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Ukraine latest: Russian forces pull back from Kyiv

MILES PARKS, HOST:

Ukrainian forces continue to take back territory around the nation's capital, Kyiv, as Russian troops retreat from the area. Fierce fighting and humanitarian disasters continue in other parts of the country, though, and there are concerns that Russia isn't giving up its ambitions to take over Kyiv. NPR's Nathan Rott joins us now from the Ukrainian capital to tell us more. Nate, welcome.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Hey, Miles. Good to talk to you.

PARKS: Good to talk to you, too. Now, we've been hearing reports that Russian troops are moving away from the capital, Kyiv, for days. Is that really what's happening?

ROTT: Yes, to an extent. I don't think anybody here is under the immediate impression that the threat from Russia in Kyiv is gone. This is still very much a city at war. There are checkpoints everywhere. I'm looking out my window right now at a city that usually has about the same population as Chicago, and it's nearly silent. Lights are shut off in skyscrapers. A woman I was talking to at a park the other day joked that you can finally see the stars in downtown Kyiv. And the reason for that caution is there are still Russian troops believed to be in this region. There are still missile strikes happening. And there is a lot of skepticism from everyone you talk to here that Russia is really going to let this place go.

PARKS: So what do we know about the places that Russia has left? Do we have a sense of what the situation is in those places?

ROTT: Yes. So we're getting some of that now, and the areas that people are seeing are devastated. I mean, you open any newspaper, jump online, you can see the images. I was actually talking to a friend that we've made here in Kyiv earlier today who was driving north of the city, and he was showing me videos that he had taken earlier today on his phone. And it's just car after car abandoned, destroyed, left on the road. He said he saw four bodies in just a few kilometers. We heard something similar from Kyiv's mayor, Vitali Klitschko, earlier today.

VITALI KLITSCHKO: I just came in right now from north of the city. I'm little bit depressed what I saw there - old people shoot, civilian, civilian. Old, young people, womens, shoot by Russian soldier, the bodies everywhere there.

ROTT: And unfortunately, Miles, I think we're going to be hearing more stories like that coming out in the next couple of days.

PARKS: And there's still fighting going on in other parts of the country - is that right?

ROTT: Yeah, absolutely. So especially in the eastern part of the country, in the south, that's where Russian forces are still trying to advance. That's where humanitarian aid convoys are still trying to reach, in some cases, to get civilians out, and that's where Russia says it's now going to focus its efforts. So knowing that, knowing that the fighting is only going to continue in those areas, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a plea last night actually to Russian parents, asking them to not allow their kids to enter the war.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: (Non-English language spoken).

ROTT: We don't need more dead people here, he says. Save your children so that they do not become villains. Don't send them to the army. Do whatever you can to keep them alive at home, at their home.

PARKS: And Nate, we got some new horrible news also about another journalist who has died in this conflict. What do we know about that?

ROTT: Yeah. So this has been a particularly deadly conflict for journalists. Maks Levin, a photojournalist and documentarian, had disappeared more than two weeks ago after heavy fighting broke out in the area he was reporting on north of Kyiv, north where I am now. He was a freelancer who'd been covering conflict between Russia and Ukraine for the better part of a decade. The office of Ukraine's prosecutor general said that they found his body in a village north of Kyiv and that it appeared he had been killed by two shots of small-arms fire by Russian troops. They are also going to open a criminal investigation into his death. And sadly, you know, he's at least the sixth journalist to have been killed since Russia invaded this country, and it's been only six weeks since that happened.

PARKS: That was NPR's Nathan Rott reporting from Kyiv. Thank you so much, Nate, and stay safe.

ROTT: Yeah. Thanks, Miles. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.