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Crisis in Ukraine; Senior Obama Administration Official: Obama Presented "Off Ramp" During Call With Putin On Saturday; Senior Obama Administration Official: Merkel, Obama Talked About "Off Ramp" Options For Putin; Interview With Senator Rubio of Florida

Aired March 4, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks very much.

Good evening, everyone. I'm reporting tonight live from Kiev in Ukraine. A day of an extraordinary developments here on the ground in Kiev on the diplomatic front with Senator John Kerry visiting this very spot, this very ground, to pay his respects to those who died here. And on the military front in Crimea where we have correspondents, and we'll get to all of that in the hour ahead.

But I first want to set the scene here in the square. Give you a sense of where we are. Right now we are on the edge of the Independence Square, one of the several roads that actually leads to the square. This is the first checkpoint, the first blockade that is still in effect. As we mentioned last night, protesters are still camping out here. You can see about a half dozen of them right here huddled before a fire trying to stay warm against the cold night air. It is about 3:00 a.m. here on Wednesday morning.

They are here because they refuse to leave until they say they see changes in the new interim government here in Ukraine. The old president fled. You know that. He's now in Russia. There is a new government here in power. But until these protesters see the changes that they bled for and died for, they say they're going to stay here to continue to put pressure on and all the barricades are up.

You see a lot of signs of the struggle that took place here. A makeshift shield over here with some people put rosaries on. This is really a shrine. This is in many ways sacred ground because of the blood that was shed on these streets. Flowers, thousands of flowers all throughout the many blocks of the square brought by people, but they come by the hundreds, by the thousands every single day to pay their respects. Even here in the darkness they light candles, they bring religious items, mementos to remember those who lost their lives.

And look at this barricade. It's one of probably about five or six barricades down this block. This is the first one that was built to try to prevent riot police from entering the square and attacking the protesters. It's made out of anything that protesters could find. Tires, old fences, corrugated metal, sheet metal.

All of these barricades remain just as they were more than a week and a half ago at the brunt of the fighting here. As I said, it has been a day of extraordinary developments both here in Kiev and in Crimea. Unarmed Ukrainian troops walking into gunfire. Russian troops firing in the air. We'll show you that video coming up shortly. That happened in Crimea.

Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, speaking out making some outlandish claims. We'll show you that. President Obama challenging him on the facts.

We have also tonight new details emerging about their recent phone call. New reporting also on possible efforts to offer President Vladimir Putin a way out, an off-ramp, if you will. A senior administration official says that German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to President Obama today reportedly about her efforts to construct some kind of off-ramp for Vladimir Putin.

A lot of developments to talk about all throughout this next hour, but first, I just want to give you a round-up, the big moments from today. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): A tense standoff between Russian and Ukrainian forces at an air base in Crimea. The base has been surrounded by Russian troops for the past few days. The Ukrainian commander walks unarmed towards the Russians. Two rifles pointed right at him. He's backed up by 300 of his own troops who are also unarmed.

The exchange ends with words, not bullets. But it's an example of the tension in the region.

Russian forces have surrounded 10 Ukrainian military bases and later in the day warships from both Ukraine and Russia were heading toward Crimea.

And as military tension increased so too did the rhetoric between the United States and Russia. Here in Kiev, Secretary of State Kerry toured Independence Square, the site of so much bloodshed just last month, and paid his respects at shrine for those killed in the protests. After meeting with Ukraine's new leaders he turned to Russia.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: It is clear that Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further. Russia's talked about Russian speaking minority citizens are under siege. They're not.

COOPER: While the U.S. is preparing economic and diplomatic sanctions, Kerry made clear a military option is not on the table.

KERRY: President Obama and I want to make it clear to Russia and to everybody in the world that we are not seeking confrontation.

COOPER: Vladimir Putin, who's been largely silent since troops began taking over Crimea, denied that forces from Russia were even in Crimea. PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (Through Translator): They were local self-defense teams.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER (Through Translator): Let me make my question more specific. Did we participate in training those teams?

PUTIN (Through Translator): No. We did not.

