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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Civilians Killed As Russian Military Strike Hits Evacuation Route In Kyiv Suburb; U.N. Says More Than 1.5 Million People Have Fled Ukraine; Russian Attacks Decimated This Residential Area; Multinational Effort To Send Weapons To Ukraine Proceeds At High Speed. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 06, 2022 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening again. We begin this hour with reality here in Ukraine. Russia has made attacks on civilian areas and civilians themselves not an exception. But the rule and perhaps the goal as their ground forces have stalled according to Western officials. We've seen them return to the tactics, the siege warfare bombing and shelling neighborhoods then bombing and shelling evacuation routes.
That is now the reality here as we saw graphically horribly on a street in European which Russian mortar fire turned into a gauntlet the fleeing civilians were desperately trying to run. There is video of it the first mortar to land. Warning it is very difficult to watch.
Calling for a medic for a family that has fallen. Photojournalism Lynsey Addario, who you saw in that video, reporting to the New York Times captured an image of the terrible aftermath, we're going to show it to, a mother or son and daughter killed, a family friend badly wounded. The medics there are trying to help the friend who's wounded.
The family dog you heard wailing, terrified if there would never be another photograph of the war. This one would say enough. We'll talk to Lynsey Addario on 360 coming up this week.
Sadly, there will be more photographs, many more in the days and weeks and perhaps months ahead. Because again, and again, these were civilians on an exposed portion of the route out of Irpin, a town that's already been targeted, so a civilian area has already been targeted.
Finally, people were able to get out the last several days slowly making it over a very precarious place by a bridge that had been purposely blown up to slow the Russian advanced and that was the area that civilians were evacuating from and the Russian forces decided to strike that, I guess to prevent civilians from leaving.
Part of the reporters day spent CNN's Clarissa Ward did was the in that area, just yesterday doing talking to cameras. You may have seen her reporting. Here some of it. [22:05:09]
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARRISA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm just going to help her carry this bag a second, excuse me. While we try to -- you see them, people are so exhausted. They can barely walk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that was yesterday. Today, there was an attack in that area. It's the elderly, the chronically ill, the most vulnerable who've been forced to stay. There's more than 1.5 million now have fled the country. It is the biggest and most sudden outflow of refugees in Europe since the Second World II and though, neighboring countries have so far provided a warm welcome. There's no experience comparable to waking up one morning as so many now have without a home and waking up the next as a stranger among strangers.
Hard to imagine just what that feels like until you see this little boy just across the border in Poland walking ahead of the grown-ups all alone.
Sam Kiley is covering a different kind of evacuation effort from near the reactor complex now in Russian hands near Zaporizhzhia. He joins us now. So Sam, what have you seen in recent hours?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, just in the last few hours, the International Energy Atomic Energy has issued an appeal demand to the Russians who have captured Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility that's about 30 miles as the crow flies from the city Zaporizhzhia because they are able only to communicate with a very, very faint cell phone signal with people inside that facility maintaining that facility.
They have no idea now, any of the monitoring equipment is not communicating with the authority. They don't think yet that there has been any kind of leakage, but there is very, very limited communications with that six reactor complex, Anderson, down just 30 miles south of Zaporizhzhia.
As a consequence of that, the numbers of people fleeing the area are accelerating. This is what it looked like on the ground.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
KILEY (voice-over): A collective breath is held as a long awaited evacuation train slows to a halt. The odds of getting out determined by access to a carriage door.
Police struggled to contain the crowd all are desperate to flee West. The mass evacuation from Zaporizhzhia is part driven by the recent capture of a nuclear power station by Russian invaders.
Here they're being backed by the control room over a public address system to stop their attack on the six reactor plant, the biggest in Europe. They say you are endangering the security of the entire world attention stop shooting at a nuclear hazardous facility. Attention, stop it.
There is now a disregard as much for nuclear safety as civilian lives in cities across the country being bombarded by Russia.
(on camera): Scenes like this have not been seen in Europe since the Second World II in the 20th century, the mass evacuation of civilians from a major city, it's been accelerated here, because the people now believe based on the evidence that they've seen elsewhere in Ukraine that it is civilians who are now going to be targeted in Vladimir Putin's invasion.
SERGIY SAMKO, ZAPORIZHZHIA RESIDENT (through translator): When Russian troops came closer to Zaporizhzhia, I decided it was better to get my family out before they entered the city itself.
LATONA SAMKO, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE: We can make it on the train today because this morning people didn't let us in, even though we have a baby.
