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Abortion opponents are excited about the Roe v. Wade leak, but say there's work to do

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Abortion opponents are excited about the Roe v. Wade leak, but say there's work to do

Abortion opponents are both excited and sobered at possibly overturning Roe v. Wade. They say they welcome a new national conversation and want to wage the next battles in blue states as well as red.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript:

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

People opposed to abortion say they're excited and sobered by this week's Supreme Court leak. Some are trying to keep emotions in check until the court issues its final ruling. But even if the court does overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion opponents say there will be more work to do. NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Republican strategist Deana Bass Williams teared up when she saw the leaked draft. She's ardently opposed abortion since she was a teenager. But then, after this decades-long fight, she says it felt like when the dog actually catches the car.

DEANA BASS WILLIAMS: It's kind of one of those situations where because you never, ever thought it would happen in your lifetime, that now that it is actually happening, there will be a need to make it work.

LUDDEN: Part of that work will be winning over more people. Bass Williams is frustrated at media focus on how a majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade. Sure, she says, but many also support some limits. Getting rid of Roe would change the discussion. And she welcomes talking with abortion rights supporters about when they think life starts.

BASS WILLIAMS: You know, and I'll whittle you down and move you back until conception. But if we can just - if you can just tell me when you believe that a baby is a baby inside of a woman's womb, then let's start with that conversation.

LUDDEN: Terri Herring is also ready for what she calls a heart battle. She heads Choose Life Mississippi, directs the state chapter of Americans United for Life and has been an anti-abortion advocate for more than three decades.

TERRI HERRING: Abortion and Roe v. Wade has been our Goliath, OK? So now we've slain Goliath, presumably. So after you slay Goliath, there are still a lot of Philistines.

LUDDEN: That's because doing away with Roe would send the issue back to all 50 states to decide. Mississippi is one of 13 states with so-called trigger laws. If Roe falls, they would automatically ban abortion with few exceptions. In that case, Herring says her focus will be helping women navigate pregnancies they didn't plan for.

HERRING: We have these 30 pregnancy resource centers. And to really say now, today, are you prepared? - because the women are coming.

LUDDEN: Herring herself unexpectedly got pregnant at age 18. She says she understands the OMG of it. But she thinks as more limits kick in, women would start to see that it doesn't have to ruin your life.

HERRING: So what I'm looking forward to with the overturn of Roe v. Wade is a lot of people being in love with those babies that they weren't sure they wanted to have.

LUDDEN: Iowa is in a different place. Kristi Judkins heads Iowa Right to Life. She says legal battles there led the state supreme court to rule that there is a fundamental right to abortion.

KRISTI JUDKINS: That is in place. So regardless of the overturn of Roe v. Wade, in Iowa, we still have work to do, which is promoting and making sure Iowans are aware of our Protect Life Amendment.

LUDDEN: That would change the state constitution to allow limits on abortion. It's been passed in the general assembly but will also need to pass in the next one. Of course, some Democratic-led states are already looking to boost abortion rights, even help women travel from other states for the procedure. So what about pushing for a national abortion ban? Republican strategist Bess Williams says, yes, if at some point there's a filibuster-proof Republican majority Congress. But Terri Herring in Mississippi thinks that idea is a no-go. She asks, over the past half century, what did Republican Congresses do on abortion?

HERRING: Nil, nothing, nada. OK? Roe has given them a way out. They can say they're pro-life and do nothing.

LUDDEN: If Roe goes away, she says, politicians in every state will be forced to do something about abortion, one way or the other. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF THOM YORKE SONG, "ATOMS FOR PEACE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

VPM Daily Newscast: May 6, 2022

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VPM Daily Newscast: May 6, 2022

VPM's daily newscast contains all your Central Virginia news in just 5 to 10 minutes. Episodes are recorded the night before so you can wake up prepared.    

Listeners can subscribe through NPR One, Apple Podcasts, Megaphone, Spotify and wherever you get your podcasts.  

Here’s a recap of the top stories on the morning of Friday, May 6, 2022  

Virginia Court of Appeals to hear ‘Waverly Two’ exoneration case 
Reported by VPM News' Whittney Evans  

Today, a Virginia court will consider exonerating a man convicted of murdering a Waverly police officer nearly 25 years ago. The case involves two Black men sentenced to life in prison despite a jury finding them not guilty of the murder. 
 

Jamestown historic site is at risk of “going underwater”  
Reported by WHRO News' Katherine Hafner  

The Jamestown settlement is one of America’s oldest historic sites. But it’s becoming more and more threatened by climate change. Officials say Jamestown was just named one of the most endangered historic places in the nation. 

After pandemic, local shelters again flooded with dogs 

Reported by WMRA News' Randi B. Hagi 

After the pandemic surge in adoptions, animal shelters in our region are filling up again. Shelter workers are seeing a lot of adult dogs brought in as strays and as their owners surrender them. 

In Other News:  

In Case You Missed It:  

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Black Churches of Virginia

Special Series by VPM News Focal Point

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VPM News Focal Point's Black Churches of Virginia series explores the evolving legacy of historic African American churches and celebrates the singular beauty and power of Black church culture, sharing the stories and experiences of churches, gospel artists, and leaders in Richmond, Petersburg, Hanover, Prince Edward, King & Queen, and Cumberland Counties.

Virginia's Black churches are not only living repositories of Black history; they are evidence of how African Americans contributed to the birth and building of the state and nation. After more than 150 years of service, many of these congregations labor on, battling present-day civil and human rights injustices, developing today's leaders, sustaining their members' faith, and enriching Virginia's social and cultural landscape. 

Produced and reported by Samantha Willis. Director of Photography, Martin Montgomery.

 

 

Cora Armstrong
Rev. Cora Armstrong performing at the 12th annual Gospel Music Fest in Richmond’s Dogwood Dell Amphitheatre.
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Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church
Sixth Mount Zion Church after I-95 split Jackson Ward, a historically Black neighborhood, into two.
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Sixth Mouth Zion Church
Producer Samantha Willis and cameraman Phillip Newsome interview Rev. Tyrone Nelson of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in historic Jackson Ward.
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Russians wreak havoc on Ukrainian farms, mining fields and stealing equipment

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Russians wreak havoc on Ukrainian farms, mining fields and stealing equipment

Anatolii Kulibaba, 70, discusses challenges getting his farm in Bilka, Ukraine working again after Russians occupied on April 19, 2022.
Anatolii Kulibaba, 70, discusses challenges getting his farm in Bilka, Ukraine working again after Russians occupied on April 19, 2022.

BILKA, Ukraine — For Ukrainian farmer Anatolii Kulibaba, this year's planting season comes with anguish. Kulibaba is among many who were forced to flee their land as Russian forces moved in with their tanks.

In the first few days of the war, Russian soldiers delivered an even crueler blow: They killed Kulibaba's son, Oleksandr, as he was traveling to their village of Bilka, 25 miles from the Russian border.

"He was just 45. He had his whole life ahead of him," Kulibaba says.

Two months later, Kulibaba, 70, is still trying to work through the pain, but it's a struggle. He desperately misses his son, who also led most of the farm duties.

