the memorial wall of the fallen defenders of Ukraine in Kyiv.

Putin defends the war's cost in remarks at a holiday concert

Posted February 24, 2023 at 8:00 AM EST
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a patriotic concert dedicated to the upcoming Defender of the Fatherland Day at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow.
Maksim Blinov/SPUTNIK
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AFP via Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a patriotic concert dedicated to the upcoming Defender of the Fatherland Day at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow on Wednesday.

Russia observed a holiday honoring its armed forces earlier this week, as NPR's Charles Maynes reports from Moscow.

"After a year of war that saw Russian forces initially race through Ukrainian territory only to retreat on multiple fronts in the months that followed, a celebration may not be the first thing that comes to mind," he says. "Yet across the country, on the eve of the invasion's anniversary, fireworks rang out to honor the annual Defender of the Fatherland holiday and the war effort in Ukraine."

Russian President Vladimir Putin got a "rockstar welcome" from supporters (many of whom were reportedly paid to attend) at a televised concert at Moscow's largest stadium.

In live remarks and a separate video message, Putin insisted that Russians are united behind the costly military campaign and argued that the price is worth it to reclaim what he said were Russia's historical lands.

"At this very moment, our warriors are heroically battling to eradicate neo-Nazis that have put down roots in Ukraine, defending our people on our land," Putin said.

Putin has repeatedly invoked Nazism to justify Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a claim that experts call both untrue and harmful.

Putin also said Russia is working to replenish its conventional arms and strengthen its nuclear triad of missiles capable of launching from air, land and sea against Western aggressors.

That announcement comes days after he said Russia would suspend participation in New START, its last remaining nuclear weapons treaty with the U.S.

Zelenskyy recounts a 'furious year of invincibility' in an emotional video address

Posted February 24, 2023 at 7:46 AM EST

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has released a video address to the public every day of the war.

Today's, titled "the furious year of invincibility," offers a reflective recap and an emphatic pledge: Ukraine endured the last year and will do all it can to gain victory this year.

The nearly 15-minute speech opened with the same words Zelenskyy used to announce the start of the war exactly one year ago. He called that the longest day of Ukrainians' lives and the hardest in their modern history: "We woke up early and haven't fallen asleep since."

He recalled people lining up to fuel their cars, some heading for the border and others to enlistment offices. They did not surrender, as embodied by the defenders of Snake Island (profanely) defying a Russian warship.

"They threatened that in 72 hours we would not exist," Zelenskyy said, referring to Russia. "But we survived the fourth day. And then the fifth. And today we have been standing for exactly one year. And we still know: every tomorrow is worth fighting for!"

The Mariupol maternity hospital, Bucha

The spring brought new attacks and tragedies, he said, like the attacks on a maternity hospital and theater in Mariupol, a missile attack at a train station in Kramatorsk and the emergence of horrific images of dead civilians in places like Bucha and Irpin.

The world saw what Russia is capable of — but also what Ukraine is capable of, Zelenskyy said.

"We took new hits every day, learned about new tragedies every day, but we endured, thanks to those who gave it all they got every day for the sake of others," he said, thanking everyone from military forces to medical providers to the civilians who made up the resistance.

The Moskva, Snake Island, the bridge linking Crimea to Russia

He said the spring brought new victories for Ukraine — like liberating its first territories (including Kyiv), the sinking of the warship Moskva and new military assistance from its allies. The forecast for the war changed, as did the world's view of Ukraine, Zelenskyy said.

He said Ukrainians felt that in the summer, when the country got European Union candidate status, reclaimed Snake Island and saw "fireworks" at a Russian warehouse and Crimean bridge. August was the first month that Russians didn't take a single Ukrainian city, he said, and Ukraine's counteroffensive in the autumn liberated more areas including Kherson.

Zelenskyy also recounted the human toll of the war, on the lives lost and forever altered.

"Every Ukrainian has lost someone in the past year," he said, offering his condolences. "Almost everyone has at least one contact in their phone who will never pick up the phone again."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy holds the flag of a military unit as an officer kisses it during a commemorative event on Friday in Kyiv.
Ukrainian Presidential Press Office
/
via AP
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy holds the flag of a military unit as an officer kisses it during a commemorative event on Friday in Kyiv.

But he vowed not to erase those names "from our phone or our memory." He vowed Ukraine will not forgive or rest until Russia faces punishment "of the international tribunal, the judgment of God, of our warriors of all of them together."