KILEY (voice-over): This is a wall that separates lovers and parts husbands from their wives, fathers from their families. Ukrainian men here between 18 and 60 cannot leave. They're needed for the fight.
(on camera): You're staying here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.
KILEY: So this is goodbye, temporarily. I hope in a week or two you can be back together again.
(voice-over): More than a million Ukrainians have fled their homeland so far, but more still are enduring these freezing conditions in the hope of a train to safety.
But Nikola Timcishan (ph) who's at is staying on. He's a former paratrooper in the Soviet Army.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I made Molotov cocktails. I have great rifles. I'm a hunter with 40 years of experience. I have a metal left from the USSR. I'm staying. I hate them. All the invaders because of this, not to mention the fact that my grandson was bombed for a week in Kharkiv.
KILEY: Those people who make it on board now face a 600 mile journey to Lviv for those who don't, time and luck, maybe running out.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: Sam, many of the people you spoke with, Aare they staying in Lviv? Or are they basically trying to get to Poland or Moldova, Romania? KILEY: Most of them are hoping to get out of the country all together. And of course the scenes there that we saw a bad enough. But we've seen those video and stills now emerging from Kharkiv, which is a town that 150 miles north of here, 75 percent of whom have speak Russian as a first language that has been hammered, absolutely hammered in attacks on civilian areas.
The train station there is a complete sea of people trying to get out and they've really in the first instance trying to get away from the immediate threat of bombing then the second the threat potentially have some kind of radioactive nightmare if one of these nuclear power stations is another one about 200 miles away that's under threat from the Russians.
And then ultimately out of the country all together so that the women and children can at least be safe. And other men folk are able to leave unless they're old or very young. And they're all staying on to fight though, Anderson.
COOPER: And even some of the very old as you saw in that piece from that incredibly brave man who was a former paratrooper in the USSR. Sam Kiley, appreciate it that. Joining us now CNN military analyst and retired Army three star General Mark Hertling, also retired Army Brigadier General Peter Zwack, he's currently a global Fellow at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute.
General Hertling, Wall Street Journal reported tonight that Russia has been recruiting fighters from Syria to help take cities like Kyiv for urban combat. I mean Russia obvious already has a substantial portion of its combat troops in Ukraine at this point. What does that tell you? I mean, if in fact that reporting is accurate, what does that tell you?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Tells me they're about to use some Syrian -- fighters from Syria as cannon fodder, Anderson. You know, you're seeing some great reporting by Clarissa Ward, Sam Kiley, Nick Paton Walsh, and others who are showing how the Russians are truly establishing a new precedent of horrific destruction and human suffering.
What isn't seen as much in those great reporting is what is happening with the Russian army. We are seeing, I think, from what I'm seeing intelligence reports saying there are fewer airstrikes and even fewer artillery strikes than the first couple of days of this war. Russia is losing in equipment in mass and the casualty rates from killed, wounded captured and desertions are increasingly significant.
You know, there was a report earlier today that said they fired 600 missiles. And it struck me when I heard that they had fired 270 missiles on the first two days of the fight. We're now on day 11. So that tells me they're running out of supplies.
What I've been saying all along, is they are out running their logistics support. We're seeing fewer and fewer. When you have the Russian saying they're going to start recruiting the fighters out of Syria, which was a primary theater for Mr. Putin, it tells me they are running out of forces, and the next thing they could possibly do would be a general mobilization in Russia. And that would be horrific for Mr. Putin because he's already getting protests in the various cities throughout that country.
COOPER: General Zwack, I saw a report, I'm going to independently confirmed it, of Ukrainian officials telling Defense Forces, telling those who can attack to not focus on convoys on armored personnel carriers per se if they don't have the weaponry, but instead to focus on gas trucks apparently, which are not as -- they are not armored, you know, and just somebody is driving the fuel of the vehicle that has allowed the fuel when you destroy the fuel, you turn those tanks essentially static once they run out of fuel.
BRIG. GEN. PETER ZWACK (RET), FMR. U.S. DEFENSE ATTACHE TO RUSSIA: Yes, Anderson, I'd like to first address the report of 1,000 plus or minus foreign Syrian mercenaries. OK. Kremlin does this. You think that the Ukrainians are fighting hard now. And they're going to introduce an alien host that will be seen as marauders, an anti- encounter partisan. If you do that, the Russians do that, and add the Chechens to it, the ferocity of the fight and the defense will in my mind, it's hard to believe it would be greater, but it would.
