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Ukrainians celebrate as troops make gains

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In a striking development over the weekend, Ukrainian forces broke through Russia's front lines in the northeast. Ukrainian officials now claim they are in charge of towns held for months by Russia. Videos appearing to show recently liberated Ukrainians welcoming soldiers are circulating on social media.

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Like this one posted to Twitter by Ukrainian human rights lawyer Oleksandra Matviichuk.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

SUMMERS: In the video, three old women embrace Ukrainian soldiers, weeping and kissing them on the cheek.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

SUMMERS: The women offer food to the soldiers, who decline to take it and tell the women to stay inside. The shelling isn't quite over.

KELLY: In Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, Vitaliia Sverzh waited anxiously throughout the weekend for updates. She and her husband are from Kharkiv, but they were displaced by the war.

VITALIIA SVERZH: (Through interpreter) We were following the news. We checked the map every 30 minutes.

KELLY: Sverzh told NPR the gains made against Russia have improved morale, and she expressed pride in her country's troops.

SVERZH: (Through interpreter) Now everyone knows what is the Ukrainian army. Everything will be Ukraine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kathryn Fox