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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Fire At Nuclear Power Plant In Ukraine After Russian Assault; International Atomic Energy Agency: Ukraine Regulator Says No Change In Radiation Levels At Nuclear Power Plant; Russian Forces Advance In Southern Ukraine Amid Warning The "Worst Is Yet To Come." Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 03, 2022 - 21:00   ET





ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening, again.

As if the worst combat this continent has seen, since the Second World War, were not enough, Ukraine, and the rest of Europe, is now facing this.

Russian shelling, followed by a fire, still burning, at the country's largest nuclear power plant. In fact, Europe's largest nuclear power plant. A country that lived through the Chernobyl disaster are now facing the possibility and, again, just a possibility, of another.

According to the local mayor, firefighters have been unable to get to the scene, because of the combat. CNN's Kaitlan Collins tells us that the White House is monitoring the situation, and that President Biden just spoke by phone, with Ukraine's President Zelenskyy.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, moments ago, tweeted that Ukrainian authorities, say, quote, there has been no change reported in radiation levels at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant site. That is certainly very good news. The Agency is also calling for a stop to the fighting, and is warning of, quote, severe danger, if reactors are hit.

Joining us now is Joe Cirincione. He is a National Security analyst, with decades of experience, in nuclear security and policy issues.

Joe, I appreciate you being with us.

Obviously, the headline, on this, seems very ominous. There's a lot we don't know, particularly the location of the fire, the size of it, what it actually may mean. How concerned are you?

JOSEPH CIRINCIONE, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, QUINCY INSTITUTE, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR NIGHTMARES": Very concerned. I cannot overstate the seriousness of this event. What we've seen is terrifying enough. If the electricity, to this plant, is cut off? If the plumbing, to this plant, is cut off? You could be looking at another Chernobyl, another major nuclear power disaster, on Ukrainian territory. There are multiple ways this could get very terrible, very quick.

COOPER: How does - explain that. Because clearly, I mean, from a strategic standpoint, Russian authorities might want to try to take this plant offline, in order to deprive the country, of electricity, to their cities. You're saying, if the electricity to a plant--


COOPER: --is cut off--


COOPER: --that could trigger an incident?


COOPER: How can that be?

CIRINCIONE: Yes. If they want to take this, off the grid, they should go and capture the plant, and cut it, take it off the grid.

But what they're doing is physically attacking this. We've used this word a lot, in the last week. This is unprecedented. This has never happened in world history, a determined attack, on a nuclear power plant.

What you're worried about is two things. One, for those reactors that may still be operating? And I believe there were six reactors, at this facility, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.

If those fuel rods are still in the reactor, and you cut off the electricity? Then you're cutting off the cooling system that controls the reaction, and you will be unleashing a, uncontrollable nuclear chain reaction, in that facility. You will have a meltdown. You will have a Chernobyl. You will have a Fukushima. That's what you're talking about.

But for those - even for those reactors that are already shut down, where the fuel has been removed, and put into a coolant pond, those cooling ponds have to be filled with water.


If you're cutting off the plumbing, if you're cutting off the electricity? You face the risk of those pools draining of the water, and again, an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction that could lead to an explosion that would release plumes of radioactivity, for hundreds of square kilometers.

COOPER: Now, I should point out, we do not know - I mean, there's so much we don't know. We do not know if they are actually attacking the plant, trying to physically damage the plant, which, as you say, would be incredibly alarming, or just trying to take over the physical location, and that there is gunfire and potential shelling around the plant.

It does - I don't know, if that's a difference that matters, at all, to you?

CIRINCIONE: No. That's right. If it's a controlled attack that's trying to knock out the guards, overcome the security, protecting the plant? But I'm looking at this video, like you are. And this does not seem like a very controlled attack. There was a lot of gunfire--


CIRINCIONE: --going into that plant. This does not look like a precision attack, like a careful attack, to me.

Again, the risks, of this kind of attack, the risks, of what could happen, to any nuclear power plant, and this, the largest in Europe, is off the charts. They should immediately ceasefire, immediately try to negotiate some kind of surrender of the plant, where the operators could at least maintain control and prevent a nuclear catastrophe.