And -- So, Russians at your own risk. Logistics, this is the key. This is the Achilles heel. Because it doesn't take a modern javelin. You can take out truck columns with Kalashnikov rifles, RPG grenade launchers that have been around for three or four decades and the Ukrainians have that. They're on these roads. They can't go off road because of the mud. These are wheeled Vic, and this chops the legs out of the Russian offensive, that might be all upfront.
But without logistics, without the ability to bring up your shells and your fuel, as you say, and oh, by the way, evacuate your wounded, because you got to come back the other way on the road, that great you're wounded and pick up more supplies.
So I believe that this is the tactical, operational Achilles heel, the Russians are having a problem. And I believe that the -- and this is a partisan fight where they're anywhere. These assets are extremely vulnerable and targetable.
HERTLING: Anderson if I can get --
COOPER: General Hertling -- yes, go ahead.
HERTLING: You're showing a film of an artillery -- of an artillery unit there the film that that's playing. It's a self-propelled artillery unit. Those things are towed by trucks. When you can destroy, I'm sorry, there are towed artillery unit, when you can destroy a self-propelled artillery unit, that's a big deal. Those are the guns on track vehicles and they move under their own power.
But the film you were showing a minute ago, had towed artillery pieces. Those were put in place by towing them there with trucks. And what Peter just said is exactly right. What we have been saying all along with true military operators have been saying all along is logistics in this kind of fight is going to kill you. What will happen next, there will still be artillery strikes, there will still be airstrikes to be sure, but they're lessening.
And if Russia, according to their original plan was going to attack Odessa, if they do that, that will be the end of their operations in the south in my view, because they cannot sustain the amount of miles of logistic supply that they would need to sustain that attack over a frontage of 400 miles in the south while at the same time continuing to go after the major cities in the north.
COOPER: General Hertling, just very quickly because we're really tight on time but Ukraine wants war plate -- wants planes. They want a no- fly zone and if they can't get at, regardless, they want planes. There's talk of Poland, perhaps sending Soviet, you know, fighters that Ukrainians have already been trained on. How critical would that be? I mean, I don't know what numbers of Polish aircraft would potentially be sent. But how important would that be for Ukrainian forces?
HERTLING: Well, if you have the territorial guard going after the logistics, which they are is Peter so adequately said, you then still have your artillery pieces, the tanks without fuel now they suddenly become pillboxes, but they still have ammunition.
So Putin is not going to surrender. So those vehicles with that amount of killing power are still going to be on the battlefield. So those aircrafts overflying those pieces of equipment will destroy those in mass, it will be sort of like the early days of Desert Storm when they were, as the air force called it plinking tanks, when tanks are on the ground and they can't move in an environment where they're on the road they're easy targets for the Air Force. And that's why these MiG-29 transfers could be so critically important and gaining at least air parity over Ukraine.
COOPER: General Hertling, General Zwack, I really appreciate it. Thank you. Coming up next, a live report from Romania, which has already received more than 200,000 Ukrainian refugees, expecting many more. Later report from a neighborhood with no military presence anywhere nearby that, however, did not stop the destruction.
COOPER: More than a million and a half people as you know have now fled Ukraine according to UN, the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. Many as we've been seeing are in Poland, others have gone to Germany or gone on to Germany, somewhere greeted at Berlin Central Station by strangers holding signs offering them places to stay.
The volume of the exodus though is staggering and the speed with which it has suddenly grown. CNN's Miguel Marquez is in Romania, country which in just days has grown and population by the equivalent of a medium sized city. Miguel, were the 200,000 people now have come to Romania? How are they managing?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's, look, it's shocking. They are managing by trying to move on from Romania to other parts of Western Europe. We can show you sort of how the process works here.
This train has just arrived from sort of near the border. Many of the people here are coming into Bucharest here, the central station for the first time. And they've set up several centers for the refugees who are coming here waiting for onward travel. This was a former fast food shop. It is now a refugee center.
We spoke to one woman who had her two kids her mother, the godmother of her kids here yesterday. She's a psychologist from Ukraine. She had a normal life two weeks ago. Now her life is turned inside out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: What does the world need to know about what is happening in Ukraine right now?
ANNA LEUKINENKO, UKRANIAN REFUGEE: That is -- what just happened and it is true. So they --
MARQUEZ: What is true?