COOPER: And at least for today, President Obama seemed to get the last word.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a strong belief that Russia's action is violating international law. I know President Putin seems to have a different set of lawyers making a different set of interpretations, but I don't think that's fooling anybody.


COOPER: There is a lot happening now. The breaking news on efforts to build a so-called off ramp for Vladimir Putin and new details about Putin's conversation with President Obama.

Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins me now with new details about that call.

Jim, what do you know?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, first thing I want to point out just before I detail that phone call is we're just getting word that the president is over at a fundraiser, local fundraiser here in Washington, D.C. and he told people at that fundraiser that we may be able to deescalate this crisis in his words. The U.S. may be able to deescalate those crisis in the coming days.

So interesting to hear the president using the words. It's perhaps a hopeful sign about the way the White House feels about what's happening in Ukraine at this point.

But getting back to that phone call, yes, as we all know it took place on Saturday. It was 90 minutes long and according to a senior administration official who was briefing reporters on that phone call earlier this evening. The president and Vladimir Putin spent much of that time during that phone call sort of debating the facts on the ground with respect to what's happening on the ground in Ukraine.

Russian president basically saying that he is trying to defend the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine and the president spent much of that phone call saying, no, Putin, you're wrong. That's not what's happening in Ukraine. So interesting to see that just in that phone call there was sort of a tense dynamic going on -- Anderson.

COOPER: And the president also spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Do you know much about that conversation?

ACOSTA: Yes, they spoke for an hour, Anderson. And one thing that did come up during this phone call is that, according to a senior administration official, that the German chancellor is now working on what they call an off-ramp to get Putin out of this crisis, to get him out of Crimea or at least to get those Russian forces back into their base in Crimea, and what that off-ramp involves is bringing in international observers to basically look after the interest of ethnic Russians. That's a key Putin concern.

And by the way, administration officials say that concern is bogus at this point. Ethnic Russians aren't being threatened in Ukraine but they're willing to put in international observers and Merkel is almost acting like an intermediary between the president and Vladimir Putin at this point according to the senior administration official.

COOPER: I also understand the -- there was a White House official disputed the notion that Vladimir Putin was somehow unhinged. How would they describe Putin, his state of mind?

ACOSTA: Well, at this point, Anderson, they really think that he is acting in his own self interest and they say that this is a consistent pattern of behavior. We'll call that Angela Merkel, and she was quoted in "The New York Times" as saying that Putin is in another world and what the White House was saying, what this senior administration official is saying that, no, that they believe that Putin is really threatened by these forces that are sort of unraveling in Ukraine, that any popular uprising against the government that is aligned with him, he deems a threat.

And if you go back to what happened in Georgia, they feel like that this is just a consistent, you know, another, you know, basically example of Putin acting in the same consistent manner, that he is going to act out against people in his sphere of influence that he feels are really threatening his interest -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jim, I appreciate the update on both those phone conversations.

We're going to take a closer look at Vladimir Putin and what his strategy actually may be. Because it is -- as Jim was saying it is very easy to label somebody crazy or out of touch, but how much of Vladimir Putin's actions actually make sense from his perspective, not to say that they are appropriate in any way, but what about them actually from his perspective may make sense.

We're going to talk about that a little bit later on in the program.

I want to check in with our Ben Wedeman who's on the ground in Sevastopol in Crimea. Also with me throughout the hour tonight, former longtime CNN Moscow correspondent Jill Dougherty. We are very pleased that she is with us. Currently she is at Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Jill, great to have you with us.

Ben, let me start out with you. What is the latest in Crimea right now and what have you seen throughout the day? BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, all eyes are on the Belbek base right outside of Sevastopol where, as you ran that video, we saw this confrontation between this large group as many as 300 Ukrainian soldiers, unarmed who faced off with these men in green, but who clearly looked like professional soldiers. In fact one person told me they look like Russian paratroopers.