Kulibaba says he could really use Oleksandr's help right now, trying to restart production after Russian forces took over and destroyed parts of their farm.

Ukraine is one of the biggest producers of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, and the war has wreaked havoc on the so-called "breadbasket of Europe." Ukraine and Russia together account for over a quarter of the world's wheat exports. Ukraine's Ministry of Agriculture now says that 30% of the country's farmland is occupied or unsafe.

Kulibaba says Russian troops slept in his barn, slaughtered and cooked his pigs and parked their tanks in his cornfields.

"My fields were destroyed by the shelling," Kulibaba says.

By the time he returned to the farm in April, about four weeks after he fled, the Russians had used his tractors to dig trenches and ripped up much of his 494 acres with their heavy tanks. They stole more than 2,600 gallons of his fuel and grabbed the batteries from his combines.

He thinks maybe he can farm half of his land now, but he doesn't really know. There's no safe way for him to assess.

"We're afraid to go out there," he says. "We don't know where the mines are."

Ukraine's export routes are blocked

In Ukraine, it's not just those on the front line, like Kulibaba, who've been affected. Gas prices are surging and farmers are struggling to find fertilizer to grow new crops. And whatever they produce is going to be even harder to sell.

Ukrainian grains have been stuck in makeshift silos across the country and particularly by port cities like Odesa, along their main export route, the Black Sea. The Russians have blocked ships from departing, and — according to the Ukrainians — left naval mines for those that try to sneak past.

"This year, we're going to have much less harvest," says Sergii Leshchenko, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's chief of staff. "But it's important to [have a harvest], at least to cover internal needs."

Leshchenko says the government is working to help with global needs. They've tried to expand new export routes to the west by train, and south via small ports along the Danube River. But he says it's far from sufficient.

"There is still [a] bottleneck for proper export of Ukrainian food," he says. "It's impossible without making the Odesa region work properly."

Experts warn of food shortages and price increases

The war's disruptions have led to surging prices and raised fears of food shortages in parts of the developing world. Kyiv-based trade analyst Elena Neroba warns the global impacts will be profound, as families in developing nations who relied on Ukrainian crops will struggle to afford more expensive wheat.

She points to places like Indonesia, which imports 28% of its wheat from Ukraine, and Bangladesh, which gets 21%. Egypt imports almost 80% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia.

"The Russian invasion will lead not just to deaths in Ukraine," she warns. "But in a few months, people will start dying all over the world from hunger."

The war has set the Ukrainian agriculture sector back by years, especially after gains made in developing healthier and organic crops, according to Mariia Bogonos, the head of the Center for Food and Land Use at the Kyiv School of Economics.

She says it was hard enough trying to recover from the 2014 Russian invasion in the east.

"It's painful," Bogonos says. "How much effort was put into developing this sector. So, moving from [the] Soviet past to this market-oriented way of living. And now we have to stop all this and talk about food security in the country again."

While the United States does not import Ukrainian wheat, it will not be immune to the supply shock.

Joe Glauber, a former chief economist for the Department of Agriculture, says American consumers will likely see prices go up on wheat-based products, from bread to cereals to pizza.

"The loss of Ukraine right now, in the sense that no grain is moving out of their ports, has pushed up prices to 25% over price levels, which were already high and rising," says Glauber, a senior fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, referring to increases since the beginning of the war. "And that's critical to this story in the sense of markets were already tight with low inventories and very high prices, the highest prices we've seen in about 10 years for a lot of commodities, even prior to the Russian invasion."

Getting family farms back up and running will be arduous

Kulibaba's son-in-law, Valeria Kyselov, motions to the barn where the Russians spent most of their time while they occupied the family farm in Bilka. Spent munitions and discarded meal packs litter the ground under a rickety trailer.

Kyselov promises there are no mines inside and climbs to the second floor. The bales of hay upstairs still have impressions from where the Russians slept.

On the wall, a scratched-out message refers to NATO soldiers in a sexual act and insults the Pentagon.

It's been weeks since the farm produced any income, Kyselov says. The family is starting to worry about whether Kulibaba will be able to pay back loans he used to purchase his combine and other expensive equipment, some of which has been stolen.

"If you can plan, you can pay your loan," Kyselov said. "But the Russians took away the possibility to earn money."

He also worries how his father-in-law is dealing with the trauma of losing his son.

Kulibaba insists the farm will survive. It will take time to clear the mines, but he vows it will produce again.

What's harder, he says, is dealing with the loss of Oleksandr, and just trying to understand why all this had to happen.

"We are peaceful people," he says. "We did not attack anyone. We are on our own land."

Olena Lysenko contributed to this story from Bilka, Ukraine. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript:

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Planting season has arrived in many parts of the world, including Ukraine. The country is one of the largest producers of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the war has wreaked havoc on the so-called breadbasket Europe. The Ministry of Agriculture now says that 30% of farmland is occupied or unsafe. The disruptions have led to surging prices, raising fears of food shortages in parts of the developing world. NPR correspondent Franco Ordoñez takes us to a farm in northeast Ukraine, just across the border from Russia.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: On a rainy afternoon, Anatolii Kulibaba walks slowly through the mud, past his red combine, to a dark pickup truck on his property. The windshield is smashed. The doors are caved in. The grill is riddled with bullet holes. It's all that's left of his son's confrontation with the Russians early in the war.

ANATOLII KULIBABA: (Through interpreter) He was just 45. He had his whole life ahead of him.

ORDOÑEZ: He was driving into his little village just as Russian soldiers were trying to take control of it. Two months later, the 70-year-old Kulibaba is trying to work through the pain, but he's struggling. His son Oleksandr handled most of the duties of the farm. Kulibaba says he could really use Oleksandr's help right now trying to restart production after those same Russian forces took over their farm.

KULIBABA: (Through interpreter) This is where their firing position was. So many machine guns.

ORDOÑEZ: Kulibaba explains how he was forced to flee when hundreds of Russian troops took over the land near the village of Bilka, less than 25 miles from the Russian border. They killed and cooked his pigs, slept in his barn and parked their tanks in his cornfields.

KULIBABA: (Through interpreter) My fields were destroyed by the shelling.

ORDOÑEZ: By the time he returned four weeks later, the Russians had used his tractors to dig up trenches and ripped up much of his 200 hectares of land with their heavy tanks. They stole 10,000 liters of his fuel. They took the batteries out of his combines.

KULIBABA: (Non-English language spoken).

ORDOÑEZ: He thinks he can maybe farm half of the land now, but he doesn't really know.

KULIBABA: (Through interpreter) We're afraid to go out there. We don't know where the mines are.

ORDOÑEZ: Ukraine and Russia account for over a quarter of the world's wheat exports. And it's not just farmers on the front line, like Kulibaba, who have been impacted by this war. Gas prices are surging and farmers across the country are struggling to find fertilizer to grow new crops. And whatever they will produce is going to be even harder to sell.

Ukrainian grains have been stuck in makeshift silos across the country, and particularly by ports near Odesa, along the Black Sea, their main export route. The Russians have blocked ships from departing and, according to the Ukrainians, left naval mines for those that try to sneak by.

