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THE SITUATION ROOM

Flight 370 Search Goes Deep Underwater; President Obama Speaks to President Putin; Bluefin-21 Seeks Wreckage on Ocean Floor; President Speaks to Putin about Ukraine; Armed Pro-Russian Mobs Seize Ukrainian Buildings; Police: "This was a Hate Crime"

Aired April 14, 2014 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: A robot mini-sub joins the hunt for Flight 370, as investigators look into a mysterious oil slick on the surface. Stand by for new information on the search and the intriguing new clues.

Plus, pro-Russian mobs who refuse to budge after storming government buildings in Ukraine prompting a tense and urgent talk between Presidents Putin and Obama.

And we're learning more about the suspect in a deadly Jewish community center shooting, he's described as a raging anti-semite. Could he have been stopped?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, search planes are getting ready to take off again on one of their last missions to look for debris from Flight 370. The underwater hunt for the missing plane is in a new critical phase with the launch of an unmanned mini-submarine that scans the ocean floor. We're also learning about a potential clue, a U.S. official revealing to CNN that a Malaysian cell phone tower detected the co-pilot's phone was on around the time the jet vanished.

Our correspondents and analysts are following every new development there in the region. They're in THE SITUATION ROOM covering this story as only CNN can.

Let's go to our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh, first, for the very latest -- Rene.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you a significant strategy in the search here, shift in the search. Crews have moved from listening underwater to looking underwater and this new phase could be a long haul, taking weeks, even months.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH (voice-over): A strategy shift in the search for Flight 370's black boxes.

ANGUS HOUSTON, SEARCH COORDINATOR: It's time to go under water.

MARSH: And possible new evidence.

HOUSTON: An oil slick in the same vicinity. So, we will investigate those to their conclusion.

MARSH: It's been six days since the last pings were detected in the South Indian Ocean. Searchers believe the pinger batteries are probably dead. So, they've retired the pinger locator and launched Bluefin-21. The underwater vehicle will scan the sea floor for wreckage.

HOUSTON: I would caution you against raising hopes that the deployment of the autonomous underwater vehicle will result in the detection of the aircraft wreckage. It may not.

MARSH: Bluefin is concentrating on a roughly 500-square mile where the pings were detected. But the process is slow. On its first mission, Bluefin will cover only 15 square miles. It takes two hours to reach the ocean floor, 16 to scan the area, two hours to return, and about four hours to download data, which includes high-resolution 3D maps like this. The other development, an oil slick discovered nearly 3 1/2 miles away. A sample was collected for testing.

But if it's believed the jet ran out of fuel, could the slick really be from Flight 370? It will be days before results are in.

The surface search for debris continues more than 1,300 miles northwest of Perth. With 11 military aircraft, one civil aircraft and 15 ships.

But this part of the search could wind down this week.

HOUSTON: The chances of any floating material being recovered have greatly diminished and it will be appropriate to consult with Australia's partner to decide the way ahead later this week.

MARSH: Day 38, the first attempt at looking at the floor of the South Indian Ocean, what Houston calls an area new to man.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MARSH: The ocean floor here is not sharply mountainous, but it's more flat with rolling hills. There's also a lot of silt on the bottom that can be layered and deep, and as Angus Houston said today, that could complicate the search for any wreckage -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's going to be a difficult, difficult process. Rene, stand by.

I want to go to Perth, Australia, right now, where the air search is getting under way maybe for one of the last times today.

Michael Holmes is on the scene for us with the very latest.

What's going on over there, Michael? MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: yes, Wolf, yes, according to Angus Houston, they're going to wind down the air and sea search in the next few days.

In fact, we have been looking at a marine tracking Web site. You can see from looking at it that the ships that were in that search area, which is several hundred miles to the West of where the Ocean Shield has just launched that submersible, those ships have left that area and all seem to be steaming to the south at the moment.

So we're keeping an eye on them. Now, when it comes to that submersible, as Rene was saying there, it is a tedious process. In that 24-hour operation, if you like, each time to goes down, that 24- hour cycle, they will cover only about 15-and-a-half square miles or 40 square kilometers. At that pace, it could take anywhere from six weeks to two months to cover the search area that they're looking at. And as Angus Houston makes very clear, there's no guarantee they will find anything even though they are hopeful, Wolf.