And that incident which fortunately passed without any casualties, without any actual violence, really underscores, Anderson, how close this place can come to a transformation from a peaceful standoff and now at the moment to something much worse. And scenes like that haven't happened at other -- the other nine locations where Russian forces are surrounding or in some cases are inside Ukrainian bases but the potential for violence as we saw today is clearly there.

COOPER: And, Ben, Ukraine officials have said that Ukrainian troops on the ground in Crimea have been very careful not to provoke some sort of a confrontation so that event that we saw today at that base, how did that come about? Why were those forces moving toward the -- what are clearly Russian troops and how did it finally resolve?

WEDEMAN: Well, our understanding is that this was an initiative by the commander on the base who as a result of this confrontation has become something of an online celebrity. He clearly wanted to reassert his authority on the base and what we have seen really is that Ukrainian forces in the Crimea have been very passive in all of this.

I think they do feel that they're outnumbered and outgunned by the opposite side and they've been staying fairly quiet but I think their patience may be running out because their attitude is these are their military bases. Many of them have families living on those bases with them and they clearly saw that it's time to push back against these forces that were deployed throughout the Crimea since last Friday -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jill, other than that one military confrontation which thankfully did not end in any bloodshed in Crimea, we have seen sort of a cooling off perhaps on the military front but a ratcheting up on the diplomatic front.

JILL DOUGHERTY, FELLOW, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Right. I mean, I think if you look at the economic side of it, that's really important because you have Secretary Kerry coming in today, $1 billion on the line in loan guarantees that the U.S. could offer, will offer.

And then, on the other side, you have signals from Russia on the one hand that they might cooperate with some type of IMF long-term financing to help Ukraine. But also indicating that they will probably stop the subsidies on natural gas.

COOPER: Which --

DOUGHERTY: And that --

COOPER: Is huge here because --

DOUGHERTY: It's huge.

COOPER: Because Ukraine gets subsidized prices on natural gas and is reliant on natural gas from Russia.

DOUGHERTY: Correct. And right now, look at their budget. They owe $35 billion by the end of the year. So on top of everything, that's what's hanging over their heads so the economic situation is crucial and you can see Putin now maneuvering, saying we'll help but also putting pressure on the other side.

COOPER: It is fascinating. Ben Wedeman, Jill, stick around. We're going to talk to Jill a lot throughout this hour.

Let us know what you think of the ongoing crisis here. You can follow me on Twitter @Andersoncooper, tweet me using #ac360. I do get tweets even here.

Next Vladimir Putin and his relationship with the truth. Is he, as former Secretary of State Madeline Albright says, delusional or is there a method, is there a strategy behind what he's doing in Crimea?

We're going to look at all sides. We'll be right back.


COOPER: A fascinating press conference as we talked about by Vladimir Putin today. His claims including the claim that there are no Russian troops in Crimea. He says it's all local militia self-defense forces versus the facts that -- just about everybody has reported on the ground. For days now questions about whether Putin is himself getting all the facts.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, her impression after talking on the phone with him over the weekend, she tells President Obama he is in another world. After his performance today, more evidence.

Jim Sciutto tonight puts together a number of dubious statements from the Russian president "Keeping Them Honest." Let's take a look.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After days of staying mum, Russian President Vladimir Putin finally broke his silence. Trouble is U.S. officials say very little of what he said is true.

Here's Putin on those Russian troops now patrolling Ukraine. He says they aren't his.

PUTIN (Through Translator): Look at other uniforms of other post- Soviet. You can see such uniforms in the shop. They were self- defense teams. They were prepared very well. But look at how well the people in Kiev were prepared.

SCIUTTO: And here's Putin on the protesters who brought down the pro- Russian government in Kiev.

PUTIN (Through Translator): We have neo-Nazis and Nazis and anti- Semite in some part of the Ukraine including Kiev.

SCIUTTO: Putin wasn't very kind to the U.S. either.

PUTIN (Through Translator): I have a feeling in America, some people sit in some lab doing experiments like on rats without knowing the consequences. Why do they need to do this? Nobody has an explanation.