SERGII LESHCHENKO: This year, we're going to have much less harvest. But it's important to have one, at least to cover internal needs.

ORDOÑEZ: Sergii Leshchenko (ph) is a senior adviser to President Zelenskyy's chief of staff. He says they've tried to expand new export routes to the west by train and south via small ports along the Danube River. But he says it's far from sufficient.

LESHCHENKO: There is still a bottleneck for proper export of Ukrainian foods. It's impossible without making Odesa region all working properly.

ELENA NEROBA: We're talking about hunger.

ORDOÑEZ: That's trade analyst Elena Neroba, who says families in developing nations who relied on Ukrainian wheat will now struggle to afford more expensive wheat. She points to places like Indonesia that get 28% of its wheat from Ukraine and Bangladesh that gets 21%. Egypt imports almost 80% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia.

NEROBA: Russian behavior, Russian invasion will lead not just to deaths in Ukraine, but in few months, people start dying all over the world from hunger.

ORDOÑEZ: Mariia Bogonos is the head of the Center for Food and Land Use Research at the Kyiv School of Economics. She says the war has set the Ukrainian agriculture sector back years, especially after gains made in developing healthier and organic crops. She said it was hard enough trying to recover from the 2014 Russian invasion in the east.

MARIIA BOGONOS: It's painful. I mean, how much effort was put into developing this sector - so moving from Soviet past to this market-oriented way of living, and now we have to stop all this and talk about food security again.

ORDOÑEZ: While the United States does not import Ukrainian wheat, Joe Glauber says it will not be immune from the supply shock. Glauber is a former chief economist for the Department of Agriculture. He says American consumers will likely see prices go up on many wheat-based products, from bread to cereal to noodles to pizza.

JOE GLAUBER: The loss of Ukraine right now in the sense that no grain is moving out of their ports, has pushed up prices 20, 25% over price levels which were already high and rising.

VALERIA KYSELOV: (Non-English language spoken).

ORDOÑEZ: Kulibaba's son-in-law, Valeria Kyselov, motions to the barn where the Russians spent the night. Spent munitions and discarded meal packs litter the ground under a rickety trailer. He promises it's safe, that there are no mines, and walks inside. The bales of hay upstairs where the Russians slept still have impressions of their bodies. On the wall, they left a message that depicts NATO soldiers in a sexual act and insults the Pentagon.

Kyselov explains that it's been weeks since the farm produced any income. The family is starting to worry about Kulibaba and whether he'll be able to pay back the loans he used to purchase his combine and other expensive equipment.

KYSELOV: (Through interpreter) If you can plan, you can pay your loan. But the Russians took away the possibility to earn money.

ORDOÑEZ: He also worries how his father-in-law is dealing with the trauma of losing his son. Kulibaba insists the farm will survive. It will take time to clear the mines, but it will produce again. What's harder, he said, is dealing with the loss of his son and just trying to understand why all this happened.

KULIBABA: (Non-English language spoken).

ORDOÑEZ: "We are peaceful people," he says. "We did not attack anyone. We're on our own land." And he says he'll never understand any of this.

Franco Ordoñez, NPR News, Bilka, Ukraine.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHILANTHROPE'S "RELIEF") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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EU proposes a ban on Russian oil imports

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EU proposes a ban on Russian oil imports

NPR's Leila Fadel speaks with Ben Cahill at the Center for Strategic and International Studies about a European Union proposal to phase out imports of Russian oil and refined products.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript:

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The U.S. has already banned oil imports from Russia. Now Europe is thinking about doing the same. The EU's president, Ursula von der Leyen, is proposing phasing out Russian crude oil imports within six months and refined oil products from Russia by the end of the year.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

URSULA VON DER LEYEN: And let's be clear - it will not be easy because some member states are strongly dependent on Russian oil, but we simply have to do it.

FADEL: The ban would only go into effect if all 27 member nations approve, but oil markets are already responding with a sharp rise in prices. Here to talk about this is Ben Cahill. He's a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here in Washington, D.C. Good morning.

BEN CAHILL: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: So, Ben, as the head of the EU noted in her speech to the European Parliament, this is not an easy thing for Europe to undertake. So how hard would this be for member nations?

CAHILL: It would be really difficult. I mean, Russia is not your run-of-the-mill oil producer. It's one of the three big oil producers in the world, along with Saudi Arabia and the United States. It's the world's largest oil exporter, if you combine crude and products, and Europe relies on Russia for more than a quarter of its oil. You know, if you combine crude oil and petroleum products, Russia supplies about 8% of global demand, so it's really hard to dismiss that.

FADEL: Yeah.

CAHILL: You know, even six months to a year is a pretty aggressive timeline to do something like this.

FADEL: I mean, is it even possible for Europe to survive without Russia's supplies?

CAHILL: Well, we're about to find out.

FADEL: Yeah.

CAHILL: I think what's going to happen is that, eventually, there'll be a reordering of crude flows around the world. So less will flow - or perhaps not at all - from Russia to Europe. Europe will have to look to other suppliers, like the Middle East, North Africa, the United States, and try to find crude and products wherever it can. But it takes time to do something like this, and, you know, frankly, the scale of this kind of disruption is something that we haven't seen on this timeline.

FADEL: Wow.

CAHILL: It's going to be tough.

FADEL: Do we have an idea of how broad the support is for this kind of ban?

CAHILL: I think one of the challenges is that the decision within the EU has to be unanimous. And if you look across the EU, there's a pretty big variation in dependence on oil from Russia.

FADEL: Right.

CAHILL: So some countries, like Hungary and Slovakia, are heavily dependent on Russia. So I think that the EU proposal is going to allow, you know, a longer time to phase in full sanctions on Russian imports - maybe until the end of '23. But still, I think it's going to be pretty difficult to get everyone to go on board. And the reality is that, you know, some countries are much more economically exposed and more at risk.

FADEL: And what kind of impact can the wider international community expect if this ban goes into place?

CAHILL: We're really in uncharted territory, and I think that we have to expect that Russia is going to respond and lash out in different ways. You know, it's possible they'll make a preemptive strike by trying to cut off oil pipeline flows. Maybe they'll decide to shut off gas supplies to some countries in Europe, as they've already done with Poland and Bulgaria.

FADEL: Right.

CAHILL: And I think that Russia's also going to go to the OPEC+ countries and a lot of developing countries around the world, and a lot of them will be sympathetic to Russia, to be honest. I think the perception of much of the world is that, you know, the U.S. and the EU are going to drive up energy costs for the developing world, and it's going to create a lot of economic pressure right across the world. It's not just a European issue. This is a global oil market, and it's going to affect everyone.

FADEL: Now, if approved - excuse me - this ban, as proposed, as you mentioned, would be phased in. And what would that look like, and what might happen in the interim?

