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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Zelenskyy: Russia Synchronized Attacks With Negotiations; Massive Russian Convoy Nearing Kyiv As U.S. Officials Fear The Worst Is Yet To Come For Ukrainian Capital; International Criminal Court To Open Probe Into Possible War Crimes In Ukraine. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired February 28, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We'll be right back.
COOPER: Good evening, again, from Lviv, in western Ukraine.
As we speak, Ukrainians, all across the country, are waking up, to the reality that all their bravery, resilience and resourcefulness, may soon be tested more severely than ever.
Everything we are hearing, from American officials, and so much of what, all so many of our correspondents, are seeing here, on the ground, speaks to an accelerating and intensifying campaign, of Russian attacks, on Ukrainian cities, and Ukrainian civilians.
Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general, and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, put it bluntly, in our last hour, the people of Kyiv, are now facing a world of hurt.
That Russian convoy, near an airport, north of the city, now stretches more than 40 miles long, we're told. And it contains, as General Clark noted, artillery and rockets, which Russians have so far shown, no reluctance to use, along with airstrikes, on residential neighborhoods, something, Ukraine's President, made note of, tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Today, Russian forces brutally fired on Kharkiv, from jet artillery. It was clearly a war crime.
Kharkiv is a peaceful city. There are peaceful residential areas. No military facilities. Dozens of eyewitness accounts prove that this is not a single false volley, but deliberate destruction of people. The Russians knew where they were shooting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: President Zelenskyy is calling for war crimes prosecutions, as well as the establishing of a NATO no-fly zone, which Western governments have all said is not forthcoming. That said, harsh economic sanctions, on Russia, have been, including, remarkably now, from Switzerland, as well as Monaco, and they are starting to have an effect, although most of the effect will be much longer-term. As has a pipeline of Military aid, even from such unlikely countries, as Germany and Sweden, they have now offered weapons, to Ukrainian forces.
In the end, the fate of Ukraine, though, is being decided, by Ukrainians. And that is where we start, with CNN's Matthew Chance, tonight, in Kyiv.
Matthew, talk about what you've been seeing, and hearing, tonight, in Kyiv, and also what you saw, earlier today.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, hi.
Well, as you as you've been mentioning, there is a lot of tension, a lot of anxiety, a lot of concern, in Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, tonight, because of those reports, of that giant Russian armored column that is making its way, towards Kyiv.
It's raising the possibility that Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin is going to unleash a huge barrage, on this city, or at least threaten that, in order to take it over. It comes, of course, after there have been a number of significant Russian setbacks, as their forces try to enter the city, and try and take it over.
Take a look at what we saw, in the northwest of the city, earlier on today.
CHANCE (on camera): Right within the past few hours, there has been a ferocious battle, here, on the outskirts of Kyiv.
(voice-over): This is the frontline in the battle for the Ukrainian capital.
(on camera): The Russian column that has come down here has been absolutely hammered.
(voice-over): Trucks and armored vehicles reduced to twisted metal, as Ukrainian forces dig in, catching the Kremlin, and its invasion force, off-guard.
(on camera): Look at this. I mean, what kind of munitions does it take, to do that to a car, to a vehicle? I know that - I was speaking to the local Ukrainian commanders here. They've been saying that they were using Western anti-tank missiles, to attack these columns.
Look, so recent, the battle, this vehicle is still smoking. There's still smoke coming out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
CHANCE (voice-over): Commanders like Alexander (ph), of the Ukrainian army, who wouldn't give me his rank or full name.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
CHANCE (voice-over): "The Russians thought they could just march into Ukrainian lands, in a triumphant parade," he tells me. "They were mistaken. It will never happen," he says.
(on camera): I mean, look, I mean, it's a bit of almost a cliche, but obviously, somebody has brought a memento from home, you know? And now, it's scorched, and lying with the debris, of their, in this case, failed attack.
(voice-over): An attack that's left Ukrainian forces, who repelled it, confident, perhaps over-confident that victory can be repeated, across the country, as Russian troops advance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
CHANCE (voice-over): "Absolutely, Ukraine will win this war," Alexander (ph) tells me. "Of course, we'll win. And the Russians will rot here," he says.
(on camera): This vehicle here is obviously from the Russia Military. It's got the letter "V," daubed on side looking tape or in paint. That - I think that stands for Vostok, which is the Russian word for "East," which implies that these military equipments, they came from the eastern divisions of the Russian military.
