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Putin Orders Russian Forces Into Separatist Regions In Ukraine For Peacekeeping; Putin Orders Troops To Breakaway Regions In Ukraine; U.S. Western Officials: Putin's Move Into Ukraine Opening salvo To Possible Large-Scale Invasion; Jury Deliberations Begin In Federal Hate Crimes Trial Of Ahmaud Arbery's Killers; "LBJ: Triumph And Tragedy" Airs Tonight At 9P & 10P ET/PT. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 21, 2022 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: The Foreign Minister saying, quote: "The sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of any country should be respected and safeguarded. Ukraine is no exception."

Now, he drew the line at NATO expansion, but it all adds up to something to consider. If it is the dire words, the saber rattling, and the deteriorating situation between Moscow and Washington. China has a lot of power here too, and a lot on the line, and it currently unclear whose side they're fully on.

Thanks so much for joining us. And tonight on CNN, don't miss the new original series: "LBJ: Triumph and Tragedy." It starts at 9:00 Eastern.

Meantime, it's time for AC 360.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: John Berman here in for Anderson and we are coming to you with the situation in Ukraine changing almost by the minute and there is simply no way to overestimate the gravity of it, nor the dark places this could lead.

Vladimir Putin has ordered troops into eastern Ukraine and according to a senior government official familiar with the latest intelligence, the expectation is they could move in as soon as tonight, what would be the early morning hours there.

What's more, and it is underscored by the enormous array of Russian forces you see on the map, nearly a dozen American and Western officials now tell CNN that what we've seen so far today appears to just be the opening salvo of a larger possible military action.

Just moments ago, we saw a video being played on the Russian outlet RTVI as you can see, it shows trucks pulling field artillery down a road apparently through the city of Donetsk. Now, to be clear, we don't know who this belongs to.

It follows Vladimir Putin this afternoon signing a decree recognizing two Moscow- backed chunks of eastern Ukraine as independent Republics, and significantly ordering troops into the territories, an invasion or occupation despite the propaganda that Putin uses, calling it peacekeeping.

Even more ominous what he had to say in a lengthy and combative speech. His remarks began with a twisted history lesson distorted to Russia's point of view. He ended with a threat to all of Ukraine, in fact, a sort of denial that Ukraine even exists.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I would like to reiterate that Ukraine is just not a neighboring country, it is an integral part of our own history, culture, and spiritual space.

Ukraine, from the beginning and in its totality has been created by Russia.

Those who have taken the power and holding the power in Ukraine, we demand from you to stop any of the military actions. Otherwise, the responsibility will be on the governing government in Ukraine.


BERMAN: Quite a contrast from reports earlier in the day of preparations for a Thursday meeting between Russia's Foreign Minister and Secretary of State Blinken in preparation for a possible Biden- Putin Summit.

A contrast also from this just yesterday from Russia's Ambassador to Washington.


ANATOLY ANTONOV, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: We are not trying to take any territory of a foreign country. I would like to confirm that the Donbas and Lugansk is a part of Ukraine.


BERMAN: So much for yesterday.

Tonight at the White House and the NATO capitals across Europe, the focus is now twofold on imposing sanctions and sadly, bracing for the impact of what can now just be hours away whatever that might be.

As only CNN can, we have reports from everywhere that matters. CNN's Clarissa Ward is in Kyiv, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, CNN contributor Jill Dougherty in Moscow, and Alex Marquardt in a potentially strategic city in eastern Ukraine.

I want to start with Clarissa Ward in the Ukrainian capital where President Zelensky has just made an early morning address to the country. Clarissa Ward, what did Zelensky say?


So he eventually spoke at about two in the morning, just under an hour ago and essentially he accused Russia of violating Ukraine's territorial integrity and its sovereignty, though he did not use the invasion word. He also said that he demands quote, "clear support" from the West in terms of those sanctions. That's something we have also seen echoed by his Foreign Minister who has taken to Twitter this evening, basically saying that he is in lockstep and that Ukraine is in lockstep with its allies, and that he expects a sort of raft of blistering sanctions to be announced tomorrow, not clear what those would look like yet.