BLITZER: How frustrated have those air crew members been? You have spoken to a lot of them over these past few weeks, Michael. They go out there, they look, they look, they look, they come back. They have found so far not one piece of wreckage from that airliner.

HOLMES: Yes, it seems extraordinary in the sixth week of all of this that not one piece has been found, doesn't it? It really is amazing. The crews that are out there, the ones that have been flying every day that we have spoken to maintain a determination, if not an optimism, a determination to carry on that search to the last hour.

And that last hour, it would appear, is approaching when it comes to surface debris. But there has been those major weather events out in the area there. As I said, they're looking about 300, 400 miles west of where the Ocean Shield has put down the Bluefin there, because of the ocean movements and also a major storm that went through there that some experts say could have pushed floating debris to the bottom.

They certainly haven't seen any sign of anything. But you almost sort of think that they would see something, anything floating on the surface from what was a huge plane, but, so far, absolutely nothing. And it seems that they're going to wind down that part of the search while they ramp up the underwater aspect of it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, Michael Holmes in Perth for us. Thank you.

Let's bring in our panel of experts, our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh is still with us, along with our justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, our aviation analyst Peter Goelz, our law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, and Geoffrey Thomas of AirlineRatings.com. He's with us from Perth, Australia, as well.

Peter, first of all, the fact that they apparently detected the cell phone from the co-pilot was on trying to get some sort of connection with a cell tower, what do you make of that?

PETER GOELZ, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: I think it's pretty important because it shows there was something going on in the cockpit some time after the plane made the turn and that it was low enough for a cell tower to pick up. So I think it's pretty significant.

And it's something they have got to dig into and explain.

BLITZER: Does it give the investigators, Tom, a specific clue? And I think Peter makes a good point. For a cell tower to pick it up in Penang and Malaysia, maybe it was flying at 4,000, 5,000 feet, because the plane's got to be relatively low in order to get that kind of signal out.

GOELZ: Well, it does.

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If that's true...

(CROSSTALK)

FUENTES: I'm sorry

BLITZER: Go ahead, Tom.

FUENTES: If that's true, it does reveal the plane absolutely made that turn and was in the area of Penang in order to have received that basically roaming signal, indicating that that phone was trying to connect with that network even if a call wasn't made or received. So it would be significant to the investigation that the plane was there.

BLITZER: Pamela, you have been doing the reporting on this. Why are we only finding out about this now?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Malaysians have shared this information with U.S. investigators a while ago, according to sources I have spoken with. Just because, you know, we're reporting on it doesn't mean we're just finding out about it now. I want to emphasize that.

But also I think that this really, Wolf, highlights the challenges of covering this story. This is data that was shared with U.S. investigators, as I mentioned. We don't know how reliable this data is coming from Malaysia. We don't know how much is being shared and how much isn't, although we believe that Malaysians are cooperating with U.S. investigators.

But it's tough because we don't have all the pieces of the puzzle here and U.S. investigators are working off data that isn't firsthand data. It's coming from Malaysia.

BLITZER: Let's bring Geoffrey Thomas into this conversation. He's joining us from Perth.

Geoffrey, how frustrated are the folks you're talking to over there as far as this current phase of the investigation?

GEOFFREY THOMAS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, AIRLINERATINGS.COM: Look, I wouldn't term it necessarily frustration. I think determination. Look, we would love the quick breakthrough. The whole world would love the quick breakthrough. But they are sort of, you know, are resigning themselves to this is going to be one of the most complicated, complex, time-consuming searches because, again, we have never had an airplane disappear for five weeks under these circumstances. This is extraordinary.

And there's a very strong conviction, very strong conviction that where they have detected those pings from those black boxes is where the airplane is. I have spoken to a number of people and they said they are absolutely convinced that the plane is down there, they're on the right spot. But, yes, they'd love to find it first go, but we will have to wait and see how the Bluefin-21 goes with it.

BLITZER: Rene, that oil slick that they discovered was, what, only about three-and-a-half miles from where one of those pings was detected. They're going to have to check to see if that oil was from the airliner. But what are you hearing about that from your sources?

MARSH: Well, you know, Wolf, again, they have to test this and they just have to because it is in that vicinity. That being said, remember, they're working under the assumption that this jet ran out of fuel, so if this is from the jet, perhaps that may contradict that a bit, but there is another possibility.