What I was saying there, look, there's evidence. I don't want to show you this too much. But there's a - there's a body there. That's a Russian soldier that is lying there dead on this bridge.
You can tell they're Russian, because they've got this - this black and orange St. George ribbon, daubed across them, which is a sign, a symbol of the Russian army.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) ammunition.
CHANCE (on camera): Yes, ammunition.
(FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Alexander (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
CHANCE (on camera): Oh my God! There's another one there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
CHANCE (on camera): It's - it's terrible to see, the grim inhumanity--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE). CHANCE (on camera): --of a war, for the Ukrainians and, of course, for the Russians as well, the sacrifice that is being paid, by all sides--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
CHANCE (on camera): --in this complete waste of life, is here for us all to see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
COOPER: And Matthew, I know, while you were on that bridge, you also had a frightening moment. I just want to show our viewers that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHANCE: Actually, I was crouching down right by a grenade there, look, and I didn't see that. So let's - let's move away from that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Do you see a lot of Ukrainian forces, I mean, as you travel throughout the city? And obviously, traveling is very limited, because there's been a curfew, for much of this past weekend. But, I mean, do you see a lot of Ukrainian forces in the city?
CHANCE: You do. Yes. And they're kind of - they're kind of layered. I mean, so, in those frontline areas, where I've visited there, you've got the regular Ukrainian army. And they've got anti-tank missiles, and they're sort of quite well-equipped, and they've set up their perimeter sort of defensive positions.
But as you work your way, back into the center of the city, the troops become more irregular. You're looking at civil defense forces that some of whom have been given weapons just a couple of days ago.
Never shot a weapon before. They've been given an AK-47. And they've teamed up with the local people, from their sort of neighborhood. And they've set up defensive trenches. And they're preparing to fight, if necessarily, fight to the death, if Russian - if and when Russian forces come in.
And so, we've seen this extraordinary sort of change of mood, within Ukraine. Many people, before this invasion, said, "Look, we're probably not going to fight. We'll probably accept it."
But as soon as the Russian tanks started to roll in, as soon as Russian troops set foot, in Ukrainian territory, that led - that pushed people, over the line. And now, people are - many people are feeling that "Look, now is the time to come - now, the time has come to you, to stand up for your - for the city, and for the neighborhood." And I think the Russians probably underestimated that.
COOPER: Yes. Matthew Chance, remarkable reporting, as always, thank you so much.
Want to go next, to the White House, where the war is taking up more the President's focus, tonight, and apparently in tomorrow's State of the Union address, as well.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins is there for us tonight.
So, where does the White House think this is going now? And do they think Ukrainians can still hold off the Russians?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I think their concern is that it's about to get a lot more challenging, for them, because they have been just as pleasantly surprised by everyone else, by the fierce resistance that they've seen the Ukrainians put up, so far, since this invasion started.
But they're also paying attention to things like that 40-mile long convoy of Russian Military vehicles that they believe is potentially headed for the capital of Kyiv. They're also watching the increase in violence and the civilian casualties that have been happening, in recent days.
And I think that is the big concern, for the White House now, as they watch this. And they do know that at the end of the day, the Russian Military does out-power, the Ukrainian forces that are fighting there. And so, I think that's the concern that they're paying attention to.
And you are seeing the United States, and other countries, still agree to send security assistance, Military assistance, to Ukraine. But it's getting a lot harder, to get that assistance there.
Remember, just in January, and in December, we were seeing it being flown directly, into the airport, into Kyiv. And now, of course, it's a lot more difficult for them to be able to get that, to these Ukrainians, who obviously so desperately need it.
COOPER: Is President Biden concerned about what Vladimir Putin said, about nuclear forces being on high alert? Because it seems like the White House, is very conscious, in how they are responding to that.
COLLINS: They are. They are being very careful, when you see them talk about this, and basically kind of not ignoring it, but effectively trying to ignore it, by not matching Putin's rhetoric, not matching what he's doing, and feeling like they need to do it the same that - or put their same forces, on high alert, their same nuclear posture. They haven't changed that at all.
They've said that they've seen no reason to do so. They believe that Putin's efforts here are unjustified and unnecessary. And so, I think, you're seeing this effort, a deliberate effort, by the White House, and by the Pentagon, to try to de-escalate, when it comes to that.