Zelensky also said, we do not fear anything, and we will not cede anything, but what we're seeing on the ground already, John, you know, according to social media posts, according to Reuters, who are there are some form of military convoys moving through Donetsk, and as you stated, and it is a really important clarification to make, we cannot be sure if this convoy is Russian military or pro-Russian separatists.


But what we do know is that this friendship insecurity agreement that President Putin signed earlier between Russia and the Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, as they are now calling themselves Independent Republics, that this basically allows for peacekeeping forces to be deployed as soon as now to help with security to help defend borders.

And really, this raises troubling concerns about how the international community responds to this. Does this constitute an invasion? Is it simply an area that was already under de facto Moscow control?

And so I think for a lot of people in Ukraine tonight, a lot of anxiety not just because of Russian peacekeepers, potentially arriving as we speak, in those breakaway Republics, but also because of the tone of President Putin speech, which you just hit on, essentially negating the very existence of Ukraine as some kind of a sovereign country, calling the leadership here, a puppet regime of a colony, and running through a raft of historical grievances against NATO, which really appeared to many listeners, I think, for the first time to potentially pave the groundwork for something much more expansive than what we're seeing tonight.

It remains to be seen, of course, whether that will go ahead or whether this is just something that President Putin will now try to use as leverage in further diplomatic negotiations. To the extent that those diplomatic negotiations are still on the table, John, we simply don't know what happens now to that meeting between Blinken and Lavrov, and certainly, the future of any Summit between Putin and Biden seems far less likely in this moment.

BERMAN: Kaitlan Collins, to you at the White House, with a very real possibility that Russian troops may be already in parts of Ukraine like this. What is the Biden administration's response tonight?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they say they're going to monitor this overnight to see what happens in these hours. Of course, it's about 3:00 AM there in Ukraine now, but they are not ready to call this an invasion yet and they have made that quite clear in some conversations that officials have had with reporters tonight and on CNN as well.

Given what they're seeing on the ground, they say they still want to see what Putin is going to do with these forces now that he has signed this, which they have said, of course, would be defying international law. They've made that quite clear how they view what Putin did today, but the way that they are responding is still not fully clear yet.

We do know President Biden signed this Executive Order earlier. That puts these limited economic sanctions on these areas, these breakaway regions of Ukraine. It is not a sanctions on Russia yet. There are not sanctions on Putin yet, the ones that we have been hearing officials talk about for weeks, those are not being unleashed yet, because it appears that they are saving that in the light of a full scale invasion.

And so I think that remains to be seen exactly how the White House is going to respond, though they have teased some sanctions coming tomorrow, potentially, I think it really determines or depends on what happens overnight before we actually see what that response is.

But right now, they are not calling this an invasion here at the White House.

BERMAN: That is interesting. Alex, to you in eastern Ukraine, what are you hearing from officials about what Putin's moves there could look like?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you said, everyone believes now this is the opening salvo for whatever Putin has planned. We just don't know what he is thinking for the coming hours and days.

We spoke with a Western diplomat, who said that we are in a new era and a dangerous one because of that lack of predictability. Now, what is especially dangerous are these so-called peacekeepers now in the Donbas.

This is an area where over the course of the past few days, Russia and Russian-backed forces have accused Ukraine of carrying out attacks against them. So now that we will likely have official Russian troops there, what happens if they engage with Ukraine or accuse Ukraine of attacking them? Russia could then have an excuse to further expand their campaign.

So do they want to stay in these two breakaway enclaves for now? Do they plan to expand their operation there? There's a whole menu of options given their positioning all around Ukraine. They could take that land bridge to connect Crimea with eastern Ukraine with Russia, they could invade from the north from Belarus and try to move on Kyiv. They could come up from the south, from Crimea, where they've got troops, helicopters, and ships and the Biden administration has repeatedly said that they could start a real full scale invasion by bombing with missiles and with their fighter jets.

So a lot remains to be seen, John, in the coming hours and days. I did speak with a European Defense official who told me that if he goes for war, he has to do it fast, and then start preparing for peace negotiations.

BERMAN: So perilous hours tonight to be sure.