We do know that even when these fuel tanks sometimes are empty, they could have residual fuel in there. So let's just say that's the case and this is, for argument's sake, residual fuel. That would have to mean that that tank is maybe on the ground there someplace, or on the ocean floor, and slowly seeping out is that oil. And that's why we're seeing it. That could be a possibility. But, again, we're moving ahead because at this point, they say it could take several days before the results come back on where that fuel or oil slick is from, Wolf.

BLITZER: Explain, Peter, how that's going to be done, that test, because if, in fact, this is oil or gas from the jetliner, that would be very, very significant.

GOELZ: It would be. And they will check to see whether it has the chemical characteristics of Jet A fuel or whether it's just bunker fuel. They will also check to see whether it could be hydraulic fuel, you know, hydraulic fluid from the aircraft. The 777 has an awful lot of that. And that could show up as a sheen on the ocean surface.

BLITZER: Let me ask all of you to hold on for a moment, because Kevin McEvoy is joining us via Skype right now. He's an air commodore with the Royal New Zealand Air Force and he's been actively involved in this whole Flight 370 search.

First of all, Commodore, tell us what the latest information you're getting about the air search is concerned. I take it you still haven't seen even one small piece of wreckage. Air Commodore, can you hear me? It's Wolf. We will get back there, Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy, as soon as we can reconnect.

But let me bring back Geoffrey into this conversation.

Geoffrey Thomas, you're in Perth, Australia, and it's highly unusual. I'm not sure that there's ever been a case where they have heard pings, they think there are pings coming from these black boxes, but they still haven't found any wreckage whatsoever. What are the investigators there in Australia telling you about that?

THOMAS: Well, there's a couple of factors. The Tropical Cyclone Gillian hurricane, if you like, in the Southern Hemisphere, it's a tropical cyclone, went through this area about three, three-and-a-half weeks ago, 190-mile-an-hour winds.

It's an extraordinary twist of fate. It came from the north over the search area where the pingers are, then turned west. Now, one of the things is it would have moved the debris to the west. But also, it would have pummeled that debris and broken it up and possibly sunk it as well. So, and, of course, we are looking five weeks now after this airplane disappeared. So, you know, normally we find debris in the water a few days after an air crash. But this is five weeks later.

But on the subject of the oil, the other factor here is, this could be engine oil. Each engine has about 20 liters of oil for lubricant and in this particular case, it's mobile Jet 2 that they're looking for, as well as, of course, the hydraulic fluid. So, there is another element to that as well.

BLITZER: Peter, you know, you used to work in the NTSB. How much time do you think, given the relatively small amount of space on the ocean floor that they're looking at right now, it will take to map it completely and find out if, in fact, there's any wreckage there, or if one or two of those black boxes are there?

GOELZ: Rene had it right, Wolf. It's going to be weeks and months. This is painstaking. It's tough. And even though the area is smaller, when you're doing it, you know, on the 16-hour day, at one knot, it is going to take a very long time.

BLITZER: I think we have reconnected with Kevin McEvoy, the air commodore with the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Air Commodore, I was asking, you haven't found any wreckage at all on the surface, right?

KEVIN MCEVOY, ROYAL NEW ZEALAND AIR FORCE: We did find an object of interest on I think it was Sunday.

We managed to get (INAUDIBLE) I think it was on to that piece of debris. That picked it up. We have taken some inventory. The inventory has gone back to the authorities. And it's being analyzed as we speak to see whether or not that piece, that's of interest and whether it's specifically linked the aircraft.

BLITZER: What kind of object was it?

MCEVOY: It was just a large piece of what looked like a bread crate as you would see in a supermarket. So, as I say, it's too early to see whether or not that's actually specifically linked to the aircraft, but we will wait and see what comes up through the analysis.

BLITZER: When you say large, what does that mean?

MCEVOY: It was one of those sort of meter, maybe meter-and-a-half by meter-and-a-half type of object, so a fairly large object, plastic, floating on the surface, so, as I say, too early to tell whether or not that's linked specifically to the MH370.

BLITZER: When will you know for sure, Air Commodore, whether or not it is really from the plane or just another false lead?

MCEVOY: We have got no indications from the authorities as to when they will specifically be analyzed. We'd like to think that it will be analyzed, but as you can imagine, they are probably a number of other links that they're trying to chase at the moment as a priority.