COOPER: No - the Ukrainian regulator, telling the IAEA that there's been no change, in the reported radiation levels, at the plant?


COOPER: That is positive news, is it not?

CIRINCIONE: Yes, it is. And there is various sites that track radioactive release. And you can find them on Twitter or Facebook. Social media is amazing, in situations, like this. And so far, there's no elevated radiation, coming from that area. So, that's the good news. Nothing terrible has happened yet.

COOPER: Joe Cirincione, I really appreciate your expertise. It's so important, at a time, like this. So, thank you so much.

CIRINCIONE: Thank you.

COOPER: We'll continue to follow this.

CIRINCIONE: Stay safe.

COOPER: More now on the larger battle that this apparently is a part of, the fight in southern Ukraine.

Now, for the last week or so, as you probably know, Russian forces have been conducting a city-by-city campaign, first, to reestablish that land bridge, from Russia to the Crimean peninsula, and at times, it seems ultimately to Odessa.

More on that now, from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): The town of Kherson refuses to give up, it seems.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): Looting, crippling life here, this Russian soldier's bid, to get into a cell phone store, a sign of the lawless world, they brought, with them, where food and medicine is lacking.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): And what life is left made more unbearable, by the laying of tripwire mines, local officials said. This one, posted online, to warn others.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): On the other side, of Russian-held Crimea, Mariupol, under siege, without water or electricity. The Mayor saying, the Russian, quote, "Scum have found no other way to break us."

The prize, in the south, is this, Odessa, its Opera House fortified, its coastline, a harder task, where the tide could bring Russians in with it. Yet still laps, as if nothing has changed.

An Estonian ship sank, Thursday, east of here, its crew rescued, with Ukrainian officials, accusing Russia, of shelling it, to act as cover, for their landing ships. Any hour now, when the landing force could hove irrevocably into view.


PATON WALSH (voice-over): Odessa brims with locals ready though, like so many here.

These civilian defendants don't want their whereabouts filmed, but are happy to speak.

ZHENA, VOLUNTEER FIGHTER: The war started, so we returned back home.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): Zhena is Chief Marketing Officer, for an IT company, who's traveled Europe and Africa, but joined up, to fight, on day one.

ZHENA: Unfortunately, I have lost two of my friends, in Kherson, two days ago. They had--

PATON WALSH (on camera): I am sorry.

ZHENA: --yes. They also have been--

PATON WALSH (on camera): Were they fighting in Kherson?

ZHENA: Yes. They were fighting. And they - the war, in SS - in volunteer troop, so they have no military background at all. Both of them are programmers.



PATON WALSH (voice-over): We're joined by Lera (ph), age 19, a nanny, who fled Russians, in Crimea, when she was 11.



PATON WALSH (voice-over): "We're ready to the end to defend our land," she said. "The occupiers came to my home before. My family are still there. Only I could leave, because I don't want to live in Russia."


PATON WALSH (voice-over): Across town, mothers knit, camouflage netting, while like Nellia, their daughters fight, her staying behind, to defend Kyiv.

NELLIA KONONOVA, VOLUNTEER: We know the danger. We know that it will come. But we didn't know when will it come?


And, I asked them, "Children, come here, please. Be safe. Come to me." But they didn't want. "No, mom. Please stay alive. Stay safe. But we will defend our," because everybody loves our Motherland, everybody.

Sorry. Sorry.

Everybody wants to be independent, to be free. They decided to stay there, and I can't influence their decision. But I pray, every day, I pray, every night, for them, to stay alive.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): The defiant words of the Ukrainian soldiers, of Snake Island, who told a Russian ship, where to shove it, echo here.

KONONOVA: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) (BLEEP) (FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Russian ship (BLEEP). It's the logo, it's the logo now, in Ukraine.

PATON WALSH (voice-over): They'll need more than high spirits, in the days ahead.


COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh, joins us now, from Odessa.

I mean, that mom, it's just, I mean, listening to her, she wants to protect her kids. And yet, she's proud of them, of course, for fighting. And she's, telling Putin where to go. I mean, it's just extraordinary. There are so many moms, like that. We see them, here in Lviv. We see them in Kyiv. We see them everywhere. And probably there are moms, like that, in Russia, who are sick that their sons are in that convoy, or are the foot soldiers, in this war that, they don't even want!

