Tonight the Russian army gave up its attempt to capture the capital of Ukraine. Kyiv is still under attack from the air, but Russian ground forces withdraw from the suburbs after heavy casualties.
New pictures of liberated parts of the city are ruins with evidence of many civilian casualties. A Pentagon source tells us that the biggest battle is now taking place around the coastal city of Mariupol. More than 100,000 civilians are trapped there. Russian missiles have also exploded in the large port city of Odessa. Russia expected Ukraine to fall within days. But now, six weeks later, the Russian military has not achieved even one of its strategic goals.
Eight days ago, Russian missiles exploded in Lviv – the western Ukrainian city closest to Poland and NATO. The attack may have been a message to President Biden, who was speaking in Poland that same hour. The name Lviv means “city of lions”. And this past week we traveled there to find a defiant people who will defy air raids, rush in medical supplies, and protect the innocent.
On March 26 there was an attack on Lviv. As Ukraine battled the inferno, Mr. Biden came to the end of a precisely crafted speech and then vented his disgust for Vladimir Putin.
President Biden in his speech: For God’s sake, this man cannot stay in power.
It was heresy among diplomats. In the Lvov air raid shelters it was a prayer. The region centered on this nearly 800-year-old city has barricaded its monuments and opened its heart with shelters for half a million homeless Ukrainians.
Larysa (translated): We want to go home. We want to go home now. But they shoot there.
Larysa, her son and daughter fled the city of Kharkiv on a 19-hour train without food or water.
“Bombing, bombing, bombing,” she told us. Bombing day and night.”
“It’s like Armageddon,” she said.
Tens of millions of Ukrainians have fled Armageddon. Four million out of the country, 6 million pushed into Ukrainian cities. In the “City of Lions” you can see the emergency shelters on the cargo pallets outside. They are foundations for new houses. This is a basketball court covered with donated bedding. On the lattice of the wooden pallets the homeless rest, wrapped in compassion. The only place they have in the world is 10 feet by three and a half.
Accommodations are damp, with the faint, acrid smell of too many people in too small a space. The rules are implied. Be silent. Watch your palette. Don’t show fear to the children.
Food and medicine are scarce. Your only wealth is time. Endless hours of worry, broken only by the sight of a new arrival or the wailing of a siren.
Air raid alerts interrupt the day, making Ukrainians look for a new app they can’t live without. Called “Air Alarm”, it triggers the phone during an air raid and pinpoints where the bombs are falling. During this evacuation we met Iryna. A woman who had heard one siren too many.
“Why? Why are they doing this destruction? What have we done to them?” She said of the Russians.
“If you look down at a curb and see a little child lying there, dead, what has she done? Hundreds of our little children are being killed, little children, see?”
We saw it on a picture from the city of Mariupol. A blood-stained baby blanket wrapped an 18-month-old boy. The mother follows her partner to a hospital. Their child, named Kirill, did not survive. We would like to warn you that what you will see of this family will be difficult to watch, but this is Russia’s war against civilians in Ukraine.
The victims include the hospitals themselves. Russia is targeting them in a criminal campaign. This is a hospital in Mykolaiv, another hospital in Mariupol, the Luhansk Children’s Hospital, a hospital in Volnovakha and the maternity hospital in Mariupol.
dr Jarno Habicht: To date we have seen 72 attacks on health.
dr Jarno Habicht enumerates the atrocities as head of the United Nations World Health Organization in Ukraine.
dr Jarno Habicht: Many doctors in the hospitals are also attacked. And it’s not just hospitals. It can be hospitals. These can be the primary care centers. We have seen many attacks on the ambulances. We have 71 fatalities and a number of injuries also from these attacks.
Scott Pelley: Seventy-one dead? This includes healthcare professionals and their patients?
dr Jarno Habicht: These are the nursing staff, the patients who were in the facilities.
Scott Pelley: How common are these attacks on medical infrastructure?
dr Jarno Habicht: Daily. And that’s worrying.
Scott Pelley: In fact, attacking medical personnel and medical facilities is literally the original war crime –
dr Jarno Habicht: Yes.
Scott Pelley: From the Geneva Convention of 1864.
dr Jarno Habicht: Exactly.
Scott Pelley: What is lost when a hospital is attacked?
dr Jarno Habicht: You lose hope because many people go to the hospital because they want to be treated. And when hospitals are attacked, you don’t have the places where you can actually get cured and treated.