SCIUTTO: So are Putin's claims method or madness? Angela Merkel is one of the few world leaders Putin has spoken with recently. According to "The New York Times" she described him to Obama as being in another world, a sentiment shared by some Russian observers who say the president has surrounded him with yes, men in the Kremlin. Others, however, say Putin is very much in command of his senses and in fact has a plan for a world order he sees as a real threat to Russia interests.

CHARLES KUPCHAN, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Whether it's Libya or Syria or Iran or Ukraine, he sees Western actions as uniquely attempting to undermine Russian power.

SCIUTTO: Putin may already have achieved his goal in Ukraine. Establishing and emphasizing Russia's control over its bases and Navy port in Crimea. The danger is that the volatile mix of propaganda, emotions and armed soldiers he's unleashed there could easily spiral out of control.

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, back now with former longtime CNN Moscow correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She is currently at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. We're very pleased that she joins us tonight.

Also with us former National Security adviser in the George W. Bush administration, Stephen Hadley. Hadley is National Security adviser when Russia moved into parts of Georgia back in 2008.

Jill, I read an interesting article by Peter Beinart in "The Atlantic." He's been on this program very often. He was pointing out that from Vladimir Putin's perspective and he wasn't -- Peter wasn't in anyway apologizing for Putin's actions in Crimea but saying from his perspective this may make sense, that from his perspective he actually sees a West which is increasingly encroaching on formerly Soviet -- formerly Russian territory.

DOUGHERTY: Absolutely. I mean, look at it from his perspective. You have the NATO -- NATO moving steadily east. Poland, Czech Republic, et cetera. You have the Baltic countries that have become part of NATO. And then moving, you know, talking about Georgia eventually becoming part, perhaps Ukraine, et cetera. So as he looks at the border he thinks this is a threat and you really could interpret what is happening here as an effort -- I should say in Crimea as an effort for -- by Vladimir Putin to damage, let's say, Ukraine, to make it impossible for them to easily blend in to NATO.

So that he doesn't have to really obviously take over Ukraine. He's not going to. But if he is able to control Crimea which is what they want, where their base is, that would be enough.

COOPER: Stephen, do you think from Vladimir Putin's perspective, and again, this is not trying to justify at all what he's doing in Crimea but do you think it makes sense from Vladimir Putin's perspective as opposed to him being delusional as some others have said?

STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, G.W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: I watched the press conference. I was in when I was National Security adviser in meetings with Putin, with both President Bush and on my own, and he's the same guy. I mean, he was very well prepared. He's very on message. He was controlled. He was making his case. So this is really the same guy. But what we have found with Putin is that he gets a lot of his information from his intelligence services.

They have a very nationalistic view, very anti-Western view. They are anti-U.S. view and we were sometimes astonished by what he would put forward as facts about the United States or about U.S. activities that had no basis in reality. And I think when Angela Merkel says he's in another world, it's that. It's not that he's taken leave of his senses but he's playing with a set of facts that are partly unfounded and partly very self-serving.

And I think that's what you're -- what you're seeing here. He's made a move and he is going to stand by it and justify it --

COOPER: It's really --

HADLEY: -- publicly even if he has to bend the facts a bit.

COOPER: It's fascinating to hear what you witness in meetings. Do you have any specific example? I mean, it would be interesting to hear of things he thought about the U.S. or things he would say which you just didn't feel were based in fact and were the result of misinformation by the people giving him information.

HADLEY: Well, the most amusing was a private meeting he had with President Bush year and probably 2005, 2006. It was right after CBS fired Dan Rather and he said -- and President Bush talked to him about press freedom. And he says, well, you don't have press freedom in the United States. Dan Rather made you mad so you fired him.

And President Bush said, Vladimir, please don't go in front of our press corps and use that example. People will think you don't know what -- how America works. I didn't fire Dan Rather. He works for CBS News.

Notwithstanding, President Putin then went out to the press conference and said, you know, I -- my press is as free as yours. You fired Dan Rather. So he's just -- he's got a set of facts and a set of grievances that he feels very deeply about that just don't reflect the reality of how things work here.