"The verdict is obvious," he said. "Nine years ago, the neighbor became an aggressor. A year ago, the aggressor became an executioner, looter and terrorist."

Addressing citizens under Russian occupation and those forced to stay abroad, Zelenskyy said Ukraine has not abandoned them and will do everything it can to make it possible for them to return.

"One way or another, we will liberate all our lands," he said.

Reporter's notebook

Not everyone could flee Ukraine when the invasion started. Nadiia's survival story gives me hope

Posted February 24, 2023 at 7:29 AM EST
An elderly woman in a red sweater looks up from her bed as she speaks
Carol Guzy
/
for NPR
Nadiia Yerkhimovych, 89, at her apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 26. She's been bedridden during the Russian invasion. From her home, she could hear the sounds of airstrikes and shelling.

When I first got to Kyiv in March of last year, the capital was still the site of heavy fighting, surrounded by Russia’s forces. The city was largely empty: About half of its nearly 3 million residents left for western parts of Ukraine or abroad.

Because not everyone could evacuate, the people who stayed behind were largely the elderly. They couldn't or weren't willing to leave.

Nadiia Yerkhimovych, who was nearly 90 when I visited, had fallen a few months before and hurt her hip, rendering her bedridden. Her son was taking care of her in her Soviet-era apartment building a short drive from the center of Kyiv.

"Even though my life isn't great," she told me from bed, "I don't want to die."

Russian forces are no longer surrounding Kyiv. And nearly a year later, the city has come back to life: Grocery stores are full, restaurants are open and lots of people have moved back.

The same is kind of true for Yerkhimovych. When I visited again last month, I found good news: “I can walk!” she yelled as soon as I entered her apartment. Not only is she still alive — she’s no longer bedridden. She’s been using a walker to move around the apartment, and she’s gotten back into cooking.

We sat together and hugged, and she sang songs from her choir days.

NPR reporter Elissa Nadworny with Nadiia Yerkhimovych
Elissa Nadworny
/
NPR
NPR Correspondent Elissa Nadworny (left) and translator Olena Lysenko (center) with Nadiia Yerkhimovych (right), a bedridden Ukrainian resident who couldn't leave when Russia first invaded last February.

➡️ Read the full story here.

Q & A

Ask NPR reporters your questions

Posted February 24, 2023 at 7:15 AM EST

Wondering what it's like to cover Ukraine? Curious about Russia's strategy? Want more on China's cease-fire plan?

Let us know what's on your mind by using the question form below.

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China is calling for a cease-fire

Posted February 24, 2023 at 6:51 AM EST

China has called for a cease-fire in Ukraine, as well as peace talks between Kyiv and Moscow.

In a policy paper titled "China’s Position on a Political Solution to the Ukraine Crisis," Beijing said again that nuclear weapons “must not be used” in the war.

The much-anticipated document was released early Friday, right as Russia’s invasion of its neighboring Ukraine entered its second year.

"Dialogue, negotiation are the only viable way to resolve the Ukraine crisis," the document reads. "All parties should support Russia and Ukraine in working in the same direction and resuming direct dialogue as quickly as possible."

But the Chinese “position paper” also took several digs at the West for its approach to the war.

It says unilateral sanctions only create more problems and calls for the abandonment of a so-called cold war mentality. China also urged all parties not to add fuel to the fire.

It's the first anniversary of the war against Ukraine

Posted February 24, 2023 at 6:43 AM EST
A destroyed Russian tank sits in a snow-covered wheat field in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on Wednesday
Ihor Tkachov
/
AFP via Getty Images
A destroyed Russian tank sits in a snow-covered wheat field in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on Wednesday

One year ago today, lines of Russian forces began moving toward Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv.

Russia looked like a quick and easy winner. Millions fled Ukraine. Millions more watched nervously from across the globe. But Ukraine's fought back with surprising force, and by winter, the nature of the war went from a highly mobile invasion to a long, grinding infrastructure attack.

And a year later, the war shows no concrete signs of ending.

Whether you've followed updates from the start or are just now catching up, today is a great occasion to pause and reflect on what's transpired, what more could come and what it all means.

We're here to help: In today's live space, we're inviting our reporters to share some of the most memorable stories from their coverage, as well as answer your questions in real-time (more on that in a minute).

We'll still bring you the news of the day, as we always do, but we want you to know that today might feel different — it feels different for us, too.