LEUKINENKO: True so that someone came to our city and they -- there is no -- somewhere there is no city anymore and there is not safe that people need to go because they have their life then in country and now all they need is just running away. So now I'm just a person who is running from the house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARQUEZ: So literally she packed up bags she could, took the kids, took mom, took the godmother and they are basically trying to get to Krakow, Poland now. They have left the station. We saw them last night. They left the station that's about a 10-hour train ride to the port border with Slovakia. Romania is providing them that free of charge than they had to get from Slovakia to the Polish border.
And then hopefully their friends in Krakow still have room for them. But that is -- that story is times 200,000 here, most of the refugees coming into Romania are able to get out within a few days maybe a week at the most to places in Germany and other places around the world, Anderson.
COOPER: Miguel Marquez, I'm glad you're there in Bucharest, thank you. Coming up next. To some people who did not leave or could not leave, they lived in a village outside Kyiv miles away from the nearest military target. That didn't matter. CNN's Alex Marquardt has more.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The small country road is now lined by piles of rubble burned out cars, collapsed homes and a deep crater where a Russian missile struck.
The attack caught on a village security camera hit the home of Ihor Mozharev in the small village of Markhalivka about 15 miles south of Kyiv, where he lived with his family.
Now they're gone, killed in an instant, five family members and a friend including his 12-year-old daughter, who was disabled in an accident with a drunk driver, his wife just 46 years old, and his son in law, the father of his grandchildren.
IHOR MOZHAREV, MARKHALIVKA RESIDENT: There was a massive explosion and we all got trapped under rubble. My daughter has died in her wheelchair. Me and my grandchildren were rescued from under the rubble.
MARQUARDT: Today, (INAUDIBLE), black eye and face bruised, picked through the debris trying to find belongings and documents. There was a brief moment of happiness when he found one of his missing cats. But the reality of how his life is forever changed has not yet sunk in.
MOZHAREV: I have no thoughts now. What thoughts can I possibly have? It's terrible. Terrible. I just want peace for Ukraine, just leave Ukraine alone already. God help this to end as soon as possible. I will bury my relatives tomorrow. That's it, I don't know what will happen then.
MARQUARDT (on camera): There is simply no explanation for all of this destruction for the deaths that happened right here. There is no military target around four miles. This isn't a strategic village or town that needs taking.
So as the Kremlin continues to deny that they are targeting civilians, it is indiscriminate attacks, like this one that show the reality of what is going on here.
(voice-over): Olha lives down the street. She points to a mat that was used to carry the children out of the rubble.
OLHA, MARKHALIVKA RESIDENT: The main thing is for this hell to end as soon as possible. How is it possible that a brother goes against a brother. This is unthinkable. Everybody used to go to Russia and back, relatives everywhere, and now --
MARQUARDT: It's too much for Olha, and for millions across Ukraine who are in utter disbelief about what is happening to their home. Praying and pleading for the violence to end. Alex Marquardt, CNN, Markhalivka, Ukraine.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: Just ahead, There's new reporting on just how deeply involved the U.S. and Western allies are in the fight to arm Ukraine. Also in the secret base, in another country, where more supplies are being sent. We'll be right back.
COOPER: As the U.S. and its allies debate what more they can do to help defend Ukraine, CNN has new reporting about just how deeply involved they already are in the fight. Oren Liebermann broke the story. He joins us now.
So Oren, what do we know about the Biden administration? We know they've been, you know, they're against a no-fly zone. Talk about what they have been doing.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So there's a number of different tracks here. First, there is the weapons shipments that have continued to go in. And now they're going in very quickly. It used to take weeks or months. Now it's taking days and most of a $350 million security assistance package that came right from U.S. supplies from Defense Department supplies, some 70 percent of that is already in and the rest is going in very quickly.
But that's not the end of it. The U.S. working also sort of behind the scenes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had called for a no fly zone. At this point, I think you can say it's clear that U.S. and NATO are simply not going to go that route, because they view it as too close to a direct confrontation, perhaps a war with Russia, but they are working on a different angle. And that's making sure that they can try to guarantee Ukrainian -- Ukraine's ability to challenge for control of the skies above Ukraine, the challenge against the Russian Air Force.
And there they're working with countries like Poland that have MiG-29, fighter jets that the Ukrainian military already knows how to fly to make sure that Poland is able to transfer those fighter jets to Ukraine to beef up the Ukrainian Air Force.
There are also some other countries such as Slovakia and other Eastern European countries that also have fighter jets that the Ukrainian military is already trained on. And the effort there is to find out what it would take to get those countries to transfer those jets to the Ukrainian military so they can challenge for control of the skies.