BLITZER: And this oil slick, what's your sense of that? I know they're checking to see if it is some oil or lubricant or whatever from the airliner. What's your analysis?

MCEVOY: Yes.

Again, we don't have the specific analysis. We know that it was in the vicinity of the things that were being picked up, so it could be linked, but, again, we will have to wait specifically until the analysis comes back from the laboratories to see whether or not there was engine oil from an aircraft or whether it was just floating on the surface and through one of the other ships in the area or whatever. So, we're not in a position yet to comment on that.

BLITZER: When will the air search completely end, do you know?

MCEVOY: No, so we're going out again today. We will be airborne in around two hours. The search is continuing, scheduled for another eight or nine flights today with a couple of communications aircraft going up as well.

So we're continuing the search. We have got no indications that we will stop at this stage, although the move toward the underwater search with the Bluefin-21 is obviously a piece of information that will ask us -- allow us to reassess and the authorities in Australia to reassess whether or not the air searches will continue. But at this stage, we're continuing the air search.

BLITZER: Air Commodore Kevin McEvoy of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Air Commodore, thanks, as usual, for all your help.

Still ahead, the challenges of scouring the bottom of the sea. What will it take to find the missing plane with the Bluefin-21?

Plus, did searchers give up too soon on listening for pings from those two black boxes? What if the batteries aren't actually dead? Much more on this story coming up, plus the day's other news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: "CROSSFIRE" won't be seen today so we can bring you more of our special coverage of the mystery of Flight 370.

Right now, a robotic mini-submarine may be the best hope of finding the wreckage of Flight 370. Nothing, though, is guaranteed. The undersea search is slow and extremely challenging.

Tom Foreman joining us now with a closer look at this part of the story -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, one of the most interesting parts about what makes this complicated is not the part that's underwater, but the part that's on top.

This area out here, as we have said before, where the Indian Ocean is on the southern ocean down here, can be known for storms, can be known for big waves, all of which on any given day may make it impossible to launch the Bluefin and to retrieve it. It is a hazardous operation. It's a difficult thing to do. That can slow down the process.

Beyond that, though, the depth of the ocean here is a big challenge. At its deepest, it's a little over three miles over here in the area we're talking about, at its most shallow, about one-and-a-half. But here's the thing. We really don't know much about the bottom out here. There hasn't been that much study of it down here at, say, two- and-a-half miles down.

There may be hills, there may be crags, there may be many things that can interfere with the operation of the Bluefin. On top of which, this is utter darkness, immense, immense pressure, and just above freezing, Wolf, so some of the many challenges already facing this device as they put it into the water -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Enormous challenges. Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

Let's go in-depth right now. Colleen Keller is joining us once again. She's a senior analyst at Metron, Inc., a defense contractor that helped find Air France Flight 447 back in 2009 after it crashed.

Talk a little bit, Colleen, about the challenges that this Bluefin-21 is facing right now underwater. It's going around in some potentially pretty treacherous areas on the ocean floor.

COLLEEN KELLER, SENIOR ANALYST, METRON, INC.: Well, the biggest concern that we have, Wolf, is the topography on the bottom is not very well-known.

I know they have said that it's rolling terrain, it's relatively smooth and silty. But until we get down there, we may be in for a big surprise. This could have a big impact on operations. Likely, they're going to float the Bluefin higher above the surface than they'd like to because they're trying to be cautious. They don't want to run into anything. And that's going to impact the effectiveness of the vehicle. It won't be able to get the same resolution it could if it were floating lower to the surface, and it also will be slower going just because they have to worry about any obstructions they might run into. If you think about it, this Bluefin is the silver bullet. They have only got one there and they don't want to lose it. So they have to be extra cautious in the operations.

BLITZER: If something were to happen to that Bluefin-21, the one that's on the scene right now, I assume there are others that could be brought in.

KELLER: Yes, there are certainly others around the world and other types of unmanned underwater vehicles. But they're not on scene right now.

So it would take another, I don't know, weeks to months to get another one into Australia and then out on another ship. We really don't want to lose that time. Hence, they're being very cautious.

BLITZER: Is that the best device that the world has right now to track what's happening two or three miles under the sea level?

