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Ukrainians are forced to adjust to life under martial law

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin, coming to you from Montgomery, Ala. We'll tell you more about why in just a few minutes. But we're going to start in Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops today battle to keep control of their capital city, Kyiv, from advancing Russian forces. Gunfire and missile strikes were reported on the outskirts of the city, and Ukrainian officials said a missile hit a residential building there, despite Russian claims that only military installations were being targeted. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing their homes for relative safety in the west of the country. For many, it's a chaotic journey. NPR's Tim Mak is on the road in Ukraine and sends us this look at what it's like.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: When the first explosions were reported earlier this week, many Ukrainian civilians made a break for the West, away from advancing Russian troops. The sudden reality of war meant long traffic jams, some of which were caused by military convoys rushing to the front lines.

A convoy of tanks is passing by us, heading in the opposite direction, towards Kyiv.

The traffic was compounded by makeshift Ukrainian checkpoints hastily being set up all over the country. These are pretty hastily fashioned checkpoints. The first checkpoint we passed through was - well, it was mostly tires.

For many Ukrainians, there is danger everywhere they look. In cities all across the country, there is a constant fear of bombardment.

Civilians amble over to their shelters, parking garages, school basements, carrying belongings they hold dear. And logistically, the most important thing is gas - to continue to move. Our NPR team has been traveling away from the Russian advance. We were waiting in a long gas line when someone started shouting over the gas station PA system that an airstrike was coming in. This announcement sent hundreds of people running in all directions.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

MAK: What is...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Inaudible) warning - careful.

MAK: Just be...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I'm looking in the back.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Well, careful.

MAK: So we're - wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

Parents rushed to their cars with their children. Cars started up, and mass confusion and panic set in.

What did he say?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Leave. Leave there because there's the airstrike on the car.

MAK: In the chaos, our team was separated from one of our interpreters.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: We're looking for Elena (ph).

MAK: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Do you see her?

MAK: We don't see her. We started driving.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: OK.

MAK: She had hopped into a random car to leave the scene as soon as possible, but we later reunited with her down the road. Our team regrouped and, despite the scare, decided to head back to that same gas station. After all, we still needed the gas.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Tim Mak on the road with a team of our colleagues inside Ukraine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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