COOPER: It's interesting, Jill. I mean, I didn't realize that back after the fall of the Soviet Union, back when the Berlin wall fell, that actually Jim Baker, the secretary of state at the time, actually met with Gorbachev promising him that there would not be NATO forces in East Germany.

I just learned that earlier today from Peter Beinart, which is really fascinating when you think of how far NATO forces have moved beyond, obviously, East Germany.

DOUGHERTY: Right. And Putin has referred to that. Putin feels --

COOPER: He's referred back to what the promise made to Gorbachev?

DOUGHERTY: What happened then, and back in -- what was it, '90? And he is also -- I think Putin also feels that he stuck his neck out for George Bush after 9/11, that he offered, you know, roots for the influx of materials in to Afghanistan. And he would -- he thinks he got very little in return. In fact, I think he got -- he thinks he got a kick in the teeth. So he's -- when Mr. Hadley talks about grievances, he's got them.

COOPER: Interesting. Jill, stick around. Stephen Hadley, it's great to have you on the program. As always we appreciate your perspective.

Just ahead more inside reporting on how the White House is trying to get inside Vladimir Putin's head. Carl Bernstein, also Fareed Zakaria join us in just a moment. Stick around. A lot more ahead on the crisis in Ukraine.


COOPER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the crisis here in Ukraine on AC360. We are live from Kiev right outside Independence Square.

Later on the program I'm going to take you -- for a tour of Independence Square to show you the life of this place because throughout the day it is bustling with life as people come to pay their respects to those who died and as the protesters he who fought more than a week and a half ago remain.

CNN political commentator Carl Bernstein who's been talking to his sources about what they think Vladimir Putin is thinking, what his intentions really are, he joins us now, as well as Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," also joins us.

So, Fareed, what do you make of the late news from our Jim Acosta at the White House reporting tonight that President Obama at a function in Washington, D.C. Also talked about deescalating the crisis and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel working to try to figure out a way off, a kind of a ramp-off for Vladimir Putin.

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, if you think about it, Anderson, you touched on some of this earlier. The way the Russians have handled this is brutish and thuggish, men in ski masks coming in taking over an area using military force, you know, and obviously, that is totally unacceptable. It has to be deterred, but there is a political crisis in Crimea and in Ukraine that requires some kind of solution where Russia is going to be involved.

The place you're at, you know, in Kiev, you had an elected president who was deposed by, you know, a kind of mass movement against him. Now, it has to be figured out how that country moves forward since it's still living in the shadow of Russia. Crimea has a 60 percent Russian population. Historically part of Russia, was gifted to Ukraine in 1954. The home of the Russian Black Sea fleet.

How are those things going to be resolved? There's no way to keep Russia out of it so what I think President Obama is trying to figure, that's one piece and the way in which Russia handled this, militarily and stealth and frankly in violation of international law, which has to be condemned and oppose.

But then when you get to the question of how do you politically resolve this in a lasting fashion, Russia is going to have to be involved?

COOPER: Fareed, you make a really important point and just elaborate on it for a second because if you look at the geography, no matter what the United States, European Union promises Ukraine, no matter, you know, right now it's a billion dollars in loan guarantees, Secretary Kerry announced that today, the geography guarantees that Ukraine has to deal with Russia. It's where they get their gas from, where the exports go. That's something that is unavoidable.

ZAKARIA: It goes -- even deeper than that. I mean, you know, we think about Russia and how the Soviet Union has crumbled and all these countries have gone free and we put Ukraine in that category. Ukraine was not just part of the Soviet Union, which is a 75-year period. Ukraine is part of the Russian empire for 300 years. Crimea has been part of the Russian empire for 200 years.

And as you say, the gas lines crisscross through Ukraine. All Ukraine's industry is in -- to put it crudely, the pro-Russian eastern half of Ukraine. So, were there to be trouble, secessionist movements, Ukraine would not be viable as a state without Russia's encouragement and also finally, Anderson, we don't want to rush Ukraine out of Russian control and make it have to live in a hostile relationship with its neighbor.