PATON WALSH: No, I mean, look, in the 20 years, I've been seeing this standoff, between Ukraine and Russia, in which Moscow has been so desperate, to retain its supremacy, over its neighbor.

We never imagined that we could be at a point, like this, frankly. Even the notion of the conflict that broke out, in 2014, 2015, when I covered the first protests in 2004, in central Kyiv, that seemed far- fetched.

And to be standing here, and hearing you talk, Anderson, about the possibility of some sort of nuclear accident, whatever that ends up developing? But the notion that open warfare is occurring, across Ukraine, is just gut-wrenchingly startling.

And to hear her voice, the fears of so many here that families are split apart, they may never see each other again? We see daily people making decisions about where they're going to be, for next week, but also possibly the years ahead, if indeed, the Russian occupation, goes forward, in the way that we think, we're seeing it happen, right now, is utterly shocking, in Europe, in 2022.

And, I think, the thing that's so chilling, having observed Putin, for over 20 years, is that we are seeing something that seems so far removed, from rational.

That the plan, when we're talking about nuclear power stations, and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and a game plan, which appears to have no notion, of how it might, in the future, control civilian areas? That leaves you with this awful feeling about how nihilistic this operation may end up being, Anderson.

COOPER: Nick Paton Walsh, I appreciate it. Your reporting is so personal, and so poignant. And it really brings us, in that room, with that mother. I really appreciate it. It's so important. Thank you.

We go next to Kyiv, and CNN's Matthew Chance.

Matthew, is this one of the nightmare scenarios, for government officials, in Kyiv?


COOPER: This fight at the nuclear plant's the--

CHANCE: --nuclear power plant, yes. Yes. Yes.


CHANCE: Of course, yes. And it's not just for the officials, in Kyiv. Of course, it's a nightmare scenario, for everybody, in the world, to think that they would be fighting, so intensively, in the area, where Europe's biggest nuclear power plant, is located.

There's been a warning, already from the IAEA, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, saying that they're gravely concerned, about the situation. Because it's the - it's the - it's the first time, really that there's been such fierce fighting, in the vicinity of an operating nuclear power plant. And so, obviously, the risks are significant.

The Ukrainian Foreign Minister has said that there's fire, coming in, from all sides. And there's obviously, a great deal of military activity, taking place there. And there is a building, as we've been reporting, in the sort of compact, in the area of the nuclear power plant that is on fire. And firefighters have been struggling to get to it.


I have to stress - we should stress that the moment, the reactor, one of the reactor - there were six reactors there. One of them is not on fire. It's not - that's not what's happening, right now.

It's a building, a training building, apparently that is on fire. But obviously, the risks are there. I mean, when you've got such fighting, in such close proximity, you can't rule that out.

And, of course, in this country, in particular, it's particularly resonant, because this is where Chernobyl is. This is where, in 1986, the world's biggest nuclear accident, most serious nuclear accident, took place. And it's still very vivid, in the memories, of people, in this country, people, in Russia. It was the Soviet Union, back then, of course.

And the idea that that could be repeated, again, in this horrific situation that is unfolding, across the country, is just terrifying, as I say, for Ukrainian people, Ukrainian officials, and for people, around the world, Anderson.

COOPER: So, the damage, today, in and around Kyiv, it seemed to be, and elsewhere in the country, I mean, some of the images, are just startling, even though they're not surprising, given the Russia's history.

But it definitely seem to be worse, targeting more residential areas, more - even more aggressively, than we've seen before. Is that accurate?

CHANCE: I think it is. I mean, look, I mean, they're shocking images, if not surprising images. I mean, I was just looking at some of the video, we've been broadcasting, from a region, just outside of the Ukrainian capital, with an apartment building, absolutely devastated.

There's, I mean, an armored column, a Russia column that's devastated, and destroyed, in the streets, in the square outside, from another location.