And when President Biden was asked today, "Do Americans need to be worried about the prospect of a -nuclear war happening," he very flatly and bluntly said, "No," and didn't add anything else, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins, appreciate it.
I want to get perspective now, from William Taylor, former American Ambassador, to Ukraine.
Ambassador Taylor, thanks so much, for being with us. You heard the reporting, from Washington, and Ukraine. You've seen that massive Russian Military convoy near Kyiv.
What's your assessment of where this may be headed in the next 24 hours, 48 hours?
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Anderson, just like your reporters have been saying, the Russians have overwhelming force.
The Ukrainians are fighting valiantly. They're fighting fiercely. And they're fighting in various stages. I think Matthew identified the several layers very well.
You got the regular forces. And then, you've got the people, with civilians. I've got several good friends, who are among those civilians, who are defending their neighborhoods, and defending their homes.
And I think your reporters are also correct that the Russians, Mr. Putin, probably, in particular, did not expect this level of determination, of firmness, of resistance. He probably thought it was like he would have found in his country that people were not really motivated, indifferent.
But the Ukrainians are clearly not. The Ukrainians are fighting, as several people have said, on your program, they're fighting for their land.
COOPER: It is extraordinary, to see this spirit and, I don't - I mean, it's a cliche to almost talk about it. But it's so evident, the sense of defiance and the sense of pride.
I'm so struck by the greeting that Ukrainian soldiers, say to each other, "Glory to Ukraine." And it's something that just you can feel among, in any city, or any place, you go here.
TAYLOR: Anderson, you're exactly right. And you will hear, the "Glory to Ukraine," and then response, is "Glory to the Heroes." The people, the Ukrainian people, are so proud, of their soldiers, of their heroes. And there have been many heroes, already in this fight.
There have been heroes, previously. And, as we know, the Russians invaded in 2014. And there were heroes of the country then, defending Ukraine, from the Russians, at that time, in the Donetsk airport. There are heroes of that fight.
So, they take this very seriously. And, Anderson, I am very impressed, with their President, as we all are. President Zelenskyy has led this country, has stepped up, to lead this country, in a way that no one expected, no one expected.
TAYLOR: And now, political opponents are standing up, with him, and they're proud of him. This friend of mine there, said, he was actually on another political party. He's now proud, to be in the service, of President Zelenskyy.
COOPER: Yes. And President Zelenskyy, a 44-year-old man, who went to law school, but was a, actor and a comedian, playing a president, on television, before he actually ran for president.
It is an extraordinary transformation, to see the birth of a leader, and the - a leader filling the role, in the way that he has, on the streets, and staying in Kyiv, when many thought, and Russia claimed, he had fled.
What do you think happen - the weaponry that has been promised, by the European Union, by the Germans, of all people, do you think that will make it to where it's needed, I mean, make it to people, to forces, in Kyiv, in time?
TAYLOR: That's a good question, about whether in time. It's extraordinary that the Germans have turned around, and have now begun to provide the - both the anti-aircraft, the Stingers, as well as the anti-armor, the Javelins, and related weapons. That's remarkable.
And it's a great morale boost, for the Ukrainians, as well, to see NATO, in its full, supporting them. And this means a lot to them.
You're exactly right. The right question is, can it come in time? There is a flow. The United States, of course, has been increasing the assistance, since 2014. But even recently, in the past several months, the flow has increased. And that flow continues.
It's more complicated now. You're exactly right. I mean, you can't land at Boryspil. You can't land at the airport, in Kyiv, at this point. But you can get it there, other ways. And they're working that. They're working it hard.
COOPER: Ambassador Taylor, appreciate your time tonight, and your experience. Thank you.
TAYLOR: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up next, our Military analysts, two retired Army generals, on what we were seeing on the ground, in Ukraine, and what the coming days, could look like.
And later, my conversation with Kyiv's Mayor, the former heavyweight champion of the world, now fighting, for his city's survival.
COOPER: More than 400 civilian casualties, so far, according to the U.N., more than half a million refugees.
And according to the Pentagon, according to video of that massive Russian convoy, not to mention the history of Russian tactics, there's every reason to believe, the toll on civilians, here, and the misery, will only grow, in the days ahead. It's hard to see it happening otherwise.