CAHILL: I think what will happen is that we're going to see a much bigger disruption, but it's going to take some time for countries to find alternative supplies. What we've seen in recent months, since, you know, the initial round of sanctions, is that Russia has tried to find alternative buyers for its crude and products, and it's been forced to sell those at a pretty deep discount. So you do have some countries, like India and China, that are taking advantage and buying cheaper volumes. You know, but, ultimately, it's really hard to replace a buyer on the scale of Europe. I mean, Russia's just not going to be able to do it. So, again, it will take time for this to happen. I think it's possible that, you know, in a couple months, you're going to have shortages, and it's really a recipe for much higher prices. You know, I think the market has actually been pretty quiet over the last month, but the scale of these sanctions - the import ban - is really going to shake up the market, and I think we're going to look at high prices for quite a long time to come.

FADEL: In the few seconds we have left, this would be part of a sixth wave of sanctions on Moscow imposed by the UA - EU, excuse me. How would you assess the impact of energy sanctions so far?

CAHILL: I think policymakers have concluded so far that the sanctions are creating enough economic pressure on Russia. They really want to ratchet it up. This is the most powerful way to do that. I do think that we are placing a little bit too much confidence in the impact of sanctions, and the big question to me is - what if they don't work?

FADEL: Ben Cahill...

CAHILL: Or what if they're in place for a long time and they don't have the economic impact we want them to?

FADEL: Thank you.

Ben Cahill is a senior fellow with the Energy Security and Climate Change Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Thank you.

CAHILL: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Evacuees from Mariupol describe how they survived inside the Azovstal steel plant

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Evacuees from Mariupol describe how they survived inside the Azovstal steel plant

Evacuees arrive by bus at an evacuation point for people fleeing the Azovstal plant, Mariupol, Melitopol and  surrounding towns under Russian control, on May 3 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Scores arrived from Mariupol, including the first group who escaped the Azovstal steel facility, following negotiations brokered by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Evacuees arrive by bus at an evacuation point for people fleeing the Azovstal plant, Mariupol, Melitopol and surrounding towns under Russian control, on May 3 in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Scores arrived from Mariupol, including the first group who escaped the Azovstal steel facility, following negotiations brokered by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Updated May 4, 2022 at 4:02 PM ET

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — When Russian forces invaded Ukraine, 47-year-old Anna Krylova was working the night shift as a gas purification operator at Azovstal, a massive steel processing plant in the southern port city of Mariupol.

Her 14-year-old daughter, Maiia, came with her — no one was at home to watch her.

"We didn't leave that plant for the next 70 days," says Krylova. "As the bombing got worse, we moved further underground."

Russian forces began bombing Mariupol at the very start of the war. Most of the besieged city is in Russian hands now, but reduced to rubble. The Azovstal steel plant, badly hit, is the last holdout.

The Krylovas are among dozens of civilians who were evacuated from the plant this weekend, in a joint effort by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which convinced Russia to hold its fire until some civilians got out. The evacuees arrived in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday. Some are now heading to various cities in Ukraine.

A vast network of tunnels with bunkers lies under the sprawling, Soviet-era plant, reportedly the last Ukrainian-held post in Mariupol. Hundreds of civilians as well as up to 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers sheltered there. But those inside say they never felt truly safe.

"It was really scary because we couldn't go outside," Krylova says. "It was just too dangerous. And inside we kept going from shelter to shelter, because the bombs kept hitting. We were hungry, we were scared, we were under constant shelling."

She calls the experience "like the apocalypse, like a horror film." Her daughter says, "Each day felt like it would be our last one alive."

Osnat Lubrani, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, told reporters that the U.N. was already planning another evacuation. But last night, Russian forces reportedly began storming the steel plant.

"It's horrifying to think what could be happening there," says English teacher Alex Dybko, who was evacuated along with his wife and young children. "It was already so terrible when we left. The steelworks looked like a mass of stone, iron and dust ... like something out of the Second World War. I never thought I would see this with my own eyes."

Dybko shared an underground bunker with the Krylovas. They pushed together benches to use as beds. The bunker shook, especially at night, when the bombing and shelling was the worst. His kids told him they were afraid to get up and go to the toilet.

"The [steelworks] was hit several times, it was burning several times," he says. "We were trying to manage the fire and not to suffocate. So every day was a fight for survival."

The only bright spot, he says, was that a plant worker sheltering with them found a generator, so there was sporadic electricity.

Many others lived in near-darkness for two months, including 57-year-old Oleh Yurkin, a Mariupol native. He used a headlamp to get around, "but only in areas where we were covered because otherwise the drones and fighter jets would spot us."

He and his wife cooked on a stove made out of bricks blown loose from explosions. Soldiers had stockpiled goods inside the plant and shared them with civilians.

Yurkin is a musician who used to perform in the city's restaurants and cafes. Every single one of those buildings is gone, bombed to rubble by the Russian military.

"Now," he says, "the city is no more." Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript:

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The European Union is considering a total embargo on Russian oil as it attempts to show its continued support for Ukraine against Russia's invasion. The news comes as Ukrainian officials say they hope to get more evacuees out of the ruins of the Azovstal steel plant in the southern city of Mariupol even as Russian forces continue to shell the facility. Hundreds of civilians and Ukrainian fighters are still holed up in bunkers and tunnels underneath the plant. They're the last holdouts in a city Russian forces have reduced to rubble. Roughly a hundred evacuees have now arrived in the city of Zaporizhzhia, and NPR's Joanna Kakissis met up with some of them.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: The convoy of vans and buses pulls up late in the afternoon in the parking lot of a home goods shopping center filled with aid workers and reporters. Osnat Lubrani is the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine.

OSNAT LUBRANI: We've just arrived after a very complicated operation - safe passage operation.

KAKISSIS: The U.N. and International Red Cross organized this mission. As Lubrani speaks, the evacuees walk off two large buses. They're pale, tired and dazed. Aid workers lead them to a large tent where hot chicken soup awaits. A mother and her 14-year-old daughter wave me over.

I'm Joanna. Nice to meet you.

ANNA KRILOVA: Nice to meet you, too.

KAKISSIS: Anna, Maya.

Anna Krilova actually worked at the Azovstal steel plant.

KRILOVA: (Speaking Russian).

KAKISSIS: When Russia invaded Ukraine, Krilova was working a night shift. Her daughter came along because she's too young to stay at home. They did not leave for 70 days. As the bombings got worse and worse, they moved into the massive network of bunkers under the plant.

KRILOVA: (Through interpreter) It was really scary because we couldn't go outside. It was just too dangerous. And inside, we kept going from shelter to shelter because the bombs kept hitting. We were hungry. We were scared. We were under constant shelling. It's like apocalypse. It's like a horror film.

KAKISSIS: Is that how you felt too, Maya, that you were in a horror film?

MAYA KRILOVA: Yes, it was very scary and...

KAKISSIS: Maya does not finish the thought. Her eyes fill with tears. Her mother wipes away her own tears and points to the front of a black sweatshirt she's wearing.

Says all monsters are human.

KRILOVA: (Speaking Russian).

KAKISSIS: It's dirty, so you can't see the letters well, she says. But it's true. It's absolutely true.

Across the table from her is English teacher Alex Dybko and his wife and young son. They shared an underground bunker with the Krilovas.