Why hasn't this been done or already? Well, these countries need fighter jets in replacement U.S. F-16 for example, and that part of the process is simply taking longer than is, you know, then is -- then right now, and that's why this has didn't happen yet but it is an act of effort on the part of the U.S., Anderson.
COOPER: Do we -- is it known that it Poland is willing to do that?
LIEBERMANN: They seem willing in principle to transfer those fighter jets. It's not a question of willing for the transfer part. What they need in replacement from what we're able to understand is essentially backfield fighter jets. They want U.S. F-16 essentially even better fighter jets, but jets that you can simply transfer to Ukraine, because they're not trained on those. And that's where the holdup is.
The U.S. doesn't simply have advanced fighter jets lying around that they can transfer to other countries. So this takes essentially the logistical work to figure out where those jets will come from. You can't just instantly produce them but of course, those countries want fighter jets right now. Because Russia, they look at Russia right next door being incredibly aggressive and wonder whether it's looking beyond Ukraine. It's a process that process is not finished.
COOPER: Yes. Oren Liebermann, appreciate it. I want to (INAUDIBLE) now from former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Steven Pifer, Ambassador, thanks again for being with us. When asked about what Oren reported. This multinational effort actually get military aid into Ukraine where it counts, just how difficult a task is that?
I mean, the aid that was promised a long time ago has been, according Ukrainian officially slow to come. But this newer package of aid, it seems like they have really fast tracked. It's only going to get harder from here, though, especially if a city like Kyiv is actually surrounded because this has to come overland, doesn't it?
STEVEN PIFER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Right. Yes, no, they can't fly it in, as they were doing say two weeks ago. But you already did see an acceleration both from the United States and also from other NATO allies, providing things over the last six weeks to Ukraine. So it sounds like that process is being made even more rapid.
But now the question is, can they get things like these MiG-29s from Poland and other former Soviet Warsaw Pact states, to the Ukrainians? And it sounds like a key question there is, is there the ability of the U.S. Air Force perhaps out of some of the reserve stocks to offers an F16 that would backfill those planes?
COOPER: It's so interesting. You know, the U.S. has been -- there wasn't a lot of attention on it over the last couple of years, but the U.S. has been helping upgrade Ukrainian military forces, really, since the since Crimea, and that has turned out to be really critical in what we're seeing on the ground right now.
PIFER: Well, certainly the provision of the javelins and other anti- armor weapons has been very useful to the Ukrainians, in terms of giving small groups of infantry personnel the ability to take out Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers.
There's also been a training exercise we had up until a couple of weeks ago, a group of U.S. soldiers in Yabari (ph), that's in western Ukraine, not far from Lviv. And they we've been working with Ukrainians and training them. And actually, it's been a two-way street because the Americans have learned a lot about what the Ukrainians have experienced in terms of Russian tactics from their time on the line of contact facing off against Russian and Russian proxy forces in Donbas.
COOPER: One of the problems with the Ukrainian military is that it doesn't have a great centralized command, which is one of the kind of reasons it's not in NATO yet, because that's one of the I think, one of the requirements for NATO. But my understanding is that given the reality on the ground now, some military analysts have said that may actually be kind of a blessing in disguise right now, because they're able to operate independently, even if, you know, the military units in the south are cut off from Central Command in Kyiv.
PIFER: No, I think this is actually -- that may be right. I mean, I'm not going to qualify myself as a military expert. But the Soviet system, which the Ukrainians had inherited, really was a top down system in terms of command, and to the extent now that they have the ability for smaller units to operate more independently, given the various friends that they're having to deal with Russian forces on, that actually maybe something of an advantage.
And certainly, I think one of the things that the United States has tried --
COOPER: Go ahead, sorry.
PIFER: Yes, yes, I think one of the things that the United States has tried to do in terms of the training exercises and working with Ukraine military is to push some of that command authority down and give more independence to units that are farther down on the chain, because that's actually worked quite successfully in the U.S. military.
COOPER: How do you see the next week's going here? I mean, what -- kind of what will you be watching most closely?
PIFER: Yes, I think the big question is, can the Russians sustain the level of offense that they have had in the south or do they begin to run into problems where they have to slow down while they wait for their logistics train to catch up.
The other big question is around Kyiv is will the Russians be able to maneuver around and encircle Kyiv. You still have this large force. This large column going back almost all the way to Belarus. Can they get that group somehow deployed? And then what do they do in Kyiv? Do they encircle Kyiv? Do they -- how do they take a city? I mean, this is the 21st century Europe and we're going to see perhaps a city of 3 million people besieged by the Russian army, and how do they do it?