Though these horrific images that have appeared, which I'm not sure, we've cleared, for our air, at this point, but I've seen them, of people screaming, in the aftermath, of what appear to be, some kind of artillery strike, cluster munitions, or something like that. I mean, it's absolutely horrific, that civilian areas are now being targeted.

And, of course, if it's true, and it probably is that the Russians sent in an underpowered invasion force, in the first instance, and didn't make the kind of tactical gains that they expected to make, and that they have now decided to ramp up that military pressure, and to really pile in, and to throw whatever they've got, at this, to make sure they win, this war? Then, you are going to see these civilian casualties, skyrocket upwards. I mean, that's inevitable.

You've got, millions of people, in close concentration, where the fighting is happening. And so, we are going to be seeing more and more horrific scenes, just like this.

COOPER: Matthew Chance, so appreciate your reporting, tonight, and always. Thank you so much.

Coming up next, more on that nuclear plant, the fighting there, the implications, with retired General "Spider" Marks, and Peter Zwack.

Later, my visit today, to a hospital, here, in Lviv, where children are being treated from cancer and they're coming here, from all over Ukraine, because their treatment has stopped, elsewhere.




COOPER: Ukrainian authorities tell the international regulators that so far radiation levels are normal, at Europe's largest nuclear power plant, in southern Ukraine. That is very good news. Radiation levels are normal.

As you know, fire broke out there, after it came under Russian attack. And according to the local mayor, firefighters cannot reach the scene, because of the combat.

And again, these are closed circuit camera images that we're showing to you. That's why the quality is not better.

Before the break, we spoke to a nuclear expert, who called the situation, very dangerous.

But we should also emphasize, there's so much we do not yet know, about precisely, what is happening there. So, and I always think that's really important to point out, in these situations, to not get freaked out, because there's just a lot we don't know.

But we're going to get some perspective, on that, but also, the larger battle, in that part of Ukraine, and the larger Russian campaign.

Joining us, CNN Military Analyst, retired Army Major General James "Spider" Marks. Also, retired Army Brigadier General Peter Zwack. He's a former Defense Attache, to Russia, and currently a Global Fellow, at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute.

General Marks, we heard Nick Paton Walsh, earlier, talk about Russian gains, in and around the cities, in Ukraine's southern Black Sea coast. Can you just show us where those points are, and why they are so important, strategically, for Russia?

MAJOR. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), U.S. ARMY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Oh, yes, absolutely, Anderson. Let me show you.

And that reporting is quite phenomenal. CNN needs to pat itself on the back, frankly. This is absolutely up-close. It's personal. It's real. It's timely. It really gives everybody a wonderful insight.

What's so significant about the coastline here, is if Russia can control that? It controls access from the Black Sea. It suddenly makes Ukraine a landlocked country.

If, under normal circumstances, if this were not, if they were not under assault? This would be extremely difficult, for Ukraine. Their industry, their agriculture, their economy would be adversely affected. Certainly, if they could not access the Black Sea. That's the intent, down here, of Russian forces.

Clear to keep in mind that Kyiv remains the center of gravity. That's where they need to achieve their primary objective. They need to get that accomplished, in order to have everything else, try to tumble, or at least come under the control, of the forces there.

But it's so important that they're down here, not only do you create this, you end up creating a zone, Russia now has the ability to maneuver at will. That's what's most important, about what's taking place, down here, right now, Anderson.


COOPER: General Zwack, when you see what's happening, at this nuclear power plant? And again, a lot we don't know. But the idea of a firefight, at a nuclear power plant, just, on the face of it, doesn't sound great.

Particularly, those images, we saw, of tracer fire, hitting this building, at a plant, it didn't look like, you know, in the movies, you would think, if a specialized squad, was going to take over, a nuclear power plant, you don't really think that they would be firing, at a building, like this. You would think it would be done more precisely.

How risky is an attack, in or around a nuclear power plant?

BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK (RET), FORMER U.S. DEFENSE ATTACHE TO RUSSIA, U.S. ARMY, GLOBAL FELLOW, KENNAN INSTITUTE AT THE WILSON CENTER: Great question. What stuns me is the fact that this is indiscriminate. It is seemingly undisciplined. It is criminal. And the local commanders, for whatever reason, in fact, the entire operation, in Ukraine, is increasingly, in my mind, for the Russians, has become kind of ad hoc. And local commanders, and firing - I don't see organized fire strikes. There're different units, firing at different things. It's chaotic.