ALEX DYBKO: So we had some benches. So we put them together to sleep on. When heavy shelling started, children were afraid even to go to the toilets.

KAKISSIS: He says the shelter was shaking, especially at night, when the bombing was the worst.

DYBKO: The building was hit several times. We were trying to manage the fire and not to suffocate. So every day was kind of a fight for survival.

KAKISSIS: The only bright spot, he says, was that some plant workers found a generator, so there was sporadic electricity. Many others lived in near darkness for two months, including 57-year-old Oleg Gurkin. He pulls out a headlamp he wore to get around.

OLEG GURKIN: (Speaking Russian).

KAKISSIS: He says, "We could only move around in areas where we were covered, under the plant, because otherwise the drones and the fighter jets would spot us."

GURKIN: (Speaking Russian).

KAKISSIS: He tells us that he and his wife cooked on a stove made of bricks blown loose from the explosions.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KAKISSIS: Gurkin is a native of Mariupol. His eyes well up as he shows us a video of himself playing pop songs on his electric piano. He's a musician. Before the war, he performed at restaurants and cafes in Mariupol - those places by the sea, where he laughed with friends and played all their requests.

GURKIN: (Speaking Russian).

KAKISSIS: Yeah. But now, he says, the city is no more. He calls Mariupol a corpse and a ghost. And he says the last bit of life is hanging on under the Azovstal plant, where hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians remain. He hopes they get out like he did.

Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine.

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

The EU says it plans to ban Russian oil by the end of the year

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The EU says it plans to ban Russian oil by the end of the year

The European Union says it intends to phase out Russian oil in the next few months. This was part of a package of new sanctions the EU announced Wednesday against Russia for its war in Ukraine.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript:

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The European Union is planning to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year. It's part of a package of new sanctions against Russia for its war in Ukraine. NPR's Rob Schmitz joins us from Berlin to talk about the announcement. Hey, Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So tell us more about these latest sanctions from the EU.

SCHMITZ: Yeah. The biggest part you mentioned is a ban on Russian oil in the EU by the end of this year. Russia exports two-thirds of its oil to the EU, so this is pretty significant. The EU also plans to sanction individuals in Russia's military who were involved in alleged war crimes. And last, the EU plans to remove Russia's biggest bank, Sberbank, from SWIFT, the global financial network. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says this sixth package of EU sanctions on Russia promises to further isolate Vladimir Putin.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

URSULA VON DER LEYEN: Putin wanted to wipe out Ukraine from the map, and he will clearly not succeed - on the contrary. Ukraine has risen in bravery and in unity, and it is his own country, Russia, that Putin is sinking.

SHAPIRO: And yet oil prices rose by more than 3% after the announcement today. How difficult is it going to be for Europe to wean itself off Russian oil?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, this won't be easy. You know, a quarter of Europe's crude oil comes from Russia, and countries like Slovakia and Hungary depend on Russia for more than 75% of their oil. Both these countries will likely be granted exemptions from the EU for this embargo because of that. I spoke to European energy expert Andreas Goldthau about the EU's approach to doing away with Russian energy. And here's what he said.

ANDREAS GOLDTHAU: They go for the low-hanging fruits first. That was coal, and now it's oil. Gas is still something they're not touching. The second thing they're doing is they're not implementing an embargo right away, neither for coal nor for oil. But they do this as part of a gradual phaseout.

SCHMITZ: So, Ari, in essence, they're giving industry and the markets time to adapt because, you know, whenever you suddenly take oil off of global markets, it often means a sudden price hike everywhere. So gradual is better here.

SHAPIRO: Everywhere - is the rest of the world ready? I mean, how might this impact American consumers?

SCHMITZ: Yeah. Goldthau says the EU embargo will mean a higher price for oil, and that will likely contribute to inflation in the United States and elsewhere.

SHAPIRO: So the EU is phasing out Russian coal and now Russian oil. What about gas?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, that's not going to be easy to replace. You know, with gas, for the most part, you need pipelines to get from point A to point B. And Russian gas pipelines - a lot of them end in Europe. And that's why it's so difficult for the EU to impose an embargo on Russian gas. You know, current non-pipeline infrastructure, like liquefied natural gas terminals, will not be able to replace a loss of pipeline gas in the short term. And experts say an embargo would be too costly for the European economy at this stage. You know, in the meantime, though, the EU is ramping up renewable energy infrastructure and energy efficiency measures to lower its demand on gas overall. But there is a danger that Goldthau mentioned that Russians don't give the Europeans the timeframe to gradually cut this energy off, that Vladimir Putin goes ahead and cuts it off sooner than the Europeans were planning on. And that could cause a severe energy crisis.

SHAPIRO: I mean, how quickly could clean energy get ramped up to make up for this?

SCHMITZ: This, Ari, will take a long time, but we have many countries in Europe, including Germany, that is putting it on a fast track. But again, in Germany, a fast track means it could be maybe a year or two or maybe three. So we're looking in many months rather than weeks.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Rob Schmitz in Berlin. Thanks a lot.

SCHMITZ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF JINSANG'S "LEARNING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister says Mariupol is still in Ukrainian hands

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Ukraine's Foreign Minister says Mariupol is still in Ukrainian hands

NPR's Mary Louise Kelly interviews Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba about the state of the war and where things might go from here.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript:

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Two months, one week and three days - that is how long since Russia invaded Ukraine. The war, of course, grinds on. The toll in lives lost and physical destruction has been catastrophic. And if anything, it's harder to make out how or when it might end than it was back on February 24, the day of the invasion. Our next guest is one of Ukraine's most senior officials, the foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba. I first met and interviewed him in Kyiv right before the war. Earlier today, we reached him again at his office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kyiv, and I asked about the latest developments in another part of Ukraine, the devastated southern city of Mariupol. More than 160 civilians were evacuated this week. There were reports today that Russian forces have breached the Azovstal steel plant, that they are inside. Can you confirm?

DMYTRO KULEBA: I have, probably, the most reliable source from Mariupol, Azovstal. It is one of the Ukrainian officers who is locked up at Azovstal, together with his army fellows and civilians. And usually he texts me or calls me in the evening to update on the developments. The last message that I received from him was last night, and I haven't heard from him since. I pray that everything is fine, and I'm really looking forward to receiving the message or call tonight and he will tell me that everything is fine with him.

KELLY: How many people are still inside this plant?

KULEBA: It's hard to say - hundreds of civilians...

KELLY: Yeah.

KULEBA: ...Mostly children and women and more than a thousand Ukrainian soldiers. But it's true that they get bombed every day. It's true that wounded soldiers die because of the lack of proper treatment and because of the new bombings.

KELLY: Yeah.

KULEBA: And they die under the roof of the destroyed shelter. So it's a tragedy when you escape death once, but it reaches you from second attempt.

KELLY: I mean, this plant, it's the last holdout...

KULEBA: Yes, yes.

KELLY: ...You said - more than - something like a thousand soldiers and then hundreds of civilians. Russia says it has captured the city of Mariupol. Has it?

KULEBA: No, no. Until Azovstal holds, Mariupol holds.