On the other side of the equation, the resiliency, and the resourcefulness, of the Ukrainian people, and the effectiveness of the Western Military aid, now coming in, and that has been coming in.
Perspective on all of it now, from CNN Military Analyst, and retired Army Lieutenant General, Mark Hertling. Also, retired Army Brigadier General, Peter Zwack, former U.S. Military Attache to Russia, and currently a Global Fellow, at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute.
General Zwack, you've heard the reporting, on this convoy, of Russian vehicles, outside Kyiv, some 40 miles long now. Shells have been falling in the city, since this afternoon.
What do you think this next phase is going to look like?
BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK (RET), FORMER U.S. DEFENSE ATTACHE TO RUSSIA, U.S. ARMY, GLOBAL FELLOW, KENNAN INSTITUTE AT THE WILSON CENTER: Thank you, Anderson.
First of all, as we mentioned before, time actually is not on the Russian side. The longer this goes on, and they've had a very clumsy first five days, the more the pressure mounts, within their own forces, who are probably staggered, at facing the resistance, by fellow Slav.
They didn't get briefed on that. And the regime is staggered by the international condemnation, and the sanctions. And there are cracks in that facade. You see it in the arrests on the street, and rumors about some dissent, within the corridors of power, and the oligarchs. So, the Russians have got to finish this.
And that column is coming in with the logistics, and more, what we call, the second echelon. They will - they don't have time to do a long siege. A long siege could take weeks, and be dreadfully bloody.
And, as General Hertling, mentioned earlier, they don't have the troop to task. They don't have the numbers, for a massive Stalingrad-type siege battle. So, they've got to finish it.
If so, it's bloody brute force, artillery, including that thermobaric, all of that, because I think the whole facade is beginning to crack around them, there, in country, and also in Russia itself.
COOPER: General Hertling, if that's true, I mean, to what end, a violent quick, bloody - again, is the objective, decapitate the leadership? And then, what?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), U.S. ARMY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think the real issue that Mr. Putin is trying to do is to cause as much pain as possible, Anderson.
If you take a strategic look at this, he has not attained any of his strategic objectives, yet. And he won't, based on the condemnation, he's getting, on the world stage, and also, what's happening, in terms of his force, in Ukraine.
You mentioned - everyone's been mentioning the 40-mile convoy. OK. I got it. If Peter and I were working together, I'd be asking him, as the Intel officer, "What's in that convoy? Is this just resupply? Is it artillery resupply? Is it rockets? Is it fuel? What exactly is this?"
And, I think, Peter brings up a very good point. This is the point of the conflict, where the next 24 hours to 48 hours, could be deadly, for a lot of Ukrainian citizens. It will be that kind of a fight. Putin has been known to do that before.
He's not gone after any Military targets. That's what's amazing me. He's always focused, on the civilian population, the artillery, the rockets, the DPICM, the cluster munitions, if you will, the thermobaric, as Peter mentioned, all of those things become terror weapons, not against the Military, but against the civilians.
So, Putin thinks he can push this down, by causing pain, among the population, and the political body, to say, "We've had enough." I don't think you're going to see Ukraine do that. I don't think the Military in Ukraine is going to stand for that.
And I still remain, extremely hopeful that they will mount an incredibly tough defense, not only conventionally, in the next 24 hours to 48 hours. But also, if things get worse, they will continue to fight back, after that.
COOPER: Just briefly, General Hertling, what is a thermalbaric?
HERTLING: Yes, this is a weapons system that's - that what it does Anderson, basically, it has heat, and pressure, thermal and bara (ph), the two Latin words. And what it does is it will shoot off a device that will capture the atmospheric pressure, and just really, cause created - repeated shockwaves, more so than a normal explosion.
So, it is deadly, and it is a terror weapon. It basically not only knocks down walls, crushes people, takes away oxygen. It is the kind of weapon that's used in bunkers, to get underground. But, in this case, I think you're going to see Putin's forces, using it, against buildings, to knock them down, to cause more terror, against the Ukrainian people.
COOPER: I'd like to talk more. We're going to have to leave it there. We're short on time. General Hertling, General Zwack, I really appreciate your expertise. Thank you.
Ahead, from Ukraine, our one-on-one conversation, with Kyiv's Mayor, where things stand, in his city, and his message, now, to Vladimir Putin.