So, I think, what's happening, around the nuclear power plant, which is in a very sensitive industrial region, for Ukraine - and this is really important. This whole greater area, Zaporizhzhia, the Dnieper, Donbas, that is part of Stalin's industrialization project.

That's part of what the old Soviet Union had, as its industrial heart, and, I believe, in part, why Putin, is so driven, to bring back Ukraine. And all that industrialization created a great famine, in the 30s that killed close to 4 million Ukrainians.

And you think the Ukrainians are fighting them now? This has picked a gigantic, gigantic scab, of bottom line, indiscriminate, undisciplined, criminal, chaotic, and it kind of matches what we've seen, outside of Ukraine, in Kharkiv, as well.

COOPER: General Marks, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said today, it destroyed 20 Russian military vehicles, in the vicinity of that 40- mile long convoy, north of Kyiv. Can you show us where that convoy is, in relation to the capital?

And, I don't know, I mean, it's hard to tell when you think it could get there, because we're not sure exactly what the holdup is. But it seems like, is part of the holdup, for them, just that they're trying to build like a logistics hub, and they don't really - or, why do you think this convoy is stalled like this?

MARKS: Yes. Anderson, what I think is really taking place, is you have Antonov airbase was right here. That was the airhead that was initially taken down by the Russians, literally a week ago. We're at D-plus-seven, D-plus-eight, right now. So, they've been in this a week.

And you can see the level of penetration, is so minimal, everywhere, because they've stalled, coming out of the blocks. What has happened here is they achieved some initial success. They haven't been able to get into the city.

In fact, let me blow this up for you. Out here is where the - out - yes, Antonov airfield, excuse me, right here. Then you have Kyiv, here. When you start getting into Kyiv, this is incredibly compartmentalized. And also, you've got the Dnieper that comes right down here, which separates the forces.

The convoy has come down like this. It's here, and it's stalled, because it can't get offloaded here, and start moving into positions, to prepare for an assault. That's the primary problem that they're dealing with, right now.

COOPER: That's fascinating. James "Spider" Marks, General James "Spider" Marks, appreciate it, General Zwack, as well. Just ahead, I want to share with you some of the children, and the parents, and the doctors that we met here, in Lviv, today, at a specialized Children's Hospital. These are kids with cancer.

When we cover wars, we have these maps, and we talk about what the soldiers are doing, and the fights. And all of that is, of course, a main part of war.

But there are also children fighting, right now. They're fighting cancer. They're fighting heart disease. They're fighting all the things that kids around the world, fight, and adults have to fight. But they're doing it, in the midst of a war.

And, right now, there are kids, in this city, who have come from all over Ukraine, because their treatment, they can't get cancer treatment anymore, and they're in a hospital, here. And they're hoping to get out, to Poland, to get to a better hospital.

And I want you to meet some of them ahead. We'll be right back.



COOPER: You may have seen pictures, earlier in the week, of children, in a cancer ward, in Kyiv, who had to be taken down, into bomb shelters, in the basement, of the hospital, and treated there, because of the attacks.

And they can get infections there, and they can die, because of those infections. It's not a sterile environment, for them. So, some of those kids have, their parents, their moms, have taken them now, here, to Lviv. And, in the last couple days, hundreds of kids, with cancer, have come to a hospital.

And tonight, nearby here, not too far from here, there are kids, in rooms that are filled with kids, who have cancer, whose lives hang in the balance. Their treatment is being interrupted. Because of air raid sirens, they have to go down in the basement. They get unplugged from their IVs.

They're hoping to bring a lot of them to Poland. But, right now, there's a lot of kids, in danger. They are the youngest victims, of this conflict. And I want you to meet some of them.


COOPER (voice-over): The fighting hasn't come to Lviv, but the war's littlest victims have. This Children's Hospital is full with kids being treated for cancer. More than 100 have arrived here, in the past few days, from Ukrainian cities, already under attack.

