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As Ukraine and Russia meet again for talks, fighting continues in parts of Ukraine

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As Ukrainian and Russian officials meet again today to talk out a potential cease-fire, fighting continues in many parts of Ukraine. Just days ago, during another round of peace talks, Russia said it would reduce its troop presence around the capital city, Kyiv. NPR's Nate Rott is there, and earlier this morning, I asked him if that was actually happening.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Yes and no. So Western intelligence agencies are saying they're seeing some of those troop movements here around Kyiv and in Chernihiv. That's a bit northeast of here. The governors in both oblasts - that's the Ukrainian equivalent of states - both said today that they are also seeing some of those troop movements, but they say other troops are digging in. And just about every Ukrainian you talk to here, you know, from politician to military medic to person walking their dog on the street, is highly skeptical that Russia's actually going to relieve pressure on either of these areas. I talked to a person yesterday who was with an aid convoy that got turned around in Chernihiv because of fighting. And there were two loud booms that we heard while in central Kyiv yesterday, though we're still waiting for confirmation to hear what was hit.

MARTIN: Even so, we do keep hearing these reports that - at least in some places, that Russia is sort of on its heels, right?

ROTT: Yeah. I mean, in Kyiv and in Chernihiv, they've both suffered heavy losses. And, you know, we are hearing that the Ukrainians are being able to force Russian troops out of some of these areas, though they remain unsafe for civilians, for normal people, to return to. There were reports of a possible Ukrainian strike about 20 miles across the border in Russia overnight. The regional governor in Russia said it was an oil depot that was hit, though there's still a lot of details that need to be confirmed there. In southern Ukraine, the military is now saying it's retaking 11 towns in the Kherson region, which is near the Crimean peninsula.

And today it's in the south where we're going to be paying a lot of attention because that's where Mariupol is. That's the city that's been under siege for weeks, where we've seen just horrific images. A major Red Cross convoy is trying to get into that city today to deliver humanitarian aid, to get more civilians out, but they've been waiting for assurances from both Ukraine and Russia that it's going to be safe to do so.

MARTIN: You've been talking to people in Kyiv. What's the sense there?

ROTT: You know, it's super interesting. Besides air raid warnings, the nights here are, like, ghostly silent. Curfews are in effect. There's no traffic on the streets. Buildings are keeping their lights off. So you're in this major city, but it's really quiet. During the day, there's more activity. People are out. Businesses are starting to open back up, and some people are coming back. I talked to a 26-year-old yesterday named Olgha Selho, who said she'd just gotten back and that she's - it's been a little weird trying to adjust back to the life here.

OLGHA SELHO: When you leave, you understand in one way that it's war, and you need to go somewhere. And then you came back, but it's still war. And the action is different, so you need to get to know how to live again.

ROTT: So she's trying to learn how to live again. She does say it feels safer here, but, you know, as she said and as we've heard from everybody, it's hard to say anywhere is safe in Ukraine right now, given that there's still Russian strikes happening all over.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Nathan Rott reporting from Kyiv. Thank you so much, Nate.

ROTT: Yeah. Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.