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The situation in Kyiv a week into the war

Alexander Savitsky Kyiv, Ukraine
March 3, 2022

The humanitarian situation in Ukraine's capital is stable, but there are growing fears over heavy shelling in other cities. Overnight Wednesday, Russian forces attacked again. DW's Alexander Savitsky reports from Kyiv.

Buildings in Kyiv
The monitor on the building in the center carries a message to Russian soldiers to surrenderImage: Oleksandr Savytsky/DW

After two days of relative quiet, there were reports of heavy Russian attacks on Kyiv during the night on Wednesday. Footage of several explosions was shared on social media accounts. According to the authorities, one projectile struck south of the main train station.

It was reportedly debris from a Russian missile that the Ukrainian air force had downed. DW has not been able to independently verify this information.

Russian assault intensifies

During the day, I saw a relatively large number of people and private vehicles on the streets of the Ukrainian capital. Municipal services continue to run in a stable way, as does public transport — albeit with less frequent service.

The metro now runs only every 40 minutes, and not all stations are served. Most residents use the subway system to reach important hubs, including the main train station.

Ukrainian writer documents war from Kyiv

Stocking up on food, water and medicine

Seven days into the defense of the Ukrainian capital, what is most pressing for people is to stock up on food, water and medicine. Long queues in front of supermarkets have disappeared, and smaller stores which have reopened are now receiving frequent supplies.

But there is a shortage of dairy products, fruit and vegetables, as well as bread, flour and muesli products. In the supermarkets, people grab these items before there is even time to put them on the shelves.

A queue outside of a store in Kyiv
There is a particular shortage of dairy products, vegetables and breadImage: Oleksandr Savytsky/DW

There are still queues in front of pharmacies, though these are also shorter than they were. Private pharmacies have now reopened alongside the state-run pharmacies. This came after a call by the city's humanitarian crisis unit, which is coordinating aid for Kyiv's northern suburbs which are most affected by the war, for example Bucha and Hostomel.

A decree has also been passed to make it easier for people with diabetes to access insulin, which can now be distributed at first aid stations. The crisis unit has also called on the population of Kyiv to take care of people living on their own and the elderly and provide them with medicine as necessary.

Everywhere in the city, there is touching interaction between people and a great willingness to help. I was asked by a young woman near my apartment in the city center what the situation was like in the closest supermarket. When she heard that there was not much to buy, she gave me some food parcels. "I work at the outpatient clinic and we get free food that we're allowed to take home. I am also giving a lot to my neighbors," she told me.

Chaos at the main train station

Even if the sirens are sounding less often than in the past few days, local authorities estimate that some 15,000 people have sought refuge in emergency shelters. At some subways, people are not only sleeping on the station floor but also in trains that are no longer running.

People waiting on platform in Kyiv
People are waiting for evacuation trains at Kyiv's main stationImage: Lafargue Raphael/abaca/picture alliance

Furthermore, fear is growing in the capital amid reports of large-scale missile attacks and explosions in residential areas of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Zhytomyr and other Ukrainian cities.

The situation at the train station recalls footage from World War II.Crowds have formed as people try to board trains heading west. Many are refugees from southern and eastern Ukraine where there is heavy fighting. There is chaos at the ticket counters, with long lines and people even sleeping in between them. There is only infrequent, rudimentary information about special trains leaving the city.

Despite this situation, the results of the first polls since the beginning of Russia's all-out war against Ukraine are surprising. According to a "Rating" survey, almost 98% of Ukrainians support the country's armed forces and 90% believe in their ability to repel an attack by Russia. In addition, 93% support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and 84% are behind the local authorities in their towns and cities.

This story was originally written in Ukrainian.