COOPER (on camera): How did they get here?

DR. ROMAN KIZYMA, WESTERN UKRAINIAN SPECIALIZED PEDIATRIC MEDICAL CENTRE: Different ways. So, they try to get any bus, or train. And mostly, at night, they arrive. And we try to get them, from the trains.

COOPER (on camera): Yes.

KIZYMA: And it's chaos in the railway station. So, people just push them, because it's panic.

COOPER (voice-over): Dr. Roman Kizyma has barely slept, in three days.

COOPER (on camera): What do you need here?

KIZYMA: First of all, we need the information, to be spread that there is kind of problems. So, we need to stop - stop the violence, and get the treat - get the treatment, for kids.

And the second thing is strategical planning. We will face shortages of the drugs, and technologies, in very short future.

COOPER (voice-over): He's trying to get, as many kids, as possible, into hospitals, in Poland, to save their lives.

KIZYMA: A lot of them will die in the nearest future, because of this shortages of drugs, and this treatment breaks, and not only for cancer, but a lot of other things. And we know that, and we are desperate.

COOPER (voice-over): The rooms here are crowded, and conditions are less than ideal.

KIZYMA: We have the constant air alarm, like we had four of them, last night, I guess. And we--

COOPER (on camera): Air raid sirens?

KIZYMA: Yes. And then we have to have all these kids, grabbed, and taken into shelter.

COOPER (on camera): So, every time there's an air raid siren, you have to - even if it's a false alarm, you have to bring them down?


KIZYMA: Yes, yes, yes. It is a mess. And it just look like - I've never seen that, like in the movies, a lot of both kids, and mothers, crying, and they are just running somewhere.

COOPER (on camera): What game are you playing?


COOPER (on camera): Ah! How do you play it?

COOPER (voice-over): 8-year-old Alexi (ph) has brain cancer. He'd been making good progress, in Kyiv, until the war stopped his treatment. He got here, four days ago, with his mother Lita (ph).

COOPER (on camera): How are you doing? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is difficult, because we've gone through such a long way of treatment. We have been getting treatment for a year now. And then, we had such a little step left, to make, to the finishing line, to the happy end? This dream abruptly stops.

COOPER (voice-over): Tomorrow, she'll take Alexi (ph) by bus, to a hospital, in Poland. She's left her other children behind, in Kyiv.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): My youngest is three, and my oldest is 16. They have to stay there, and my heart is breaking. I am grateful that we can go, and continue the treatment, and help my child, who really needs it right now. But, on the other side, I am so worried, as I'm leaving my two other kids behind.

COOPER (on camera): That is an impossible decision to have to make?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes. But we have made it so far, in the treatment. And I have strong belief that our treatment will be successful.

COOPER (voice-over): In another room, we met Bohdan (ph).

COOPER (on camera): Is this your truck?

COOPER (voice-over): At two, he survived a heart attack, a stroke and stomach cancer. Now eight, the cancer's come back. His mother, Natalia (ph), is with him, around the clock.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We have only gone through one course of chemotherapy. Now, we are doing more blood tests. So far, the results are not good. They're preparing for the second course of the therapy. You know, it is very difficult now. And when the sirens go off, the doctors come, and disconnect him, from the treatment.

COOPER (on camera): What is it like, to be a mother, trying to protect a child, during this war?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It is so difficult. I cannot just put it into words. Do you understand? It is impossible to put it into words. Because every mother wants their baby to be healthy.

COOPER (on camera): How do you explain, what is happening, to an 8- year-old?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I am trying not to involve him too much in this situation, not to traumatize him. When we are running, he asks, if we can take a break, as he wants to walk a bit. He wants to walk around his room a bit, as he is constantly bedridden, getting the treatment.

At first, when we were going down, to the bunker, he was getting very scared. "What is going on? Everyone is running to hide."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): First time when I came here, I was very afraid. I did not know where we are going.

COOPER (on camera): It's scary to see the other people who are scared.



COOPER (on camera): Yes. You're very brave!


COOPER (voice-over): There is no shortage of bravery, in this place. These kids, these moms, they've been fighting for years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Please help us. It is very difficult for us here. Help us to save our country.

