Ukraine-Russia War News: Live Updates
LVIV, Ukraine – The day before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a musician was singing on a cobblestone street in the heart of Lviv’s Old Town, the glow of heat lamps casting a soft light on a yellow stone house.
Until the war, it was the home of Wild House, part exhibition space, part hair salon, part TikTok studio, and a gathering place for artists and digital nomads. Today it is a pension for people fleeing the onslaught of Russia.
It started informally, with news of her existence spreading in rushed phone calls and frantic text messages. As the war spread, word also spread of Wild House, now part of an elaborate network of volunteers dealing with a never-ending stream of needs.
Nadiya Opryshko, 29, an aspiring journalist-turned-humanitarian, is driving her transformation.
“The Russian military, they are fighting for nothing,” she said in an interview. “They did not know and cannot understand why they are fighting.
“Ukrainian people, we know what we are fighting for,” she continued. “We are fighting for peace. We fight for our country. And we fight for freedom.
His story, and that of Wild House, in many ways reflects the larger transformation his city and his nation underwent in just a few weeks of war.
Signs of change are visible everywhere, both strange but also eerily familiar, ancient rituals taking place in a radically altered context.
A family stands in a corner with their suitcases near a French cafe, while the voice of Edith Piaf floats in the background. But they are not tourists. In their suitcases are condensed lives, whatever time and space would allow them to run.
Two people share a coffee at Black Honey. No old friends, but a soldier of fortune and an Australian journalist. Hotels are all full, but travelers are not attracted to tourists the magnificent architecture of the citybut aid workers, diplomats, journalists, spies and an assortment of others whose prosecutions are harder to guess.
And, still, there are the sirens of air raids, dire reminders of the destruction raining down on cities across the country which, with the horrific strike last week on a military base just outside the city and another attack Friday near the airport, draw ever closer to the city itself.
But every day that Ukrainian forces around the capital, Kyiv, and other cities fight off the Russian onslaught is another day for Lviv to bolster its defenses. Works of art are now stored in bunkers. Four limestone statues in Rynok Square, designed as an allegory of Earth, are now wrapped in foam and plastic, turning Neptune into a silhouette with only his identifiable trident. The stained glass windows of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, founded in 1360, are covered with metal to protect them from Russian rockets.
The majority of the three million people who fled Ukraine passed through Lviv train and bus stations. And for millions of other internally displaced people, Lviv is the gateway to safety, however fleeting, in the west. The city is full of people and emotions. Energy and despair. Anger and determination.
The morning after the first air raid siren sounded before dawn on February 24, however, there was mostly uncertainty. People emerged with cloudy, uncertain eyes, queuing outside ATMs and shops, rushing to collect valuables and planning to wait out the storm.
Most shops closed, taxis stopped working and apparently everyone took to Telegram to watch videos – some real, some fake – of Russian warplanes roaring over cities and missiles crashing into buildings.
Hotels emptied as people rushed to join loved ones in Ukraine and abroad.
“They are afraid for their families, afraid for their friends,” said Denys Derchachev, 36, doorman at the Auberge de la Citadelle, on the first morning of the war.
Christina Kornienko was in line to retrieve her valuables from a safe. But even in the shock of the moment, she had an idea of what was to come next. “The women will go to Poland and the men will fight,” she said.
She was right. Shock quickly turned to anger, fueling a remarkable sense of togetherness.
Less than a month ago, Arsan, 35, owned a local cafe. He was about to go to the gymnasium when his wife told him the country was at war. Four days later, he was learning how to make incendiary bombs and spot fluorescent markers placed by Russian saboteurs on buildings to direct missile strikes.
“We can learn to shoot because we don’t know how this situation will develop,” he said. He said he was afraid of what “crazy people can do,” especially Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, with his nuclear weapons speech, but Arsan had faith in the military.
“The Ukrainian army is doing a great job,” he said. “They are great people.”
A month ago, Arsan’s confidence could easily have been called bravado. Few military analysts gave the Ukrainian military a great chance against what was supposed to be the superior firepower and professionalism of the Russian military. But with each passing day – as Ukrainian forces defend kyiv, cling with fierce determination to Mariupol and mount a spirited campaign to prevent Russian forces from advancing on Odessa – the nation’s confidence in itself seems deepen.
Periodically, the Ukrainian military makes expansive, unverifiable claims about its battlefield achievements. This month, for example, he said that since the start of the war his forces had killed 13,500 Russian soldiers and destroyed 404 tanks, 81 planes, 95 helicopters and more than 1,200 armored personnel carriers.
These figures, which Western analysts say are almost certainly inflated, are cited by President Volodymyr Zelensky in his daily talks with the nation – one, two, sometimes three or four times a day, as he channels the wrath of the nation and tries to cheer it up. .
It’s a routine he’s managed to maintain for weeks, often bringing Ukrainians to tears while inspiring resistance from baristas, computer programmers, accountants and lawyers.
But an army, as Napoleon said, marches on its stomach, even civilians. And the effort to supply the nation’s ever-growing cadre of citizen-warriors, like so many other aspects of the nation’s defense, began with volunteers.
Hundreds of them gather daily at Lviv’s Palace of Arts, fighting the war by packing jars of pickled preserves, mountains of donated clothes, liters of water and trash bags full of toiletries.
“We started immediately after the shelling started,” said Yuri Viznyak, the center’s artistic director, who now finds himself at the helm of a center critical of the war effort. And with the Russians increasingly targeting civilians, much of his work is now devoted to bringing relief to those in need.
But as soldiers, weapons and humanitarian aid move from Lviv to the eastern front, a wave of humanity continues to move in the other direction. Every day the stories they bring back to Lviv become more and more dire.
Matukhno Vitaliy, 23, is from the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine and the town of Lysychansk, near the Russian border. It took him two days and two nights to reach Lviv on a crowded evacuation train.
He said his parents were still in town, without running water because all the pipes had been destroyed. It had 100,000 inhabitants before the war, but it is not known how many fled and how many died.
“Everything is destroyed,” he said.
Mariupol. Kharkiv. Chernihiv. Sumy. Oktyrka. Hostomel. Irpin. The list of Ukrainian cities turned into ruins continues to grow. While the Russian advance may have slowed, the destruction did not.
Any illusions Lviv residents might have had that their city could be spared have long since faded. So grandmothers join grandchildren in threading fabric together to make camouflage netting. Villagers on the outskirts of town dig trenches and erect barricades. Movie streaming sites offer videos of making firebombs.
Yet, unlike the early days of the war, the city buzzes with life. Shops have reopened and street musicians are performing. Alcohol is prohibited, but the bars are full. A 7pm curfew means finding a table for compressed dinner hours is a challenge.
But the posters around town that once advertised local businesses have been replaced by wartime propaganda. Many take aim at Mr. Putin, focusing on a crude remark he made about Mr. Zelensky.
“Whether you like it or not, beauty, you have to put up with it,” Putin said, using a rhyming phrase in Russian. Ukrainians believe he was referring to rape – a prelude to what they say is the rape of a nation.
One of the most popular posters depicts a woman towering over Mr. Putin. Sticking a gun in her mouth, she said, “I’m not your beauty.”