Jill, so Putin has signed these decrees regarding eastern Ukraine. What exactly do they say? What do they authorize?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they recognize number one, and that is a violation of the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Ukraine. It recognizes these two breakaway regions, Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples Republics, and then also they have a friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance, part of that. And within that part, the President, President Putin authorizes the Russian military to carry out to ensure peacekeeping functions is the way it's put.

So again, whoever is officially, according to the Russians, in quotes, they're peacekeepers, but obviously, they can be used for any anything they want. But that's kind of you know, the legal part of it.

What he intends to do with that, or the fig leaf of it, is another question, and the real fear, I think, John, is that, as we've been saying, this could open the door to all sorts of things that could happen, but it really does tear apart, I think, also, it tears apart the Minsk Accords, which were the one thing that, you know, people were hoping eventually could solve that conflict in Donbas. It hasn't worked for seven years, and right now, obviously, it's in shreds.

BERMAN: It has the potential for tearing up post-Cold War order in Europe. I mean it really does have that much potential.

Clarissa, Ukrainian civilians, people you've been talking to you for weeks and weeks, they've been reluctant in some ways to see this as imminent. Now that it may very well be happening, what are you hearing?

WARD: It's really interesting to see there is an unmistakable shift. You know, for days, we have been talking, as you well know about going out on the streets of Kyiv, finding people very relaxed, generally talking to people and then saying, we don't believe that Putin would actually do this, because it just doesn't make sense, and I think that after that speech, and again, it was less even about recognizing those two Republic's and more about the rhetoric that President Putin was using, that has really sent a chill down many people's spines.

We're seeing a lot of people on social media coming out and saying now they really do believe it's possible. I saw one post from a mother saying that some of the other parents were putting stickers on their children's backpacks to go to school detailing what their blood group was, which certainly speaks to a certain level of profound anxiety that frankly, we had not seen in the same way up until this point -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Clarissa, Kaitlan, Jill, Alex, thank you all very much. Please stay safe tonight.

Next, CNN's Jim Sciutto in Kyiv and retired four-star General Wesley Clark on Russian and Ukrainian capabilities.

Also, later, one of the C.I.A.'s former top Russia experts and America's former Ambassador to Ukraine join us with their insight on what motivates Vladimir Putin and the Ukrainian resistance he'll face

Later, we'll look at the case a jury is now deliberating as the white men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery wait for a verdict in their Federal hate crimes trial.

A busy night ahead on 360.



BERMAN: So we've touched on this before the break, the question of how far Vladimir Putin is willing to go with Ukraine, whether he'll stop at just trying to cleave off a portion of eastern Ukraine or expand Russian operations across the country. There he is, as we mentioned, new reporting on that and on Russian military preparations across the board.

CNN chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto is in Lviv in Ukraine and joins us now.

Jim, you have new reporting tonight on what the U.S. expects from the Russian forces overnight, what can you tell us about the next few hours?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the U.S. watched Putin's statement about one recognizing those eastern regions, but then ordering the Russian Defense Ministry to send in what he referred to as peacekeepers, and they believe that Russia will send in military forces as soon as tonight into tomorrow into the Donbas. This would be an open deployment really of Russian forces there.

Yes, Russian forces have operated there before, but to roll tanks, armor, something along those lines in would be a step forward. So the U.S. is watching that move very closely, because well, it would solidify Russian control of that area, but also bring Russian forces closer to Ukrainian forces where they are currently deployed along what's known as the line of contact, which has really been the battle lines of this ongoing war in eastern Ukraine for the last eight years.

BERMAN: Jim, what do you make of the White House parsing its language carefully on whether Russian movement into Donetsk tonight would constitute an invasion?

SCIUTTO: Listen, I took note of this. I went back and forth with the National Security Council about this to get some more clarity of exactly what distinctions they were drawing. They said the following. They said, they noted that Russian forces had been in the Donbas area before, so that additional Russian forces there is not an enormous qualitative difference. They appear to be drawing that distinction, while at the same time they said that they're going to be watching very closely and will react accordingly.