There's every day, in the news, we hear about invasion that our big city, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine, and the rest of our land, is bombarded. People are running away, from there.

And we do not know, what awaits for us. We just cannot know. We hope that the whole world will help us, to stop the aggressor.


COOPER: If you'd like to help, those kids, and others, here, you can donate to the Tabletochki Charity Foundation, at this link, on the page.

I'm going to put this, on my Twitter account, and also my Instagram account, as soon as I get off the air, because it's a very long, obviously, link there. It's not very user-friendly. But I'll post that, if anyone wants to help, and the doctors there say that money will help their hospital, and others.

We're staying on tonight's breaking news, the fire at the nuclear power plant, in southeastern Ukraine, after Russia's military attack. Fareed Zakaria will join me, next.

We'll also discuss the newest round of sanctions, announced by the White House, today, targeting Russian oligarchs. Will they actually do anything to pressure Vladimir Putin? That is next.



COOPER: There is a fire, at a nuclear power plant, in the south, in Ukraine, the largest power plant - nuclear power plant, in Europe. Authorities say radiation levels are normal, at this time.

There were also the Russian Foreign Minister's comments today that any war between it and NATO would be potentially nuclear, and Putin speaking on state TV, claiming that everything was, according to the translation, quote, "Going according to plan." Well, it is, as we reported, only expected to get worse.

I'm joined now, by Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS."

So, Fareed, I mean, obviously, first of all, the fighting around this nuclear power plant, Zaporizhzhia, what does it say about Russia's military, their capabilities? We had on General Zwack, earlier, who was talking about the imprecise fire, the chaotic firing, around this plant.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Well, it says clearly, things are not going according to plan.

We've seen that, from day one, when they sent a fast lightning force in, the hope was that Kyiv would fall instantly, that, maybe the government would be overturned. None of that has happened. Really, nothing has gone, according to the Russian plan.

But what worries me, Anderson, is that what that is likely to do, is to make Vladimir Putin more determined that he is going to get Kyiv, no matter what, get control of this country, no matter what. And you are seeing, the Russians are operating, with a greater degree of brutality.

So, you don't see much, by the way, of Russian, you know, this army is not nearly as competent, and fearsome, as people thought. But it is turning very brutal. It is turning indiscriminate. And that, in some ways, is even more worrying.

COOPER: A French official said, today, after President Macron's phone call, with Vladimir Putin that the worst is yet to come. It's clear, it is going to get worse. I mean, we're already seeing this, you know, greater attacks, on residential areas, multiple missile strikes, in a residential area.

We've seen that a number of times, that apartment complex that has just been decimated, near Kyiv. What do you - I mean, the images of that are just starting to relay. As I said, earlier, I mean, that's a hole, right through that apartment complex. It looks like something from Grozny.

Where do you think this is going? How do you see this going?


ZAKARIA: I think it's going to be very bloody. Putin is determined to take control. But, as you point out, the problem is, when you're trying to take control of cities, you're almost doing it block-by- block, Anderson.

And, as you take a block, holding that block? This is what we discovered, in Afghanistan, and Iraq, for the American army. Holding the block is even more difficult, because now you've got to keep stationary forces there. And somebody can throw a Molotov cocktail, a rocket fire grenade, something or the other. So, it's going to be - it's going to get very messy. But, I think, that what I come back to is, he is determined to do this. He has an army that is much, much larger than the Ukrainians. I think it's a 10 to one advantage that Russia has, in terms of military spending. And look at the indiscriminate nature of the warfare, even in a nuclear plant.

So, my fear is that what we are beginning to watch is a cornered Putin, a Putin, for whom things have not gone according to plan. But that is not somebody who maybe will quietly surrender. It is somebody, who is going to double down. He's going to get more erratic. He's going to get more vengeful, against the people of Ukraine. This is a very scary time.

COOPER: The new sanctions, announced, by the White House, tonight, against Russian oligarchs? Again, it's not going to stop the fighting right, now. Is it worthwhile?

ZAKARIA: I think what's worthwhile is the way in which the White House has rallied the world, gotten everybody on board.

