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A student seeks safety inside southern Ukraine apartment rattled by explosions

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Ukrainians have spent a second day fighting for their country, and all eyes are focused on Kyiv, where Russian missiles and rockets are falling as Russians try to take over the capital city.

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

But there is fighting throughout the country, including in Kherson, a city of about 300,000 people in southern Ukraine. It's where 22-year-old Vitaly Shutov lives.

CHANG: He's a college student. We talked to him yesterday, and he's been sending his voice memos all day today, updating us on his situation. When we last left him yesterday, he was with his mom in his apartment. And he texted, quote, "just got to survive the night."

RASCOE: He told us this morning that he was still doing OK. He had slept some. But as today wore on, fighting got worse in the city.

CHANG: Around 5:30 p.m. local time, Vitaly messaged again. He told us he has been stuck inside for two days, and he and his friends are sharing what information they know over text. And as you can hear, he's absolutely exhausted.

VITALY SHUTOV: As far as I understand it, there's - like, a lot of tanks are in the border of, like, Kherson. So we're terrified and hearing a lot of explosions. And right now I am on the way to a basement. I'm not sure that I want to go there now, but I'm getting ready 'cause I'm hearing explosions, like a lot of them, but they're pretty far away. But as soon as I hear a siren or anything like that, that's the call to go to a basement. And I don't know. I'm pretty sure it'll happen.

CHANG: And then he sent another message two minutes later.

SHUTOV: Also, lots of civilians are dying because of the bombing, and that terrifies me.

RASCOE: About an hour later, he sent a video.

SHUTOV: Yeah. Right now I'm at the basement. I just heard explosion real close. The apartment - the whole apartment shaked (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

SHUTOV: And, yeah, this is where I'm at right now.

RASCOE: He told us it's dusty in the basement. It makes it hard to breathe.

SHUTOV: There are, like, 20 people in there, and everybody's terrified and scared. And I just honestly cannot believe that this is happening in 2022. I mean, it feels like 1939, like in Nazi Germany when they invaded Poland. That is just insane - what I think.

CHANG: As night fell in Kherson, Vitaly went back to his apartment. He's planning to go back and forth all night. He says people are expecting bombs tonight and fighting in the morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.