KELLER: Well, it's what we used in the Air France search. We also did use other unmanned vehicles, so it's not the only technology that's out there, but I think the Bluefin and the towed pinger locators were both provided by the U.S. Navy contracting to Phoenix International, which is out there operating these vehicles.

So, it's the best that we have got through the Navy and through Phoenix. And, right now, it's all that we have got.

BLITZER: What's its maximum range underwater? How deep can it go?

KELLER: I think it's a 4,000-meter vehicle, so it's certainly capable of getting down to where we want to be. It's going to spend about 16 hours down there. That's its max endurance. And it's going to go up to maximum four, four-and-a-half knots.

BLITZER: I assume you agree with the investigative team, they did the right thing in sending it down now, and just assuming that the batteries on those two black box pingers had died out?

KELLER: I think I agree that it's time to transition to an underwater active search using active sonar device just listening with the towed pinger locators.

I question the move to go immediately to the underwater mapping without first doing some bathymetry observations. It would be really nice to know what the bottom looks like, but the decision's been made and I assume they're proceeding with caution, and who knows, they may get lucky.

You just -- you have got to wonder, what's the rush? I mean, the wreckage isn't going anywhere. You know, if we could just conduct this operation cautiously, then we could be assured of not losing this vehicle. But they're going with that and I'm not privy to the decision-making at this point.

BLITZER: Is there anything else they should be doing now, if you were asked for advice that they should be doing?

KELLER: Well, the only other thing I could think of is, you could get another ship out there with another vehicle. But, obviously, this is what they have got on scene right now. So they're going with it.

I think, you know, I, again, question why are we still looking for debris, floating debris? It would be nice to pick up pieces that could make explain to us what happened to the aircraft, but at this point, it's just not looking like debris is going to be found unless they stumble on the treasure-trove, it's all collected somewhere. So I think they're doing everything they can, but it would be nice to see even more assets in position if they could bring other search assets in.

You know, it could make a four or six-month search into a two- or three-month search.

BLITZER: You were involved back in 2009 in finding that Air France wreckage off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean. Compare these two operations, what you did then, and it took you two years to actually find that black box after you spotted some wreckage five days after the crash. Compare then and now.

KELLER: Well, in both cases, we had a large search area which we tried to narrow down to focus the underwater -- the beacon detectors. Then we spent the battery life searching for the beacons using the towed pinger locator. So similar in both sense.

In the Air France search, we didn't detect the pings. Here we have pings. So the Air France search started looking elsewhere, assuming that we weren't in the right place to detect the pings. They went through two phases of unmanned underwater vehicle searches. And then the third phase is when they actually found it.

Here, we're just starting the unmanned phase. So we may, you know, be in for the long haul there.

For the Air France search, the underwater vehicles were deployed in two- to three-week intervals, and in between, they waited maybe a couple months before they decided where to go back next. Here, we just have one area, and we're just going to troll the heck out of that area. So, it's a little bit different in that sense.

BLITZER: Colleen Keller, thanks very much for joining us.

KELLER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. This just coming in from the White House.

President Obama has spoken with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, this afternoon on the crisis in Ukraine. Our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is joining us now with details.

What are you learning over there, Michelle? This is obviously a very tense situation. Probably the worst in U.S./Russian relations since the end of the Cold War. MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And it's escalating. This is the first time in two weeks President Obama has spoken to Putin by phone.

And usually when you get the summary from each side of what exactly was discussed, it seems as if two entirely different conversations have taken place. They're just so vastly different.

At this point, though, all we have is the Russian readout of what was talked about. And in it, the Kremlin says that these protests at times violent that have spread through eastern Ukraine are the work of the Ukrainian government, citing their unwillingness and inability to take into account the interest of the Russian and Russian-speaking populations in that area. And calling the American view that Russia is behind these protests as inaccurate.

I think what's really interesting is this language. It's said that Putin called on President Obama to use the American side's capabilities to prevent the use of force and bloodshed as much as possible. How that would be, they don't describe.

But today, the White House press secretary, he described the overwhelming evidence, as he put it, that Russia is involved in these protests. The uniforms without insignia. Bulletproof vests. The fact that some of these protesters, there is evidence they're being paid. That this is very, very similar to what we saw in Crimea before Russia effectively annexed it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski at the White House for us with the very latest. Thank you.