We want Russia invested in Ukraine's success and by the way, there's a $15 billion tab that someone's going to have to pay and might as well be all parties involved here.

COOPER: And Carl, I know you have been working your sources. You have information tonight. Your sources are telling you Vladimir Putin isn't done. That he is no way ready to pack up and go home. It's not going to happen.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I spoke to one of the highest officials in the Obama administration today. He's been involved in foreign policy throughout the administration. And the view of the White House is that Putin is in this for playing a long game and trying to destabilize Ukraine, the first step is this military incursion. Call it what we will. But it's very much in his interest. Pursuing a Russian empire. He's made that clear.

A Eurasian Russian empire to compete with the west and Ukraine is essential to that vision however much people in the west might think the vision is delusional and he is playing very hard. He's got economic levers. He's looking at leverage. He's going to pull back now. There can be a military off ramp. Somebody like former Premier Schrader, Foreign Minister Schrader of Germany might go there to talk to him about getting the military out.

But we're going to see a long program of destabilization to keep Ukraine from moving too far west and he's determined to do it and at the same time it's clear the Ukrainians most of them want to move west and there's a long way to go with this and he's got a lot of instruments in his power and he's threatened also to keep the military pressure on if need be.

COOPER: And Carl, is it clear what the White House's next move is?

BERNSTEIN: I think, yes. That what you're hearing now about the off ramp to get some military disengagement, as much calm as possible. But there are no allusions in the White House. Putin is going to somehow fold up his tent and take all the non-military tools in his tent and put them aside. He is going to fight this thing to the last because, look. He can't have a Russian empire without Ukraine. He can't have it with just Armenia and Uzbekistan or something like that.

As Fareed says, Ukraine is essential. Kiev, the gates of Kiev, historically essential to the Russian vision of its own people and he is nothing else, you know, a Russian believer in itself destiny, its history and he is there to restore it after the fall of the soviet empire and he's called the great tragedy of the 20th Century and he's not walking away from this and, yes.

He's clever like a fox as somebody in the White House put it to me. Is he out of touch with reality? Yes they say in the sense that he keeps surrounding himself with yes men in the KGB, former KGB officers who give him bad intelligence, who tell him that there are conspiracies in the west, but he also knows how to stir up trouble and go after what he wants.

COOPER: And the trouble continues. We're watching it closely. Carl, appreciate you being on tonight. Fareed, as well.

Coming up tonight, I want to take you inside Independence Square. A day in the life of the square, if you will. A site of so much violence and now a shrine to those who lost their lives. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. We're live from Kiev's Independence Square. This is where Secretary of State John Kerry visited earlier today. It was his first stop here before meeting with any of the political leaders in Ukraine. He came here to pay his respects. It gives you a sense of how important this spot is in the minds and the hearts of Ukrainian people in Kiev.

There are flowers, flags that mark the spot, roof top snipers killed demonstrators. This is still very much an active site where protesters are living or camped out. Here's what it looks like during the day.


COOPER (voice-over): Kiev's Independent Square, site of so much fighting, is now a shrine to the dead and a symbol to the living. Hundreds of protesters still stay here, vowing they'll not leave until they see the change they so recently fought for. They sing and sleep in tents, trying to stay warm against the cold winter air. There's wood for fire. Hot soup cooked in caldrons, food is given out for free. Vladimir Putin obviously is not popular here. No one believes the claims he's making about his actions in Crimea.

(on camera): When Russia says that Russian-speaking people in Crimea are under attack, under threat, you say --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not true. It is not true over Ukraine. It's unfair so it's --

COOPER: Do you worry? Do you worry about what's happening?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, of course. They're trying to divide Ukraine to like east and west.

COOPER (voice-over): The new government in Kiev has called up military reservists, even those not of military age will tell you they're ready to fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said my friend said I'm ready to give a bribe for military commission, just take me to army. Just -- I want to fight for my country, 55 years.

COOPER (on camera): You want to fight?