It may be that there are different levels of an additional deployment of Russian forces in Donbas, and that those different levels would then elicit different responses from the U.S., but it does highlight what has been frankly just a murky definition from the White House for a number of days, number of weeks as to what level of military action will qualify as a further issue invasion of this country.


And it recalls those comments a couple of weeks ago, John, you remember, minor incursion from President Biden that perhaps a minor incursion wouldn't elicit the same response as something more major.

We do hear from the White House that they will have more responses tomorrow, Tuesday, U.S. time. We'll be watching those closely as well as Ukrainian officials here.

BERMAN: Yes, very closely, given that their words so far tonight appear to be deliberately a little more temperate than I think some were expecting.

Jim Sciutto, you've done just terrific work there. Thank you so much for staying up for us tonight. Appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Joining us now, retired Army four-star General Wesley Clark. He's a CNN military analyst and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander.

You just heard Jim's reporting also, Russian media posting a video of a military convoy moving through the streets of what it says is Donetsk. What do you see here? What is your assessment of the next few hours?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think the next the next thing that will happen is that the Russian troops will move in. I noticed that there is NOTAM, a no-fly zone Russia has called over the seas, so maybe there's going to be an airstrike that comes in or maybe Russia will bring its forces in, wait for a couple of days there in Donbas or four days, and manufacture more provocations from the Ukrainians, justifying an offensive.

The Russian generals could go in with the forces they have and seize Kyiv, but they probably rather start the action in Donbas, draw Ukrainian Reserve Forces. It is only about 30,000 troops up there on the front lines in Donbas for the Ukrainians.

They like to see 60,000 to 80,000 come up there, show that they can cut them off when they come in from the north or up from the south. And so there may be a three or four day pause here.

In the meantime, of course, Putin is still, Lavrov still working on diplomacy. That will not stop during this period, because they're phishing for what they can get. They're hoping this will be seen as a modest incursion. They are hoping that NATO won't be able to agree. I think the White House is probably on the phone tonight with its NATO

allies saying what can we do? Let's get something in here. But you don't want to get out in front of the NATO allies because in this crisis, NATO unity is all important. So we have to put the response together bit by bit.

Putin is testing us as he goes. His troops are poised and ready to go if he wants to do a flash and bang big operation. But as it is unfolding, it seems to me the Russian generals want to go phased. They want to draw the Ukrainians out of position, then come in behind, cut them off and seize Kyiv or come in from the south at the same time from the north.

BERMAN: You know, the U.S. is still reportedly seeing preparations for potential broad based invasion, including Russian forces, loading amphibious ships and loading equipment for airborne units.

You know, if a full scale invasion happens, what do you think that would look like?

CLARK: I think they could come in with an amphibious assault. But we know there are Russian elements already inside Ukraine. Odessa has fought tough problems of upper Asia, where our correspondent was eight years ago, they were fighting there, and Putin tried to take it then. So these elements are still there underground in communication waiting to be activated.

I'm sure that Ukrainian Security Forces, the SBU is after them and trying to prevent it. But will it be effective or not? We just don't know. Usually the Russians have stacks of these Intelligence agents. So they have the ones that are known and they have another stack below them that are not known and that can be activated and used.

So I think this is going to be a tough fight as it unfolds. Could Putin stop and simply say, this is all I wanted? Maybe. But it's doubtful, given the fact that he has mobilized all those forces. And after that speech today, really jazzing up the Russian people about Ukraine, it is going to look pretty, pretty small if he says oh, no --

BERMAN: General Clark appears to be frozen there. Our appreciation to General Wesley Clark for joining us tonight. You can see with the Russian troops ringed around Ukraine on three sides, a huge number of options the Russians do have tonight and that is what is of such great concern for so many.

Next, a closer look at what Vladimir Putin said today to the Russian people, the threat he levelled at Ukraine and what it all says about his willingness to go beyond just true breakaway Republics. A former Ambassador to Ukraine joins us along with the former head of Russia operations at the C.I.A.


BERMAN: We mentioned at the top, these are perilous hours tonight.

