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Russian missile hits Kyiv just after the head of the U.N. spoke there

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Ukrainian officials are calling the latest attack on Kyiv a, quote, "postcard from Moscow and an insult to the United Nations." Attacks on Ukraine's capital had mostly stopped until yesterday. And missiles landed in the heart of the city. Why would that be an insult to the United Nations? The U.N. secretary general was in the city at the time. Antonio Guterres was trying to negotiate humanitarian corridors for civilians in a besieged city.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTONIO GUTERRES: Mariupol is a crisis within a crisis. Thousands of civilians need lifesaving assistance. Many are elderly, in need of medical care or have limited mobility. They need an escape route out of the apocalypse.

MARTINEZ: NPR's Frank Langfitt is in the Ukrainian capital, and he spoke to us from the scene of an attack.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: A cruise missile came in here. Clearly, it was aimed at a factory behind me, which has made missile parts in the past. But it flew in and actually knocked out the bottom floors of a residential apartment building here. In fact, you can see the whole front is torn off. And you can see the rebar hanging down like hair. Not very long ago, workers came out with someone in a body bag and loaded it into a van. And so this looks like, you know, an attempt to take out military capacity from, you know, the Ukrainians that ended up injuring a number of people and at least killing one.

MARTINEZ: The U.N. secretary general, Frank, said he was hopeful to establish a humanitarian corridor after his meeting with the Russian president earlier this week. What message is Russia sending with this attack?

LANGFITT: Well, it's obviously, at the very least, not very respectful if you have the head of the U.N. here and you're firing a missile within hours of a press conference that he gave with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. And I guess I want to point out, we are in the center of the city. This has not been a place that's been hit that hard. That said, Zelenskyy's office said that they are expecting today to get civilians out of the Azovstal steel plant. There about a thousand civilians living in a basement. It's really a 15-mile maze of bunkers and tunnels.

And our colleague Joanna Kakissis has actually been in touch with a soldier in the basement there who said there were airstrikes yesterday. A makeshift hospital could not keep up. There are 500 wounded fighters, very little food, water or medicine. Of course, with these humanitarian corridors, as we've found, the challenge is the Russians may sometimes agree, but then actually end up attacking those corridors.

MARTINEZ: You've been talking to military experts in Ukraine and elsewhere in your travels in Europe. How do they see this all playing out in the coming months?

LANGFITT: Yeah, it's a really good question. Basically, they see the Russians making a big push in the east, in the Donbass region, as we've been talking about, try to take control of much of the south and try to hold what people see as sham referenda to basically argue that these territories that they're taking are no longer a part of Ukraine but independent or pro-Russian, get as much territory as possible, effectively to take what has been a failed military operation up until now, show it back home as some kind of a victory. Now, Ukrainians - of course, they're going to use all these huge armaments that they're getting from the U.S. and NATO allies to hold as much ground as possible. Nobody expects a negotiated solution any time soon.

I was talking to Oleg Ignatov. He's with the International Crisis Group. This is how he put it.

OLEG IGNATOV: They don't know how to stop this war right now because both sides still hope that they can or will be able to win this war.

LANGFITT: And, of course, there are going to be more and more weapons coming, perhaps for years, from NATO.

MARTINEZ: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt in Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv. Frank, thank you.

LANGFITT: Good to talk, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.