(voice-over): Behind the bravado, the bravery and pride, there's also so much sadness. The photos of those who died in this square, a silent sober reminder of the blood that's been spilled. Young and old, fathers and sons, these are the faces of the dead. The living come here to remember, to say prayers, light candles, lay flowers. They walk the streets where blood was shed.

(on camera): You can still find the remnants of the fight that took place here everywhere in the square. This is a stretcher used to carry the wounded or the dead and over here makeshift weapons, mostly defense. These are shields that were used against snipers. This is made out of wood. Certainly wouldn't stop a bullet. Handmade handles. Someone's placed flowers here as a sort of a memorial.

And you see this a lot, too, as well. These are cobblestones which had been dug up from the street, which were hurled by protesters against police.

(voice-over): Everything has been left as it was. It's all still here, still ready to be used once again.

(on camera): The square is still fortified with barricades, layers of them. There's three layers here of tires that have been laid out. There's also these to try to stop vehicles from coming down. Here are the more cobblestones that were used as weapons and you still find weapons all around. They're saving everything. These are bottles, beer bottles used for Molotov cocktails with wires tied around the top to make it easier to throw them.

Filled with gasoline. You see a gasoline canister over here. Just boxes of cases of beer bottles over here and this is one of the most impressive barricades. Just made with every object they could find, tires, metal, fencing, sheet rock. Anything they could find they just piled up beneath this bridge to try to stop riot police from coming down and entering the square.

(voice-over): For now, the fighting in Kiev is over. All eyes are on Crimea. In Independence Square, however, protesters insist they'll keep up their defenses in case the new government fails them as they say the old one just did.


COOPER: All the talk tonight of de-escalation and an off ramp for Vladimir Putin, there is no way to predict what is going to come next over the next 12 and 24 hours. Jill Dougherty joins us once again. She's a senior fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and also CNN's former Moscow bureau chief. She joins us here and will be the next several days.

You know, we're focusing because we're here in Kiev, on the people here in Kiev, but the perspective is very different in other parts of the Ukraine, in the east in Crimea.

JILL DOUGHERTY, SENIOR FELLOW, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: It is. And I think, you know, for them, they are frightened whether that's justified or not. They are.

COOPER: You're talking about Russian-speaking -- Russian oriented --

DOUGHERTY: Yes. In Crimea or in certain eastern parts of Ukraine and whether that's justified or not, that's what many of them feel. Yes, whipped up.

COOPER: It is true that the new government that took power here after the old president fled, one of the first things they did is talking about basically lowering the importance of the Russian language and strikes at the heart -- forbidding it, strikes at the heart of people in the Eastern parts --

DOUGHERTY: They did backtrack on that and the government has been trying to take some steps and that's what this whole thing that Secretary Kerry was talking about. Maybe the off ramp will be encouraging this new government to do the things that will make the people in Crimea, the Russian speakers feel that they will be protected because that's very, very important. You know, Anderson, really, we're still paying the price for so many things that happened in World War II that were never really resolved. This country's had problems way before, you know, for decades, really. And we're still paying the price.

COOPER: I was thinking about World War II today as you walk through the square. It really feels like with the makeshift barricades that you're going back in time. I really it's --

DOUGHERTY: Absolutely.

COOPER: We'll continue to cover it on CNN. I'll be back on AC 360 tomorrow. More from Kiev. Coming up next, more pot shots at President Obama from one Republican. Senator Lindsey Graham tying the crisis to Benghazi. Show you how he did that. Also, leading Republican defends the president. Senator Marco Rubio joins us coming up next. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Well, U.S. Lawmakers from both parties are working to try to draft sanctions on Russia at the same time, though, some Republicans have been voicing some deep criticisms of the Obama administration's handling of relations with Russia. Using the Ukrainian crisis to attack President Obama's foreign policy in general.

Here's what Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted earlier today. He said, quote, "It started with Benghazi, when you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression." Senator John McCain has said similar things about the Obama White House calling their policy feckless. Senator Chris Murphy who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee hit back today at them. Listen.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D), CONNECTICUT: I've listened to some of my good friends on the Republican side try to score political points in connection with the Russian move on Crimea. Trying to paint this somehow as Obama's fault. This is a ridiculous contention. Putin marched into Georgia in 2008 under a Republican president who many of my Republican colleagues considered to be strong on foreign policy and now he is doing it with the Democrat in office.