Vladimir Putin has ordered troops into two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. U.S. officials say they could arrive as soon as tonight. Additionally, there's this question in official circles of how much farther Russia might go perilous hours indeed.

Perspective now from two people who know Ukraine and Russia inside out, former Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and former C.I.A. Chief of Russia Operations, Steve Hall.

Steve if or when we see Russian forces move into these two regions in eastern Ukraine and they may already be there in increasing numbers, do you believe this is the beginning of something bigger? Or do you think that Putin could slow down a little bit and keep forces there in the east for a while before deciding his next step?

STEVE HALL, FORMER C.I.A. CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: Well, first, they are definitely going to be there if they're not already there now and I think when we get up tomorrow morning, we're going to see a lot more troops there.

And this is something that I think General Clark was getting to before the Russians hacked into his comms there. You know, they might immediately step off and continue a full blown invasion, staging it as they want to, but moving more quickly, initially.

But I think there's also a good likelihood that he might sit there for a while. Why? Because look at what the West has done in the past.

So Crimea was annexed it was taken away from Ukraine, chopped off and made part of Russia and what did the West do? Well, we sent them strongly worded letters and some additional sanctions.


Then they've reinvented now. And they've gone into Donetsk and Luhansk. And what have we done so far? Well, not a whole lot except threaten more sanctions.

So, Putin may decide that he's going to make this into some sort of modified frozen conflict basically occupied the territory with those troops for a while and simply wait until the West's attention turns elsewhere. I think that the speech that you saw today was primarily to prepare the Russian people for greater sanctions, which he thinks likely is indeed going to happen, there are going to be more sanctions, but make no mistake, those sanctions aren't really going to hurt Putin, most likely that much, or the oligarchs, unless they're really strong super sanctions, they are going to have an effect on the Russian people. And that's what that speech is about.

But he might actually just hang there for a while and see what happens, because to his mind, he hasn't really invaded Ukraine, he's only gone into these newly independent countries. And he's going to watch and see what the Western reaction is going to be before he decides how and when to move forward.

BERMAN: Well, its interesting Ambassador, because the United States, the White House, at least has been reluctant to use the word invasion has made the point of saying that Russian troops had been in these regions for some time. So the addition of more Russian troops doesn't necessarily constitute an invasion. Do you think that's a fair assessment? Or do you think that now is the time to put these full scale harsh sanctions into place?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FMR U.S AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I think now is the time, John to put full sanctions harshly on President Putin, the people around him and sadly, the Russian people. This is going to hurt as Steve has just said, the President has been very clear about how these are prepared all these work that we've done with the Europeans to get ready for these. This is an invasion. Let's be clear, this is an invasion. They are going across the international boundary from Russia into Ukraine. And they are not denying that these are Russian soldiers. These are Russian units. This is an invasion. And we've said what we're going to do when there's an invasion, and now we have to do it. So I'm looking forward to seeing those tomorrow.

BERMAN: Well, but Ambassador, you've gone further than the White House is willing to go tonight, you said words that the White House would not say. So what do you think the effect of is of the White House reticence, at least so far, in these early hours?

TAYLOR: Clearly, the right house is talking to the Europeans. And it is true that the sanctions are much stronger, or at least somewhat stronger, if the Europeans are with us. If there's some question about which of these sanctions, you know, we could do a lot on our own. The United States has a lot of ability to use a lot in particularly financial sanctions, we could do a lot of this on our own, and that doesn't take the Europeans. It'd be fine, it would be good if the Europeans were to join us. But this needs to happen now. We have said exactly what we're going to do.

And we made it clear that it that the trigger was a soldier or a tank or an airplane or a missile going across that border. And that's what's happening. That's exactly what's happening. So, I think it's good -- I think we -- I think United States has to take that step. And I'm hoping that the Europeans will join,

BERMAN: We will see, we will see what happens the next few hours or tomorrow morning, when the White House has the chance to reassess.

Steve, the speech from Vladimir Putin, a sense of denialism, a sort of denying the actual independent history of Ukraine a nihilistic in many ways. And I know that Putin has used this type of language before, but in such a key moment with the world watching. Why do you think he did it? What's the impact?