KELLY: Mariupol is in Ukrainian hands, you're saying?

KULEBA: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. As long as we continue resistance, it means that Russia has not captured the city, whatever their propagandists tell us, tell everyone. But the problem is that Russia ruthlessly attacks Azovstal, trying to kill everyone who is there, destroy it and present Mariupol as their huge success before 9 of May.

KELLY: The 9 of May, the Victory Day celebrations that Russia...

KULEBA: Yeah.

KELLY: ...Is gearing up for. Let me turn to the battle for the East. Pentagon officials here in Washington say they do see Russia making progress, but they say it's minimal, that the Russian offensive thus far is anemic, is plotting. That's their words. Do you agree with that assessment? And how long can Ukrainian forces put up that kind of resistance?

KULEBA: OK. I want you to understand the nature of the battle for Donbas. It looks this way. There is a line that Ukrainian army holds - trenches, defensive positions. Russia throws on these lines artillery fire, attacks from the air and shells. Then, once they believe that they killed everyone and they can advance, they sent tanks with infantry to take over our positions. To their surprise, almost-killed Ukrainian soldiers dig out from the trenches and start shooting back, and we throw them back because the morale of Russian army is very low. They're not ready to fight. And to the contrary, our soldiers are ready to defend, to stand by every inch of our land until death.

KELLY: I do need to ask about unexplained fires, explosions at strategic locations in Russia. Russia's biggest chemical plant just burned down for reasons not known. Is Ukraine attacking inside Russia?

KULEBA: Whatever Ukraine does, Ukraine always defends itself. This is a defensive war, and we defend our country from an aggressive country that is much bigger and stronger than us. But again...

KELLY: Striking inside Russia would be offensive, though, not defensive, no?

KULEBA: No, I'm not saying it was - I'm not saying we are attacking objects in Russia. What I'm saying is that whatever we do here is aimed at defending the country. Imagine, theoretically, that a missile is heading towards target in Ukraine and we have, theoretically, the capacity to shoot it down. Should we wait until it reaches our city because we cannot shoot it down in the Russian skies? If we had the possibility to shoot them down, we would use them because the eventual target is in Ukraine, and we have to save people and our own houses.

KELLY: And I hear you using the word theoretically, so you are not confirming or denying what is targeting these...

KULEBA: No, no.

KELLY: ...Locations in Russia?

KULEBA: I think it's the military. I think is the military guys who have to confirm or deny hitting this or that target. My point to you is that we are fighting against the enemy who is much stronger and has more resources than we do. And everything we do is aimed at saving and defending and saving Ukraine. We have no aggressive plans towards Russia. We have no intention to invade Russia. We have no intention to cross the border between our countries. Everything we do is aimed at one thing - to defend our country and our right to exist.

KELLY: So that brings me to the last thing to ask you. You're a diplomat. As a diplomat, do you still hold out hope that diplomacy can end this war?

KULEBA: Of course - every war ends with diplomacy. This is how history works. In the end, it's diplomats who have to sit down and draft and sign an agreement.

KELLY: That would require Russia to negotiate in good faith, though. Do you believe that is possible?

KULEBA: You know, the chances to meet a Russian diplomat negotiating in good faith are equal to meeting a Martian on Earth. But still, we have to be ready to negotiate with them, to defend our positions. But as a diplomat, I have to make sure that my country approaches this negotiations in the strongest position possible. And the strength of our position will depend on the level and quality of sanctions imposed against Russia, on the amount and quality of weapons supplied to Ukraine, on the level of isolation of Russia in the world and on the ability of Ukrainian army to push Russian army back. If we - I can do the three first things to help our army to do the force. And as a diplomat, I'm focused on this. I am ready to negotiate, but I want my country to be very strong in those negotiations.

KELLY: Dmytro Kuleba - he is the foreign minister of Ukraine. He joined us from the capital, Kyiv. Foreign Minister, thank you - great to speak with you.

KULEBA: Thank you.

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

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Those in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, are struggling as the city runs out of food and gas

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Those in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, are struggling as the city runs out of food and gas

Residents of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine are fleeing a Russian offensive. For the few who have stayed, life can be brutal, since the city is running out of food and fuel.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript:

ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

To eastern Ukraine now and the city of Kramatorsk. A Russian offensive in the region continues to drive civilians away. By some estimates, three-quarters of the population has fled. For those who remain, life is a daily struggle. The city is short on food and gas, and the destroyed buildings and frequent explosions remind residents that the Russian military is not far away. NPR's Tim Mak reports from near the front lines of the fighting.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: We were looking at a destroyed residential building when we met Maxim Kornyenko. It was 10 o'clock in the morning, and he had alcohol on his breath. Here was a man who had lost almost everything, pouring his heart out to me and my interpreter.

MAXIM KORNYENKO: (Through interpreter) I'm walking around psychotic. I'm not in a good condition. That life brought us to this.

MAK: He pointed out the shell of the building he used to live in. There's a rug dangling on his old balcony. It was thrown out of his apartment during a missile attack. We stood near trees destroyed by fire in what was once his yard and what remains of his car, burnt to a crisp. Maxim and his mother refuse to leave Kramatorsk. They're now both living in his mother's apartment.

KORNYENKO: (Through interpreter) Half of life, we've been working for this apartment, so how can we abandon it now?

MAK: Adding to the struggle of everyday life is finding enough to eat. Local officials say about 70% of the grocery stores are closed. Those that are open have little food left.

KORNYENKO: (Through interpreter) We eat soup, borscht which my mother cooks. And then once in a while, we get the humanitarian help.

MAK: The aid provided by the local government is hardly enough to survive on.

(CROSSTALK)

MAK: A long line of residents fights for position at a food distribution site in what was once a school. Among the people gossiping, shouting, griping is Elena Dulgig.

ELENA DULGIG: (Speaking Ukrainian).

MAK: Elena and her mother had come by twice before but were unable to get any food. Normally, Elena just sits at home with little to do but worry. She lost her job at a local factory the day after the invasion began in February. The ground fighting is happening a number of miles outside the city, and Elena does not think that Russian ground forces will make it into Kramatorsk itself.

DULGIG: (Speaking Ukrainian).

MAK: "I pray to God every day and pray that everything will be all right," she told us. But most of all, she wants an end to the fighting. She wants peace.

DULGIG: (Speaking Ukrainian).

MAK: Her son is in Kharkiv, another region near the front lines, and she worries about him. She wants the war to end so her grandchildren can come visit. Right now, that's impossible. All day, there are explosions in and around the city. At night, the bombardment is accompanied by sharp flashes of light in the distance.

(SOUNDBITE OF AIR RAID SIRENS)

MAK: We interviewed the mayor of Kramatorsk, Oleksandr Goncharenko (ph), from his bomb shelter as air raid sirens blared outside. You could hear the explosions even from underground, and he says he's becoming emotionally numb to it.

OLEKSANDR GONCHARENKO: In one or two months, nobody from us will get some emotions because of this war.