And coming up, we're going to go live to the scene of the conflict in the Ukraine right now. We'll get the very latest from what's going on there.

Also, another important story we're following. Three people are dead near Kansas City, and we're just beginning to learn the very dark twisted past behind their suspected killer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll have more coverage on the Flight 370 mystery later this hour, but right now, we're going live to Ukraine where the crisis is getting more violent, more dangerous, by the hour and the day. Nearly a dozen cities in eastern Ukraine are now in chaos, as pro- Russian protesters are seizing police stations and other public buildings.

Our senior international correspondent, Nick Paton Walsh, is in one of those cities tonight and joining us with the very latest.

Nick, what are you seeing, what are you hearing?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what was quite remarkable today, was this morning was supposed to be the deadline set by the Ukrainian president for protesters to lay down their arms and vacate the buildings they've seized. We've seen no sign of that. They seem simply more emboldened, moving on to more towns. No sign of the Ukrainian military en mass.

Although I should say at the moment, we're seeing some social media suggesting the Ukrainian army is moving various positions around the Donetsk region, but really it's been a day where these pro-Russian protests have done little but gather momentum.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH (voice-over): This should have been the moment when Ukraine's army moved in. But instead, its pro-Russian protesters marching on this police station in Horlivka (ph). This sort of unrest spreading quickly, daily, to about ten towns now.

The police chief beaten, an activist injured. One activist claimed all the police defected. A brief sign of what must have been the Ukrainian military over the city's center of Donetsk. One attack helicopter escorting another.

But otherwise, the anti-terror operation the Ukrainian interim president pledged if protesters didn't surrender government buildings in the morning, nowhere to be seen.

(on camera): Repeated deadlines passed from the Ukrainian government for these protesters to leave these kind of buildings, but really, there is no sign of anything other than them digging in for the long run here. One person inside telling me they're not even worried anymore that the Ukrainian police will lay siege to the building.

(voice-over): An extraordinary admission today. Ukraine's ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych, suddenly claimed the CIA director flew in to Kiev to give the go-ahead for a crackdown on protesters. The CIA declined to comment then, but today the White House did.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Given the extraordinary circumstances in this case, and the false claims being leveled by the Russians at the CIA, we can confirm that the director was in Kiev this weekend as part of a trip to Europe.

WALSH: Suggesting a routine trip, in times that aren't, and providing fuel for Russia's claim the west is stoking the crisis.

"This is hypocrisy beyond any limits," he said, "but I really hope we will hear an honest and coherent reaction of our western partners about any double standards and any attempts to shift the blame to Russia."

But it is the Russian flag that these protesters fly. And there, 40,000 troops just across the border. The dark backdrop to the swift changes of control in Eastern Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALSH: In some ways, a messy response, really, from the central government in Kiev. There have been number of deadlines that haven't been respected by protests. And today the interim president, Olexandr Turchynov, said, you know, maybe there could even be a referendum that might resolve the issues in Eastern Ukraine, held the same day as the presidential election. A messy choice for voters, too.

But no one can really envy the choice of the Kiev government at this point. You don't use force, potentially, you lose control of lots of Eastern Ukraine. You do use force, you run the risk of the Russian troops, 40,000 strong, crossing the border, making good on Moscow's threat to protect its compatriots. They see their rights being abused -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh on the scene for us. Thank you.

Now, let's get some more now. Eli Lake is joining us, the senior national security correspondent for "The Daily Beast."

A very disturbing development. Russian warplanes effectively buzzing that U.S. destroyer in the Black Sea today. Very provocative from the U.S. perspective. What are you hearing about that, Eli?

ELI LAKE, SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, I think we're seeing this as part of a pattern of very provocative behavior. I mean, the U.S. intelligence agencies have seen since late February an infiltration of Spetsnaz, or special operation Russian forces into Eastern Ukraine. This, I think, is the most sort of direct challenge to a U.S. destroyer that was in international waters.

And then you add to this the kind of countercharges that you've seen from Moscow regarding Brennan's visit. And the fact that that was made public comes on the heels of a number of these phone conversations that it's believed the Russians are making public and so forth. And it seems like you're basically seeing a kind of flexing of muscles right now as the crisis builds.

BLITZER: Speaking of flexing of muscles, military muscles, the NATO, the supreme ally commander in Europe, he's got some ideas what to do and based on your reporting, not necessarily completely in line with what the White House is thinking. What's going on here?