Also, Chef Jose Andres, Joining me now, from Poland, along the border, on his organization's efforts, to feed Ukrainians, as they cross over, women and children.
COOPER: Well, we've been talking to our correspondents, over the last two hours, all across Ukraine, with more on that 40-mile long Russian convoy, in the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv.
I spoke earlier, in the day, with Kyiv's Mayor, Vitali Klitschko.
COOPER: Mayor Klitschko, what is the situation, in Kyiv, right now?
MAYOR VITALI KLITSCHKO, KYIV, UKRAINE: Situation is dangerous (ph). And there are Russians' troops make attack to Kyiv, and they non-stop.
We listen to the explosion every hours. During last night, or last night, it's last four days, they, people is very nervous, and spent a lot of time in bunkers. And, right now, is so many groups, the Russian groups, in our city, is right now, it's pretty strange. It's Russian - the Russian groups.
COOPER: How effective have the civilians, who have taken up arms, how effective, has that been, in defending Kyiv?
KLITSCHKO: We never was so patriotic. I'm proud of our Army. Our Ukrainian Army stayed front of one of the strongest army, in the world. But our soldiers is heroes. They show great performance.
As right now, so many thousands, of civilians, come in, and build civilian defense. People take the weapons, receives the weapons, and ready to defend our homes, defend our families, defend our future, and our country.
And I am very proud, as really sometime, to see how people, patriotic, how people told, we doesn't have the army. It's not interested how strong the Russian army, we ready to fight, and ready to die, for our home country, for our families, because it's our home. It's our future. And somebody want to come into our home, and want to steal, steal, our future, from us.
COOPER: How long can Kyiv hold out? How long can you hold on to the city?
KLITSCHKO: I'm not ready to give you clear answer. So long, so long time, if we still alive.
COOPER: Mr. Mayor, do you have a message to Vladimir Putin?
KLITSCHKO: We was in USSR. We don't want back the Russian empire. We see our future as democratic modern European country. Is it - no discussion, it's our goal. We're fighting for that. We're fighting for our country. We're fighting for our dream.
COOPER: Mayor Klitschko, I appreciate your time. I wish you well.
KLITSCHKO: Thank you. Thank you for support. People, it's unity, their world unity, can stop the war. We don't need the war. We are peaceful nation, peaceful people. We never was aggressive, to anyone. And this war, we have to stop all together. Thank you. Big regards to the United States.
COOPER: And while Mayor Klitschko, is trying to lead his city, acclaimed chef and humanitarian, Jose Andres, is among those, just outside Ukraine, along the Polish-Ukrainian border.
His World Central Kitchen, is making fresh hot meals, for Ukrainians, who have crossed over, who have become refugees. It's a scene, we've watched Jose Andres, and his team carry out, many times, across the globe, from Puerto Rico to Beirut. There's nothing about this disaster, however, that is accidental.
Chef Andres joins me now - joins me tonight, from Poland.
Jose, thanks so much for joining us. What have you been doing? What's your setup like here?
CHEF JOSE ANDRES, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN: Well, World Central Kitchen arrived already, three days ago. I arrived by yesterday evening. And I landed in Warsaw, and I drove for hours, all the way to the town of Medyka, to this, you know, the right the place, where Ukraine meets with Poland, and is probably in Medyka, the place that we see the most refugees, leaving Ukraine, into Poland.
COOPER: So, for people, who don't realize - and I just made that border crossing today, from Poland.
There are hundreds, throughout the day, probably thousands, of mostly women and children, who have made it finally, to the border, after days and days, of really difficult travel, in many cases, by train, by bus, by car, by walking, however they can get there.
And they are hungry. They are disoriented. They are separated, from their loved ones, from their husbands, from their boyfriends, their family members. You were there, feeding them.
How do you get food, to that place? Or is it the model that you usually use, which is kind of mobilizing local kitchens, to get food, and serve it, there, at the border?
ANDRES: Well, all of the above. I think today, we reach around 16,000 (ph) meals. Tomorrow, we know we're going to be doing more than 30,000 meals. We are only a small fraction of all the meals that are happening.
So, yes, we partner with local restaurants, catering companies, sometimes our food trucks, that we position very quickly, where we see the need is, the biggest, even some places that all of a sudden, in the south and part of the border in Poland that's all of a sudden we see no support.