MAK: It was in this city that Russian missiles landed at the train station, killing 59 people and injuring 104 more, the mayor's office told me. The blasts caused mayhem among evacuees, thousands of whom had gathered to flee the violence in eastern Ukraine. Victoria Goncharenko - no relation to the mayor - was working in her shop just down the street.

VICTORIA GONCHARENKO: (Through interpreter) I saw many dead bodies. Where the rocket hit, there used to be a green tent. Volunteers were giving out tea, coffee and biscuits from there. The tent - and they were covering bodies with it, with the green material. I saw a lot of toys, bloody toys.

MAK: Victoria's shop sells, of all things, tombstones and artificial flowers to be left at graves. But ironically, during the war, business is way down. There are practically no customers left. She's alone with just the moments of that awful event.

V GONCHARENKO: (Through interpreter) It was horrifying. We went down the street over there. The cars were burning, burnt bodies. Seeing all these corpses, it was very scary.

MAK: She says, when the war ends, she wants to rethink her business.

V GONCHARENKO: (Through interpreter) I want to be selling living flowers, maybe bonsai trees, plants, stuff like that.

MAK: She's confident of a Ukrainian victory and the restoration of the city in peacetime. She predicts that when people come back to Kramatorsk, they'll want to see something beautiful.

Tim Mak, NPR News, Ukraine.

(SOUNDBITE OF HIPPIE SABOTAGE'S "OM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Virginians fear for family back home in Ukraine

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Virginians fear for family back home in Ukraine

According to the U.S. Census, there are 24,000 people of Ukranian descent living in Virginia. Alexandra Blagova is one resident following the war through updates from her family members. We also meet VCU Professor Alex Misiats who speaks on the phone to his mother in Ukraine as she struggles to survive the daily barrage of Russian attacks. VCU Political Science Professor Judyth Twigg, says Ukraine did nothing to provoke a war and that this is an act of aggression from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Many groups in Virginia are taking action to help Ukrainian refugees, including the Richmond office of the International Rescue Committee that is running a crisis campaign.


TRANSCRIPT

Alexandra Blagova: That's what I'm afraid of. The deaths will be more at home.

Keyris Manzanares: Alexandra Blagova hasn't been able to sleep since Russia invaded Ukraine. She remembers the exact moment she heard the news.

Blagova: My auntie from Kyiv, she called me. It was four in the morning and she said that there is a war started.

Manzanares: During this agonizing time, Blagova says she's become closer to her friends and family as they work to help people in Ukraine. Blagova says they feel survivors' guilt because while they are safe in the United States, their loved ones fear for their lives.

 Blagova: I'm feeling pain, helpless, 'cause all of my family members, friends, classmates, teammates are in Ukraine for the most part.

Manzanares: Alex Misiats, A Virginia Commonwealth University math professor, has been calling his mother six times a day. She lives in a city in central Ukraine.

Alex Misiats: They are killing people. They're killing civilians, women, and children. They're destroying houses.

Manzanares: Misiats says the Russian army is not showing strength by bombing civilians.

Misiats: They're showing their weakness. They're showing that they cannot do anything but destroy houses. They cannot destroy people's will.

Judy Twigg: And here it is again.

Manzanares: VCU political science professor Judy Twigg says Ukraine did nothing to provoke a war and that this is an act of aggression from Russia's president Vladimir Putin.

Twigg: We're now in the midst of this heavily armed conflict in which there are battles taking place simultaneously in Ukrainian rural villages, small cities. There's shelling happening now pretty much constantly in the large cities of Kharkiv to the east and the capital of Kyiv.

Manzanares: Blagova fears that if Ukraine doesn't receive support, the violence will spread across Europe.

Blagova: Ukrainians right now, friends of mine, family members, they all fighting not only for Ukraine. They're fighting for entire world.

Manzanares: The war will make a global impact, including here in Virginia, says Professor Twigg.

Twigg: Russia is a major oil exporter. Those oil supplies have been disrupted. We're already seeing oil approaching, if not over a hundred dollars a barrel, we'll start to see that at the gas pumps sooner rather than later.

Manzanares: How can Virginians best support the people of Ukraine right now?

Blagova: I would like people to understand that it's real. There's blood, there's a war. There's children dying.

Manzanares: Professor Twigg says Virginians need to be:

Twigg: Thinking about what Ukraine represents to our democracy and our way of life.

Watch Live: Biden Holds Press Conference From Brussels Following Talks With NATO Allies

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Watch Live: Biden Holds Press Conference From Brussels Following Talks With NATO Allies

Whitehouse graphic
Graphic: Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

President Biden is holding a press conference in Brussels following a meeting with NATO allies about the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. and allies are expected to step up sanctions on Russia while providing new resources to Ukrainians fleeing the war.

The President is scheduled to speak at 3:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 23.

The war has many Ukrainians who speak Russian abandoning the language

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The war has many Ukrainians who speak Russian abandoning the language

A third of Ukrainians speak Russian as their first language. But Russia's invasion has led several people to distance themselves from the language.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript:

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're 60 days into Russia's assault on Ukraine. Much of the fighting is now concentrated in the south and east of the country after Russian troops were forced to retreat from areas in the north near the capital, Kyiv. For the battles ahead, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made it clear he wants more military aid from the U.S. and other nations. He said as much yesterday when he disclosed that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would be visiting Kyiv today.

We're going to focus for the next few minutes, though, on something else that's going on in Ukraine as the war drags on. Many of the Ukrainians who speak Russian are distancing themselves from that language. Nearly a third of Ukrainians speak Russian as their first language. Some grew up speaking Russian. But as Ievgen Afanasiev reports, things are changing.

IEVGEN AFANASIEV, BYLINE: Every day, thousands of displaced Ukrainians pass through this train station in the western city of Lviv, looking for a safer place to live. On this chilly spring day, Svitlana Panova is among them.

SVITLANA PANOVA: (Through interpreter) Now I came to Lviv. I'm a patriot of my country, and I'll stay here.

AFANASIEV: Svitlana is a manager at a software company. Before coming to Lviv, she lived in the eastern city of Kramatorsk. Before that, she lived in Crimea until Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.

PANOVA: (Speaking Russian).

AFANASIEV: "Russia left me without my home," she says, "without my family." In normal times, Svitlana, like many Ukrainians from the south or eastern parts of the country, would explain all this to me in Russian without much thought. For centuries, these areas were under the rule of the Russian Empire. The Russification of the region continued when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, where Russian was the lingua franca. But after all Svitlana has gone through, after losing her home now twice to Russia, speaking Russian doesn't feel quite right at this moment.

PANOVA: (Through interpreter) I do not speak Ukrainian, but I understand everything. It's hard for me to switch to Ukrainian, but I will learn it for sure.

AFANASIEV: Svitlana is one of many internally displaced people who are moving away from Russian and trying to learn Ukrainian.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NAZAR DANCHYSHYN: (Speaking Ukranian).

AFANASIEV: Soon after Russia launched its war on Ukraine, professor Nazar Danchyshyn helped launch a Ukrainian language class. It's taught at the International Institute of Education, Culture and Diaspora Relations of Lviv Polytechnic University.

DANCHYSHYN: (Through interpreter) When people moved away from their shock and were able to think of something other than saving their family, it was time for these kinds of courses.