COOPER: Earlier I spoke with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.


COOPER: Senator Rubio, you outlined eight items, which you said the U.S. must do and should do immediately, economic issues, diplomatic issues against Russia. It seems like the Obama administration out of those eight have already embarked on a number of them. What more do you want the United States to be doing?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, first of all, let me recognize that they have and I've been pleased with the reaction to this. I think that key to all of this, of course, two things. First is allowing or helping the government in Kiev to become stable. We want to keep this from getting worse and that includes allowing it to spread into the eastern parts of Ukraine and transitioning to the normalcy they seek.

The second part of it is what the president described as isolating Russia. There's got to be a consequence for this action. This can be the new international norm that you can move troops in to a neighboring country when you don't like the way things turn out and in order to successfully be able to do that, we must use the influence of the United States to rally our partners in Europe and around the world to take concrete steps that continue to isolate Russia economically. There must be a price to pay for what they have done.

COOPER: So you're supportive of basically everything that the Obama administration has done thus far?

RUBIO: Yes. I think it was important that Secretary Kerry go there today. I saw his press conference earlier on CNN. Listened to it on the radio actually on Sirius XM and found it to be encouraging in terms of his language. I thought the president was right when he said that this was a major misstep for the Russians who I think are going to pay a tremendous price in the perception of Russia and Putin throughout Europe.

I just think we have to keep that momentum going and my hope is that the takeaway from this is there's no further allusions about who exactly we're dealing with. I mean, Vladimir Putin in the press conference earlier today or I guess last night our time blatantly lied and making these claims.

You are there in Kiev and he's making the claims that troops on the ground in Crimea are native self-defense forces, but we know that not to be the case so I think it's important to recognize we are dealing with an individual that lies on a regular and consistent basis.

COOPER: Many of your fellow Republicans have been very critical of the Obama administration in their relations with Russia. Do you think John McCain, for instance called the Obama leadership feckless on the issues? Others have been even harsher. Is that kind of rhetoric, are those kind of criticisms fair given the fact under President Bush Vladimir Putin had the military action in Georgia, many of the policies President Bush tried to institute against Vladimir Putin didn't seem to have the kind of response the U.S. would have liked?

RUBIO: Well, I think mistakes were made in the Bush administration, as well. I have certainly been a critic of the Obama foreign policy in general. I continue to be. I also think in a moment of international crisis, especially one of importance such as this one, it is critical. We're a free society. We will have this debate for years to come. We have had it in the past. There's plenty of time to critical of the mistakes that have been made by this administration and previous ones. I do think now given the urgency of the moment it is important that we try to find a way to unify behind whatever policy the United States pursues because I think it gives us more strength and influence in the world. Sometimes what we underestimate is because we're a free and open society, the debates are open for the world to see.

And sometimes our opponents and our enemies see that debate as a sign of weakness so it's important at moments like this we avoid the harsh rhetoric that perhaps could be counterproductive and by no means implicates some point in the future we shouldn't get back to having a serious, honest and vibrant debate about the mistakes made by this administration.

COOPER: Senator Marco Rubio, good to have you on the program. Thank you.

RUBIO: Thank you, Anderson.


COOPER: You can see the entire interview with Senator Rubio. We spoke longer than that at I hope you check that out online. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back, live here in Kiev in the Ukraine. As we said at the top of the program it's really been a day of very fast moving developments and no doubt tomorrow will be another day of big developments as forces on the ground in Crimea reacted to diplomatic efforts being made here and in Moscow as well.

We'll going to see again one hour from now at 10 PM Eastern for another edition of 360 from Kiev with all the developments all throughout Ukraine. Also tomorrow night at 8 and 10 PM Eastern, I hope you'd join us from that. We'll still be here in Ukraine.

PIERS MORGAN LIVE starts right now.