HALL: Well, first one I strongly agree with the ambassador there. I mean, he's absolutely right. If I think if sanctions are taken, some sort soon, the Russians are going to interpret that as weakness, and they're going to continue to push until they find something harder. But with regard to Putin speech, you know, make no mistake, he's, he's not a history scholar. He doesn't intend to be he doesn't want to be he uses history more like Stalin and Lenin use history, which is politically, he knows that he who controls the history of the past will control much of what the politics are today. And so, that's what he's that's what he's doing. He's cherry picking. He's taking bits and pieces, pasting it together, all to try to get the Russian people inside of Russia nodding their heads and saying, yes, you know, he's right about that. He thinks he perhaps might even get some Westerners to say things because he understands, you know, our sense of fair play, and let's listen to both sides. And you know, maybe Putin is right, those guys are Russian speakers, after all, and maybe it was part of Russia, and maybe it's not so bad.

So there's probably an external, an external audience for that too. But he doesn't give a flip about the history of it. He just cares about manipulating a message and that's what he's doing. But cloaking it in the sense of history which is very appealing to a lot of Russians


BERMAN: Steve Hall, Ambassador William Taylor, I appreciate you both being with us tonight. Thank you.

TAYLOR: Thank you

BERMAN: Just hours ago, the jury adjourned after day one of deliberations in the federal hate crimes trial of Ahmaud Arbery's killers. We're going to have the details next.


BERMAN: We will continue to follow the breaking news out of Ukraine with more on those Russian troops being ordered into the eastern portion of the country.

First, though major events back here in the United States. The federal hate crimes trial of the three men convicted of committed killing Ahmaud Arbrey is now in the hands of the jury. Deliberations are set to resume tomorrow morning after more than two hours of deliberations today.

CNN national correspondent Ryan Young has the details.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just two days from now marks the two year anniversary of Ahmaud Arbery's murder. His mother says she hopes to have guilty verdicts and the federal hate crimes trial by then.

WANDA COOPER-JONES, MOTHE OF AHMAUD ARBERY: I think that the DOJ precedent the case well, I think we're going we're going to get a good product at the end. The anniversary date is the 23rd and hopefully we'll have a good verdict by the 23rd.

YOUNG (voice-over): Travis McMichael, his father Gregory McMichael and William Bryan are charged with interference with rights, a hate crime and attempted kidnapping the McMichaels also each face a weapons charge, convictions in this trial could bring steep fines and add on more life sentences.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We the jury find the defendant Travis McMichael guilty.


YOUNG (voice-over): In November during a state trial, all three men were sentenced to life in prison for the felony murder of Arbery. Only Bryan is eligible for parole after 30 years. Arbery's murder caught on camera leading to outrage across the country.

COOPER-JONES: Ahmaud have been chased down for like five minutes.

YOUNG (voice-over): During closing arguments today in the federal trial. government prosecutor said Arbery's murder was about racism. Going on to say the men hunted him like an animal. Arbery's parents agreed saying this on Friday.

COOPER-JONES: They killed him Ahmaud because Ahmaud was black. And what we heard over the last two days, these guys was racist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And too much to say but do this know -- that he just won't kill racially.

YOUNG (voice-over): The defense disagree during closing arguments, acknowledging their clients use racist language in the past, but denied Arbery's race motivated his killing or their actions toward him. During this trial, the jury heard testimony from more than 20 witnesses, several of whom spoke about racist language used by the defendants, including the inward, the defense only called one witness who talked about the Georgia neighborhoods until the shores where the men lived and where Arbery was killed. She had never met the McMichaels or Bryan.


BERMAN: And Ryan Young joins us now. Ryan, you were in the courtroom this afternoon. At one point Ahmaud Arbery's family got emotional when the prosecution was talking about how the defendants treated their son. What happened?

YOUNG: Yes, very emotional. And in fact, we saw some of the jury member's sort of lean forward during this testimony, they were talking about the idea of after the shooting. John, we spent so much time playing the shooting and the chase. Sometimes people forget about what happened in those moments afterwards. At some point, no one went over to administer any help to Ahmaud, no one stopped to say, are you OK, of course, he was shot, no one called 911 to get him help. And that's what they were talking about him being treated less than human. There was no empathy in that moment.