Scott Pelley: And that’s the loss of hope?
dr Jarno Habicht: Yes.
In today’s Ukraine, hope must be imported. We found it in an abandoned factory where an American charity, the International Medical Corps, is distributing medical supplies.
dr John Roberts: Everything is itemized exactly as you would see in a pharmacy. For example amoxicillin, an antibiotic that is really, really useful.
dr IMC’s John Roberts tells us these boxes contain emergency supplies called the IHK, or interagency health kit.
Scott Pelley: And that would treat how many patients for how long?
dr John Roberts: So the IHK as a whole can treat 10,000 people for three months.
dr John Roberts: We have tons and tons of medical supplies, surgical equipment, medicines, bandages, everything you need, not just for basic medical care, but for surgeries, delivering babies, caring for pregnant women.
Scott Pelley: How do needs differ in a country at war?
dr John Roberts: People think “war”, they think it’s all gunshot wounds and bombs. But if you don’t have the healthcare system there, everything else that isn’t usually a problem suddenly becomes a problem. So for example something as simple as blood pressure medication or medication for heart failure or diabetes to get your insulin that goes away.
At the warehouse, we met two International Medical Corps workers who had recently escaped burnt-out apartment buildings in Mariupol. Unable to capture the southern port city, the Russians bombarded the 450,000 residents back in the Middle Ages. Violetta Voloshkina and Oleksandr Lapaiev escaped with the truth.
“Suddenly there was no more petrol at the gas stations,” says Lapaiev. “So we had nowhere to go. Then groceries disappeared from the stores. And all hell broke loose – the electricity was out, we couldn’t charge our phones, the heat was gone. The worst was that the explosions were getting closer… The school was on fire, some shops were on fire. There was an abandoned house next to our house. And that building really saved us because we could go there, smash the door frames and window frames and start a fire with them.”
Scott Pelley: What happened to the people you were in the bomb shelter with?
Oleksandr Lapaiev (translated): There were about 50 of us in the basement – no place to lie down, myself with my wife and daughter. There was no bathroom, no water, no light. An elderly lady suffered for two days, she screamed, she moaned. And imagine it’s eleven o’clock at night, it’s dark and she’s dying.
He told us they escaped from the basement four days later. The older woman’s body was still lying by the door.
“When we were in the basement,” Violetta told us, “we thought that only our apartment was being shot at because planes were flying overhead and dropping bombs. When we left the city, we saw that the whole city was destroyed.”
Scott Pelley: You gave us a picture of the basement accommodation you were in. How was it?
Violetta Voloshkina (translated): We had to cook on the fire. We didn’t wash for two weeks because the water was only for drinking. We gathered branches, made a fire and all cooked together. All the people brought everything they had. Of course we cooked all the meat first because it would spoil.
Scott Pelley: Your daughter turned 17 during that invasion and I wonder if you think she has a future in Ukraine?
“Everything I own fits in one suitcase,” Oleksander told us. “I honestly don’t know how a kid is supposed to move on.”
Scott Pelley: The Russians claim they will liberate the Ukrainian people.
Violetta Voloshkina (translated): We didn’t ask anyone to free us. We lived peacefully in our city. We lived our lives. We went to work and everything was fine, we had a happy life. Someone started a war and someone ruined our lives.
Lviv has seen many invasions over eight centuries. Here, simply going about the day is an act of defiance. On the cafe’s door, we couldn’t help but notice the sign that provides a daily list of Russian soldiers killed and planes, tanks, and ships destroyed. The numbers are foamy, but inside, where IDs are checked to keep Russians out, they serve courage.
In the emergency shelters, Dr. John Roberts on the long haul and lists the bottlenecks.
dr John Roberts: We try to articulate exactly what they need and meet that need in the best possible way. So we bring in tons of drugs…
Scott Pelley: You know, I think that’s the air raid siren.
dr John Roberts: Yes, it is.
Once again, Lemberg ducked for cover. During our visit, the United Nations established a commission to investigate war crimes – and this will continue to be the case in the future. For now, they pray in the dwellings of the “City of Lions” that their light will outlast the darkness.
Produced by Nicole Jung. Associate Producer, Kristin Steve. Broadcasters Michelle Karim and Annabelle Hanflig. Edited by April Wilson.