AFANASIEV: The club quickly filled up.

DANCHYSHYN: (Through interpreter) More than 800 people signed up for the club in the first three days. We had to stop the registration.

AFANASIEV: Now, twice a week, Nazar and other professors teach multiple virtual classes. His students join from all over Ukraine.

DANCHYSHYN: (Through interpreter) Different regions - Kherson, Odessa, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya, Kyiv, Luhansk. That's a very broad geography.

AFANASIEV: Nazar says that while students discuss Ukrainian culture and learn everyday phrases, these classes also serve as a psychological support club.

DANCHYSHYN: (Through interpreter) In class, most of them want to share their pain, their experience. They tell their stories of how difficult it was for them to leave their hometowns - Kharkiv or Irpin or other cities that were bombed.

AFANASIEV: One of the students taking the class is 57-year-old Oleh Myrhorodskyy He's connected from the southern port city of Odessa. He's been practicing his Ukrainian for a few weeks and is still a little bit shy-speaking.

OLEH MYRHORODSKYY: (Speaking Ukrainian).

AFANASIEV: "I don't feel confident," he says. But Oleh eventually warms up and tells me why, for him, it's important to learn Ukrainian.

MYRHORODSKYY: (Through interpreter) It is a question of becoming a nation. It is a question of our existence. That's why everyone needs to put some effort into building a national foundation. And the language is that national foundation.

UNIDENTIFIED PROFESSOR: (Speaking Ukrainian).

AFANASIEV: At one point during the session, as I get ready to leave, one of the professors tells his students he's proud of them. He says listening to them speak Ukrainian gives him goosebumps, because learning this language in this moment, it is more than just an education. It is about asserting Ukrainian national unity. For NPR News, I'm Ievgen Afanasiev in Lviv, Ukraine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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French President Macron is staying in power with Sunday's win

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French President Macron is staying in power with Sunday's win

President Emmanuel Macron has won reelection, beating Marine Le Pen, his far-right rival, in a presidential election runoff.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript:

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Emmanuel Macron has won the French presidential election tonight with an estimated 58% of the vote. That's higher than expected but a slimmer margin than the last time he faced off against Marine Le Pen and her far-right party. We're going to go now to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, who's been following events and was at Macron's victory celebration. Eleanor, thanks so much for being here.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Great to be with you, Michel.

MARTIN: As we said that these results are better than had been predicted for Macron. What's the mood there in Paris?

BEARDSLEY: Well, I would say joy and relief. You know, they have this funny tradition here in France that they announce the winner on the nightly news at exactly 8:00. And there's this countdown, and then the winner's face pops up on the TV screen. So I was under the Eiffel Tower where Macron supporters and his campaign were, and there were giant TV screens everywhere, people waving flags - thousands of people - and everyone just kind of counted down together. And let me let you hear some of that sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Speaking French).

(CHEERING)

BEARDSLEY: So then everyone just exploded in joy as Macron's face popped up, you know, with 58.2% next to it, compared with Le Pen's roughly 42%. People were happy but also very relieved because this was a hard-fought race, and Marine Le Pen brought her far-right party closer than it's ever been to taking power.

MARTIN: Yes. And as you were telling us, the margin is slimmer than the last time he beat her five years ago with 10 more points. I mean, that was 66% of the vote. What's changed?

BEARDSLEY: Well, you know, this year there wasn't as much enthusiasm for him. He wasn't this new maverick politician anymore. He has many detractors. Working-class and left-wing voters feel particularly betrayed by him. And she's changed her image. She's moderated her tone. She's drawn new crowds. Here she is in her concession speech tonight.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

MARINE LA PEN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: She called it a stunning victory because her party actually got more than 42% of the vote. And it is huge for her. The populist right has never been so popular. And many people who voted for Macron today actually voted against her to try to block her. And his supporters know that.

MARTIN: So does this suggest that Macron will have to change? I mean, how is he going to govern this time around?

BEARDSLEY: Yeah. I mean, he's been accused of being just arrogant and aloof and just like a king, you know? And analysts say his mandate and his legitimacy are a lot weaker this time around. And he's going to have to govern differently in consultation, you know, not alone from high up. He's going to have to compromise. And, you know, many analysts say he's not really good at that. Macron came on stage tonight under the Eiffel Tower, and here he is speaking to the crowd.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: So he acknowledged. He said, I know that many of you here tonight did not vote for me and my ideas, but you just did it to block the far right. So I think he knows that things are different this time around, and people are hoping that he might be a little more humble. So we'll see.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Eleanor Beardsley from Paris. Eleanor, thank you so much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

With lockdown fears looming, Beijing is testing millions for COVID

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With lockdown fears looming, Beijing is testing millions for COVID

Beijing says it will test all 3.6 million residents in its largest district after finding about four dozen COVID cases. Residents fear a city-wide lockdown is imminent.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Transcript:

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Shanghai has been under COVID lockdown for weeks. And residents in the Chinese capital, Beijing, fear they could be next. Cases are spreading, and the city's most populous district has begun three rounds of testing for all 3.6 million residents. NPR's Emily Feng reports.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Chinese).

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Hundreds of masked people in line; a loudspeaker blaring, show your ID; stand a meter apart. It's a COVID testing line outside my Beijing apartment. Familiar scenes like this are repeating themselves across Chaoyang District, Beijing's largest, because all residents need to get three tests by the end of this week. That directive has been widely interpreted as the prelude to a citywide lockdown ala Shanghai. There, authorities first mandated mass testing, then shut residents in their apartments for going on four weeks, hence the lockdown fears in Beijing.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Chinese).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: Those fears prompted long lines throughout the day outside supermarkets. People are hoarding food in case they're stuck at home and dependent on government deliveries for sustenance. Miss Ying was one of the shoppers hauling bags of food back home. She didn't want to give her full name due to political sensitivities around talking about China's COVID policy.

YING: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: She says she bought oil and flour because she wants to be able to make her own noodles in quarantine. She also bought just one week's worth of root vegetables. It's important not to panic, she says. But Beijing is preparing for extreme contingencies. To the north of the city is a state isolation ward with 1,000 beds for any positive cases or close contacts, which the government adapted from an old SARS treatment facility. And Beijing is now building more.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FENG: A lone worker plays his squeaky erhu, a stringed instrument, outside Beijing's Chaoyang sports stadium. Posters pasted outside the locked door say it will soon be turned into a second isolation ward.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: The stadium is a backup, says an employee nearby, in case Beijing's existing isolation wards overflow. A Beijing lockdown would be disastrous economically and politically, but with more infectious variants in the mix and a mandate to bring daily case counts to zero, a lockdown is the only option left right now in Beijing's toolkit. Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYCHO'S "DAYDREAM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

U.S. defense secretary 'wants to see Russia weakened' as Ukraine's railways are hit

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U.S. defense secretary 'wants to see Russia weakened' as Ukraine's railways are hit

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the U.S. wants to see the Russian military weakened on the battlefield. Meanwhile, Russian missiles struck railway infrastructure in central and western Ukraine.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.