And then they started reading some of the words, the words from the three men that they had posted on social media, or those text messages with the N word over and over again. And you could tell it was taking an emotional toll on the family that's been through so much. You think about that two year anniversary. And it just seemed to really kind of bring that entire courtroom almost into silence. It's one of the things you can't see because obviously, this is a federal court case. And because of the federal court case, we can't bring you those images. But I can tell you each time that prosecutor was using the N word more than 15 times, it really stood out in court. John.

BERMAN: Ryan Young, we appreciate you being there for us.

I now want to bring in the former mayor of Atlanta and CNN political commentator Keisha Lance Bottoms. Also joining us CNN political commentator, and former South Carolina state representative and author of Who Are Your People, Bakari Sellers.

Mayor Bottoms, how do you think this trial has unfolded so far? Do you think the prosecution has done enough to prove its case with an admittedly different bar than a standard murder trial?

KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's very tough to prove a federal hate crime case. But given other circumstances, and given how high that bar is, I think that they did a really good job. What they reminded this jury of over and over again was the circumstantial evidence of these racial epithets that have been used by these defendants. And that's important when you are proving a federal hate crime case, it's not enough that the person is racist, you have to show that there was racial motivation associated with his crime.

And so, I think they've done a good job. But again, this is very tough. When you think about the case of Dylann Roof, circumstantial evidence was brought in to prove that he was a racist, and that when he killed the church members at Mother Emanuel, it was motivated by his hatred of African-Americans. And that's what the prosecution has attempted to show here.

BERMAN: And clearly, the defense is arguing the opposite Bakari, the attorney for Travis McMichael claim that Michael shot and killed Arbery he was defending himself. This is what the attorney said, would Travis McMichael have grabbed a gun and done this to a white guy? The answer is yes, unquote.

So do you think that was an argument that the jury might buy?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, it's the only argument he had. I mean, at the end of the day, the defense attorney has to throw everything against the wall that he possibly can. Again, I mean, this that is going to be the question that the jury has to answer was Mr. Ahmaud Arbery killed because he was black. Mayor Bottoms, and I hosted here and resoundingly say the answer to that question, based on all the evidence, and the prism that we see this through is yes. But that is what the jury has to decide. It's not enough that they are racist. I think we know that but the question is, was he killed because he was black?

And so look, I mean, you have to -- when you have a prosecutor and you have a prosecutor reciting the language utilized by your clients over and over and over again, that is going to sear into the brains of the jurors and the heads of the jurors. And so the question is now, what can you do? I mean, the fact is, this is a very, very, very difficult case to defend, brought the prosecutor -- I mean, the defense is doing the absolute best they can with absolutely nothing and terrible clients at that.


BERMAN: Yes all the racist slurs, I mean, all the overt racism that was presented to the jury, Mayor Bottoms. And what's the impact on a human being to hear that much in a courtroom over these days?

BOTTOMS: Well, you know, when you hear that there were 17 social media posts associated with disparaging words towards African-Americans. And then you look at how they treated Ahmaud Arbery after he was shot down lane in the street, and the prosecutor reminded the jury that he was not given the dignity of a dog. So, the prosecutor has done a very good job and humanizing Ahmaud Arbery, but also reminding this jury that there were several actions that could have been taken to for these man's have shown that they had some respect for him as a human being.

And so, it's difficult not to look at it, from the lens of it being a racially motivated crime. There were other people that we know who trespassed on this property. They weren't chased down in the street and gunned down the way that the Ahmaud Arbery was. And it's interesting to me that these three chose to be trialed together. Because I would think if anyone had an argument that it was not racially motivated, I would have thought that would have been the third defendant Roddie Bryan, but he has chosen to put his fate in the hands of the same jury that's heard all these things about the McMichaels.

BERMAN: Yes, Bakari we got about 30 seconds left. I was interested in the defense argument that whatever their language was, the defendants weren't members of hate groups. Why does their membership in a hate group matter or not matter here?

