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Russian forces have captured the southern Ukrainian port city of Kherson


Russian forces have captured the southern port city of Kherson in Ukraine. It's the first city that's fallen since Russian forces invaded a little over a week ago. But they seem to be stalled north of the capital, Kyiv, where Ukrainian forces and volunteers are fiercely resisting. This as Russian missiles and artillery are firing on the city, as well as on Kharkiv to the northeast. Here to give us an update is NPR's Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman. Good morning, Tom.


FADEL: So, Tom, let's start with the capital. Russian forces are still north of the city's center, so roughly 20 miles or so. Why are they stalled?

BOWMAN: Well, first of all, they've been stalled for three days. And the reasons, we're talking logistics problems, food and fuel shortages, as well as the fact that the ground is not frozen. And the Russians are forced to stay on the roads. Of course, there's also resistance from Ukrainian forces, a resistance that, Leila, has surprised not only the Russians, but the Americans as well. There was a sense a few weeks ago in the Pentagon that Russian troops might grab Kyiv in - get this - as little as two days. Then there'd be this tough insurgency. But now Ukrainian forces and civilians are putting up a stubborn fight right now. And here we are a week into the invasion.

FADEL: I mean, we've seen all kinds of people signing up to go fight on the front line from here in Lviv. And of course, a lot of the combat power that we're seeing coming from the Russian forces is in the form of Russian missiles and artillery, right?

BOWMAN: Yeah, absolutely. Yesterday, we were told more than 450 Russian missiles fired so far, and many of them short range. And people I talked with in the Pentagon and elsewhere say this could only get more intense as the days go on, a much more aggressive missile and artillery fire from the Russians. We're already seeing that in Kyiv, but also in a city to the northeast of the capital, Kharkiv. Early on, the Russians were targeting military locations, so barracks, fuel and ammunition depots, airfields, for example. Now we're seeing, particularly in Kharkiv, more civilian infrastructure and residential areas being hit. Now, it could be those places are near military targets, Leila. Or it could mean a much more ugly phase now. We saw the Russians mount more indiscriminate attacks against civilian locations in places like Chechnya, as well as Syria - again, hitting more civilian targets.

FADEL: Right. Now in the south, the Russians appear to be making more headway, right?

BOWMAN: That's right. Russia already is occupying Crimea, of course. So Russian troops from there are moving into the fight. And also, Russia has landed several thousand amphibious forces on the coast. And they moved up to the city of Kherson, a city of some 300,000 just north of Crimea. And yesterday, the Pentagon was saying the city was still being contested. Now with the seizure of that city, Russian forces could either move north toward Kyiv or, perhaps, west toward Odesa on the coast. But at this point, we just don't know. Also, the Russians are pushing into other towns and cities in the southern part of the country and could head into the Donbas region. Now here's this - that's where half the Ukrainian army is located. And they could box them in.

FADEL: NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman. Thank you, Tom.

BOWMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.