LAKE: Well, what's going on is that there is a disagreement not only with this supreme allied commander, but there are a lot of people in Congress and others in the military that would like to give a more detailed set of intelligence to their Ukrainian counterparts.

The concern is the Ukrainians could use that to potentially launch a preemptive strike. That seems a bit farfetched. And also that the Ukrainian military is so infiltrated with Russian agents that it would reveal in some ways sources and methods.

There has been some speculation that Brennan's trip over the weekend could have been sharing more of that.

The other thing I think is also the secure communications. We've heard about Ukrainian units being mobilized into Eastern Ukraine, but how they to their command and control, as you know, is extremely important. It's widely believed the Russians are pretty much going to be listening in on everything that they're doing in terms of their troop movements. I think that the supreme allied commander would like to even the score in that regard.

BLITZER: Any chance the U.S. is going to start supplying weapons to Ukraine?

LAKE: Well, that is the -- I don't think that -- at least public statements up until now have said that that's probably going to be off the table. This is an interim government. There are some elements in this government that are not considered very aligned with U.S. interests.

And I think that there's a concern that if you -- at least as expressed by people like Defense Secretary Hagel and others, that if you begin to provide military equipment and if you begin to provide arms like that, then potentially you can kind of commit to the United States for a position that it doesn't necessarily want to be in.

Up until now, you've seen President Obama on down talking about these off-ramps for the Russians to deescalate the crisis.

BLITZER: Eli Lake, reporting for us from "The Daily Beast." Eli, thank you very much.

Just ahead, he's described as one of the most over-the-top violent white supremacists. Police finally calling the suspect's actions a hate crime. We're going inside the Kansas City area shooting investigation. Stand by.

And a critical new step in the hunt for Flight 370. Don't miss some of the amazing technology that's scouring the ocean floor right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Police are now saying they plan to pursue federal hate crime charges against a suspected gunman. Seventy-three-year-old Frazier Glenn Cross is in custody after he allegedly shot and killed three people near a Jewish community center outside of Kansas City.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us now. He has the very latest.

Ed, what are you learning?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, those criminal charges could come as soon as tomorrow. Frazier Glenn Cross not only could face state murder charges but as you mentioned, those federal hate crime charges as well.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DISPATCHER, OVERLAND PARK POLICE: Four or five shots been fired into the front door. There's a male with a shotgun.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Bill Corcoran had just pull into the Jewish community center parking lot with his grandson. DISPATCHER: And they're now advising 12 shots have been fired into the door.

LAVANDERA: Fourteen-year-old Reat Underwood was about to audition for a singing competition but he never got a chance.

DISPATCHER: We've got two down. That's all we're aware of at this time.

LAVANDERA: Investigators say 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Cross shot and killed them.

BILL CORPORON, SON & UNCLE OF SHOOTING VICTIMS: They literally pulled into a parking place opened the doors to get out, they were ambushed.

LAVANDERA: Investigators say Cross didn't stop there. He then drove to a nearby Jewish assisted living facility and shot and killed Terri LaManno, who was visiting her mother.

Three lives ended in a senseless violent rage.

CORPORON: It takes no character to do what was done. It takes no strength of character. It takes no backbone. It takes no morals. It takes no ethics. All it takes is an idiot with a gun.

LAVANDERA: Frazier Glenn Cross has been called a raging anti-Semite by the Southern Poverty Law Centers which monitors hate groups. After Cross was arrested, he yelled "Heil Hitler" from the back of the police car.

FRAZIER GLENN CROSS, SUSPECT: Heil Hitler!

LAVANDERA: Cross led a Ku Klux Klan group in the 1980s and organized the White Patriot Party. Four years ago, he ran for the U.S. Senate and spewed a hate filled world view to the Howard Stern radio show.

RADIO HOST: What is the biggest problem with the Jews?

CROSS: They control the federal government. They control the mass media. They control the Federal Reserve Bank. And with those powers, they're committing genocide against the white race and enslaving gentiles.

I spent 20 years in the United States Army. I retired as a master sergeant. Two tours in Vietnam, 13 years in the Green Beret fire troopers. I'm a patriotic white man.