SELLERS: I mean, what does it have to do with the price of tea in China? I mean, that's what my mom would always say, that has absolutely nothing to do with nothing. I mean, like I told you, this is simply the defense attempting to do whatever they can do. I mean, what we're seeing in this country, though, and what I think Mayor Bottoms would agree with is we're seeing this uneven dispensing of justice from Kim Potter, you know, getting a slap on the wrist of these individuals being tried not once, but twice in probably being found guilty every single time.

BERMAN: Bakari Sellers. I appreciate it. Mayor Bottoms, very nice to see you. Thank you so much.

Ahead, when we return our breaking news with a focus on just what kind of resources Russia's military can bring to bear on Ukraine now that Vladimir Putin has ordered troops deployed to two breakaway regions.


[20:52:01] BERMAN: More now, in our breaking news this hour. Vladimir Putin ordering Russian troops into eastern Ukraine. U.S. officials believe this could happen as early as tonight. The UN Security Council is expected to meet on the matter in just moments.

For more on these Russian troops, I'm joined by Tom Foreman. And Tom, how much military pressure is Russia prepared to apply in this specific area?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're going to find out I guess how much they're willing to apply. We know this. It's a pretty small area compared to Ukraine, Ukraine, about the size of Texas. So why if it's that small, do we have such a buildup of troops here? Because according to military experts, I've talked to, in generals we've listened to because it allows them to project tremendous force into this area, while they walk their troops into that disputed area. What kind of force we talking about? Fullback bombers capable of flying tremendous distances firing missiles that will crush through concrete bunkers, communication systems headquarters, that's one of the weapons they have out there ready to use.

The Russians really historically, love artillery, they use it a lot. And things like this short range ballistic missile system, we know there 36 of these, according to Ukrainians, on the edge of this fighting zone, important to note here, range of 310 miles, you can fire almost halfway across the country with that. So without even entering Ukraine, they could strike everything in the disputed zone while people move in.

Beyond that, you will see the presence of tanks in the area, the Russians tend to use tanks differently than the U.S. and others do according to many people who have encountered them in the field, they use them more in support of troops. And then beyond that, you would have areas. When you look around the region here, down here in the water, you would likely see some action by the Black Sea Fleet, maybe down in here, maybe landings in here. You put it all together and suddenly, John, what you're talking about is an ability to exert enormous influence on this area, in many cases by weapons that aren't even crossing the border.

BERMAN: Yes, limitless possibilities --

FOREMAN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: -- (INAUDIBLE). And this is a complicated question, but one that could be very important in just the next few days in the short term. How are the Russians defining the borders of this conflict?

FOREMAN: That is absolutely one of the key questions here. Look at this area. What if you say we want to go in and have our peacekeeping forces they call it in this area? That doesn't seem terribly likely, especially since we know the Russians would like to have a landbridge to Crimea down here. What if they say we're going to push it out this far? Well, that starts looking more likely but many military leaders think they may have designs further than that, including this simple notion. Think about this. If the if the Ukraine Army has to be in here to resist this in some fashion, what is to keep the Russians with all those numbers from sweeping in behind them, as General Clark mentioned a short while ago, in which case suddenly they find themselves trapped in the country very much reduce from what it was before. Then you start talking about going perhaps all the way to the Dnieper River and suddenly you have a very, very different map of Ukraine.


BERMAN: Tome Foreman, appreciate it. Thank you so much.

FOREMAN: Welcome.

BERMAN: Next, the foreign policy decisions that unraveled the presidency more than five decades ago. A new CNN series on the 36th, President of the United States, next.


BERMAN: CNN is following all the breaking news out of Ukraine. First, a CNN Original Series, "LBJ TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY." Here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: LBJ could be mean and tough, demanding. If he was trying to persuade you to do something, it wasn't at all unusual for him to take his finger as a sort of punch you here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He grabbed me by the bells, six foot three and 230 pounds he could stare you down. But you felt that you were doing something important that had real meaning so you put up with that.



BERMAN: Stay with CNN for the breaking news on Ukraine. The CNN Original Series, "LBJ TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY," starts now.