But I want to tell you one thing. It's amazing to see that the people that are taking care of, not only the Ukrainians, but the medic - many other nationals, leaving Ukraine, right now, are retired firefighters.
That because many of them, some are retiring from the army, and they were cooks, they have this spectacular, almost from World War II, kind of systems, of making big soups, and keeping the soups hot, with wood, and feeding people, as they arrive, a bowl of hot soup.
People need to remember, we are in freezing temperatures. Right now, I'm holding my phone, and seems like my fingers are about to break. And I am in the comfort of a nice hotel.
I cannot imagine, Anderson, those women and children, walking sometimes, for 24 hours, 50 hours, 50 kilometers, one day, two days, three days, to get to the border, under these freezing temperatures, is used - so sad to see that in Europe, today, a nation, like Ukraine, has to be going through, what they're going through, right now.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, you have certainly seen a lot of very difficult circumstances. To see women and children, particularly the children, who don't necessarily know, what's going on, fully, some of the very young ones, it's really just heartbreaking. That scene, at the border, really just stays with me, since I saw it.
ANDRES: When you are able to engage with a child, first thing they tell you is, "My dad is back in Ukraine. My dad is back in Ukraine." And I have a feeling that those children, even very young, they know why their dads are in Ukraine, is everybody is in the defense on Ukraine. And it breaks your heart.
I was in America (ph), yesterday night, later night, 11:45. And as many people were coming in, I saw a group of around 10 young boys, one of them American that I was, to his load (ph), we when asked for his name that they were going in the opposite direction.
We can see every day that these men crossing the line, not leaving, Ukraine, but going into Ukraine, to do what? To join their armies, to join their people, with one only idea, in mind. To be there, defending every city in Ukraine, from the Russian attack. And their breaks your heart, my friend.
COOPER: Chef Jose Andres, I appreciate you being here. Thank you.
ANDRES: Thank you very much.
COOPER: Chef Jose Andres, from World Central Kitchen. Just ahead, do Vladimir Putin's actions rise to the level of war crimes? The International Criminal Court is now investigating. Our next guest believes he may be a war criminal.
COOPER: Well, last hour, I spoke with Olena Gnes, mother of three, in Kyiv, huddling for safety, in makeshift bomb shelter, essentially a basement, in a building. She said she wanted the International Criminal Court of The Hague to get involved, and punish him.
Well, today the Court announced it will open an investigation, into Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In a statement, it said there was a reasonable basis, to believe that, quote, "Alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine."
Our next guest recently wrote, much the same, for "The New Yorker" that Putin may now qualify as a war criminal. She's Robin Wright, has won a number of awards, for her overseas reporting. We're pleased that she joins us now.
Robin, it's good to see you. Just days ago, you wrote, and I'm quoting, "Putin's war of choice has clearly violated international law through his invasion of a sovereign country and attempt to oust its government."
Do you think the rest of the world sees Putin, as a war criminal? And how likely is it that the Court will move forward on this?
ROBIN WRIGHT, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORKER, AUTHOR, "ROCK THE CASBAH," DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, U.S. INSTITUTE OF PEACE, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, those are two different questions. I think you've seen unbelievable, almost incredible unity, around the world, behind the Ukrainian people, and against Vladimir Putin.
The 1949 Geneva Convention stipulate a long list of crimes. But the two that are most relevant to Ukraine are first, willful killing. And we've already seen hundreds die, just in the past week. And the second, is extensive damage that is not justified by Military necessity, and that is carried out illegally and wantonly. And that we've seen as well.
The interesting thing about the statement, from the International Criminal Court today is that it's talking about not just the past week, but going back to 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, seized and annexed the Crimea. And during that period, you've seen the deaths of 14,000 Ukrainians. So, there is a strong case already to be made for war crimes.
And what we've seen, really, over the past few days, is the kind of statements. Today, the Pentagon said, every lost soul is on Vladimir Putin. And, over the weekend, the U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said, this could well be the worst war of the century. And Anderson, as you know better than most, we've seen some hellish wars, this century already. And the idea that this is a greater challenge, of course, this is the greatest land war, since 1945, in Europe, is really a frightening prospect. And this may well be only the beginning.
COOPER: You write about how Putin has surrounded himself with yes-men, and those who agree with him. How much does the threat of actually being labeled a war criminal, really matter, to Vladimir Putin?