LAVANDERA: That was Cross speaking to KNBC-TV eight years. Cross gave an interview to the station justifying the racist content of a newspaper he was distributing called "The Aryan Alternative."

CROSS: We want to take back our country by whatever means necessary, and I want to see 50 million white men out of work, then whitey will fight.

LAVANDERA: For the family of Bill Corporon and Reat Underwood, Frazier Glenn Cross is evil.

CORPORON: That idiot absolutely knocked a family to its knees for no reason.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Two families here in the Kansas City area mourning a tragic and terrible loss here tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Indeed, it is. Thanks so very much, Ed Lavandera.

Let's get some more now with Richard Cohen. He's the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. That's a nonprofit group that monitors hate groups, been tracking this alleged shooter for many years.

Were you surprised when you heard it was him who allegedly did this, Richard?

RICHARD COHEN, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: You know, yes and no, Wolf. We knew something like this was likely to happen.

Did I think would be Miller? I don't know. I mean, he's been such a fixture on the white supremacist scene for so long. You know, he had a very prominent neo-Nazi group in North Carolina in the '80s, 2,000 members, had $200,000 of stolen money, was training people for a revolution.

You know, we confronted him in court, got him convicted, then some of his men plotted to blow our building up. Miller ended up going to jail for plotting to kill the head the Southern Poverty Law Center, Morris Dees. Unfortunately, only served three years in prison. And so, you know, he's out now, was out as of yesterday spewing hate all over the country.

It's really -- it's a very, very disturbing thing. Our hearts really go out to the people of Overland Park, Kansas.

BLITZER: The three victims there were not Jewish, they were all Christians. What does that say?

COHEN: Well, you know, Miller, of course, targeted them because he perceived them to be Jewish. That seems pretty obvious from the site of the shootings, and, of course, what he said from the police car, "Heil Hitler".

He was much more of a neo-Nazi than he was a Klansman. He also followed something called "The Turner Diaries." That's a racist war novel that was also the blueprint of the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people killed. You know, he's quite, quite an anti-Semite and it's just an incredibly horrible thing.

BLITZER: Not just anti-Semite, a racist, as well, and a neo-Nazi. When I heard about it yesterday, the first thing I remember is in 2009 when another white supremacist went to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and wound up shooting an African-American security guard there. You remember that. The question is, how prevalent are these kinds of incidents?

COHEN: Well, they are -- they are all too common, I'm afraid. You know, it's difficult to know how many white supremacists are out there. Miller posted on a site called "Vanguard News Network" that has thousands and thousands of disenchanted people who participate. There's another site called "Storm Front," which has over a quarter million registered users, people in an echo chamber of hate.

So, you know, this thing both is a magnet for white supremacists and breeding ground for their kind of hatred. So, you know, we see these things rarely, but regularly, I'm afraid.

BLITZER: I know your group spoke with his wife, the alleged shooter. What did she say?

COHEN: Yes. Well, I mean, I think she was pretty shocked. She doesn't share his views. She has said he had called the night before from a gambling casino saying he'd actually been doing well at the casino.

It's -- I can't imagine being married to someone like Miller. I don't know what to think about her, but she's, I think, cooperating with the authorities.

BLITZER: The fact that he got these guns through some straw purchaser, what does that say?

COHEN: Well, I mean, we all know that gun controls, gun measures in our country are extraordinarily loose, but, you know, there are plenty of legal ways to acquire, you know, dangerous weapons in our country. That's a longer debate. Wolf, if I can just add, we've seen this tremendous increase in the number of hate groups over the last decade, going from about 600 to about 1,000.

And then, you know, during the Obama administration, we've also seen an explosion in the number of antigovernment groups, you know, militia groups, for example. So, it's a real combustible mixture out there, a real recipe for disaster, and, you know, we see things like Miller, unfortunately.

BLITZER: Richard Cohen, thanks very much. Truly, truly horrible, horrible development out in Kansas.

Just ahead, there's a shocking new clue in the search for Flight 370. We'll update you on what's going on.

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BLITZER: New developments in the mystery of Flight 370. A U.S. official tells CNN the copilot's phone was on and made contact with a cell tower in Malaysia about the time the plane vanished. We're also told there's no evidence that he actually tried to make a call.

The air search, by the way, is getting back under way right now. A New Zealand air force commander said the planes spotted an object of interest. We'll learn more about that.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.