The sanctions have been very tough, tougher than any - against any major economy before. They are exacting a real price. I think going after the oligarchs is a good next step. I think that escalating these sanctions makes sense.

I fear Anderson that the only one that will matter is the ultimate one, which we will have to think about, which is oil and gas. Because all of the other things, we're doing, even with these oligarchs, I mean, this is an indirect way of getting at some of the people, who support Putin.

We have to go to the heart of the issue. The heart of the issue is the - are the oil and gas revenues that keep the Russian state afloat. They keep Putin in power. And there are ways to do it.

The United States, today, is the world's largest producer of oil and gas, in the world. We could suspend - we could ramp up production. We could suspend sanctions, on Venezuela, and get Venezuelan oil going. We could suspend sanctions on Iran, get Iranian oil going. We could talk to the Saudis.

I know all of it sounds a little unpalatable. But we are facing an existential crisis. Vladimir Putin is trying to destroy the world order that was built after 1945, and he is decimating a nation, in doing so.

The battle - we've joined the battle. The only question now is, is the United States, and is the Civilized World, going to win? Or is Putin going to win?

And the best path, to strangle, choke, pressure him, is cut off his oil and gas revenues. There is a lot of oil and gas in the world.


ZAKARIA: We can find ways to turn it on. But deny Russia the revenues that come from - kill the goose that's laying the golden eggs.

COOPER: Yes. Fareed Zakaria, appreciate it. Thank you.

We're monitoring the fire at that nuclear power plant. We'll also bring you any new information, of course, as we get it.

Coming up, the man, who was once the richest oligarch, in Russia, is a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin, how far does he think Putin could go, in this war? That's next.




COOPER: Update now, in our lead story, the fighting fire, at Europe's largest nuclear power plant, in southern Ukraine.

Joining us now by phone, is the plant's spokesman, Andrii Tuz.

Andrii, tell us what is happening now, at the plant.


COOPER: Yes, yes.

TUZ: I am from Enerhodar. It is location, in the biggest land nuclear power plants, in the Europe. Now, shooting is being continued, from air, and tank. Any moment, it may result in nuclear accidents.

Many buildings are damaged, and on fire. One of six power unit is in operational now. Our fixed power units are loaded with nuclear fuel. Firefighters are not allowed to enter. And, at night, is there fire.

We ask American to close the airspace, on Ukraine. Please help us.

COOPER: Where is the fire located?

TUZ: Fire is located, on the buildings, in a nuclear power plant.

COOPER: So, it's located, in a building? It's not at the reactor?

TUZ: Many buildings on fire (ph).

COOPER: You're saying there are multiple fires?


TUZ: --reactors. But it's not fire on reactor. At the fire--

COOPER: The reactors are not on fire?

TUZ: --reactor, and reactor - around the building.

COOPER: Is the - are - is this from gunshots? Is this from missiles, from rockets, from mortars? What is the nature of the attack?

TUZ: All weapons in this - in Russian Federation has old weapons, from air, from tanks, from rockets, many, many armors.

COOPER: Who is in control of the plant?

TUZ: Ukraine. Ukrainian rockets, now, at the plant, at the units, and they're here, being the - safety in nuclear power plant, now. But any moment, it may result, in a nuclear accident.


COOPER: You say, any moment it might result in a nuclear accident. What exactly could - how could that happen? You're saying, buildings are on fire. The reactors are not on fire?

TUZ: Shooting. Russian Federation to continue shooting, at the nuclear power plant, at the unit of nuclear power plant, unit one, unit two have damage.

COOPER: Andrii Tuz, I appreciate you talking to us. Thank you very much.

TUZ: Thank you. Help us, please.

COOPER: That's Andrii Tuz, from the nuclear power plant.

Again, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back, with more.


COOPER: CNN is going to be obviously continuing to cover the fire, at the nuclear power plant, in southern Ukraine.

The news continues, right now. Want to turn it over to Don Lemon, who joins me now.


DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Anderson, I think it's important to continue your reporting there, since you just spoke with, I believe, the power plant manager. I was just getting ready, to come on the show.

COOPER: Spokesperson, yes.

LEMON: The spokesperson. What is the spokesperson saying?