WRIGHT: Well, at this point, he's cornered himself. He doesn't have many ways out. There's almost no way, for him, to get redemption, given the international condemnation.
So, I think, he, as we all now, believe that he has changed a good deal. He's evolved, from someone, who was once considered a rational actor, to someone, who is so acting, on rage, and emotional paranoia, kind of an obsession, about the threat, from the West, that he thinks he's in the right, no matter what the outside world does. The question, of course, is what the people around him will do.
But we saw, during the Second World War, the number of attempts that were made, from inside the Third Reich to eliminate Hitler. It's not as easy as it sounds.
So, the question is, as you first posed it, will he ever be in The Hague? Will he ever be prosecuted? And it's one thing to charge him. It's another thing to actually get someone extradited or captured. And I think that's going to be very difficult, given the fact that this is a nuclear power.
COOPER: Yes. Robin Wright, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.
The world is showing solidarity, with Ukraine, as fighting intensifies. Here, our Gary Tuchman, visited a Church, in New York City that's offering a message, of support, for the Ukrainian community. He will take us there, next.
COOPER: Well, again, the breaking news, from here, in Ukraine, a massive Russian convoy, nearing the capital, Kyiv.
This is - this is across the world, People are coming together, in rallies, and boycotts, and support, for Ukraine, and its people, many wearing blue and yellow, carrying the Ukrainian flag, in solidarity.
The fighting is also hitting home, for Ukrainian Americans, who are worried about the events unfolding, with Russia. Our Gary Tuchman visited a large Ukrainian Church, in New York City, where they held a mass, to show support, for the Ukrainian community.
Gary joins us now.
So Gary, talk a little bit about this church, and what you saw.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this is the St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church, in New York City. It's in the East Village section of Manhattan.
And inside this beautiful house of worship, we just attended a mass that ended a short time ago. This Church celebrates at least two masses every single day. But what's different right now, is that there are wartime prayers, for Ukraine and Ukrainians.
There're about 5,000 parishioners, who come to this church. About 80 percent of those 5,000 are immigrants from the Ukraine. And that's why it makes the situation so scary and terrifying. Because many, if not most of the people, who come to this church, still have family members, and friends, who are in Ukraine.
We talked to one of the priests here. And also a woman, who immigrated to this country, in 1995, and just saw her son go back to Ukraine, a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: What was the prayer that you had?
REV. PETER SHYSHKA, ST. GEORGE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH: I didn't give them the full details, OK? I don't want to be political, from the pulpit. But, at the same time, I said, "Pray for peace. Pray for your families." I still have family there.
I said, "Keep calm, and put everything in God's hands. But if you have to support, whatever you can do, to support the cause, of helping Ukraine, once again, gain - regain its independence and sovereignty, do."
TUCHMAN: How scared and worried are you about what's happening, back in your home, of Ukraine?
OKSANA IVASIV, ST. GEORGE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH: Very scared. Very scared. I was - I was mad. I was upset. I was crying. Because there's people dying. No matter it's my Ukrainian people, or even Russian boys, there's some mother, Russian mothers, they're crying, for their kids too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: Oksana talks to her son, as much as she can. But she is oh so worried.
I will tell you, Anderson, I've talked to a lot of people, who've attended masses, today and last week. And they all tell me the same thing. They have family members, and friends, who are there.
They go on WhatsApp. They text. They email. They call. And when they call, and nobody answers, and they get a voicemail, or when they send on WhatsApp, and they don't get a response, or when they send a text, and they don't get a response, or an email? They're terrified, for a minute. And then they hear back from that loved one, and they're so grateful.
And then the cycle continues. Couple of hours later, they'll send a WhatsApp, and they'll hear nothing back.
TUCHMAN: And it's just such a frightening time. And that's why they take so much comfort, in being, inside this sanctuary.
COOPER: Yes. Gary Tuchman, appreciate it. Thank you very much.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: We'll stay with CNN, for the latest, from Ukraine.
The news continues, this hour. Want to turn things over to Don and "DON LEMON TONIGHT."
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Anderson, it's good to see you there, on the ground.
You've been on a number of war zones. It strikes me, and you can correct me, if I'm wrong, to see this many civilians, actively taking part, in fighting, for their country. Is that unusual?