And my theory is that particularly as the frustration grows in the Kremlin, that we're going to see the Russians revert to what they have in terms of power, which is large scale artillery strikes. And we've already seen in Kharkiv and Chernihiv, you know, these have been used indiscriminately against the civilian residential areas. It's a war crime.
COOPER Steven Pifer, I appreciate it. Thank you so much. But more from Ukraine in just a moment. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: As the human cost of this war increases with hundreds of civilians falling victims of violence, according to the UN, the organization also says more than 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine calling it the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
Escaped to safety certainly is not easy journey even for Dancing with the Stars alum Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who documented what he witnessed as he got out of Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAKSIM CHMERKOVSKIY, DANCING WITH THE STARS ALUM: We just reached the Polish border.
You have to go outside to check your passport. And then if you go into this particular train is going to Warsaw. So, I'm just going to go -- I got to point out that everyone is extremely nice and got this. But I'm just also I feel really bad taking anything because of the fact that this is all women and children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Maksim joins me now. Thanks so much for being with us. You're an American citizen. So you had American passport, people with American citizenship are allowed to leave. What was that feeling like of that decision to leave? What was it like?
CHMERKOVSKIY: Well, thanks for having me, Anderson. But it wasn't really a decision to leave, it was more like, you know, I just got told that I have to go, you know. I have to say about Ukrainian people in general, they were waiting for this conflict. They were preparing. They were ready. It's eight years in the making. And that was the whole general feeling since, you know, since I started sort of my involvement with Ukraine over, was it September of last year, I kept, you know, consulting on couple of TV shows, and some projects, dense related projects.
And, you know, the entire time, the feeling was that something is looming. And the -- all the time I was being told that if something happens, will take you out, will get, you know, you'll be the first to move out of the country.
And when that everything happened, it happens suddenly, and it happened like, you know, that morning, I was literally driving to film, and -- at 5:00 a.m., somebody was bombarding my phone saying you have to go now, right. So then I got stuck for the next five days.
But eventually, the morning of the day that I left, you know, I started getting calls from people that I had met in the last couple of days, that were all military personnel, unrelated sources, and people started bombarding me saying you have to go, things about to get crazy. You're an American citizen. You have to leave the country. And this is when, you know, I still sort of fought that feeling, the internal feeling of a lot of friends. I was already, you know, doing a lot of things locally. I was organizing some initiatives, but, you know, just on my phone, again, very, very sort of low key, but you know, I felt really bad going and the feeling sunk in even worse, because when I got to the train station, I realized that it's all women and children.
And then I'm literally I'm too big, and I'm taking up space. So I had put myself in between trains. I literally moved out of the area where people would have all been, and what would, you know, that's the footage that was shown. And that was internally. I sort of justified my space because I was outside. It wasn't a livable situation, because it was too freezing.
So, you know, I would pay surrounding that space, come in, fill out and then go back outside. So, you know, I helped a lot with, you know, their needs and bags and all that stuff. So just to kind of like, you know, understand that I'm not just taking up, like I said, taking up space.
And, you know, I spent couple of last days with that survivor's remorse. I believe that that's what it's called. And currently working on an opportunity to go back. And so, probably sometime next week, I'm going to go back to Poland, and joining efforts on the ground, and sort of like want to justify my safe out that way.
COOPER: Yes. You're from -- you're from -- for people don't know, your front -- you were born in Odessa, originally. Just, you know, as somebody seen watching this happen, what is it -- what do you want people to know about Ukraine?
CHMERKOVSKIY: Oh, my God. So, you know, my story is a little complicated for the last, you know, since we immigrated and mid-90s. I got my blue passport, as we call it, United States passport, when I was 19. And, you know, never maintain my Ukrainian citizenship.
So I'm an outsider. I'm like that person kind of in the middle. I'm sort of an immigrant here. But I'm also kind of like an American citizen over there. And, you know, I was sort of just becoming that bridge, you know, one of ours, but somewhere else grew up, made himself and all that. So that was my presence in Ukraine over the last period of time, again, bringing some expertise from TV shows that I've done here.
But what I've come to realize is that, you know, over the last, what is it almost 30 years of me being an immigrant in the United States, I felt like, you know, I've given up my roots. And I don't know where they are. I grew up in Brooklyn. You know, I'm closer to that culture than the culture in Ukraine.
And so, you know, I just reconnected. I just understood where I'm from. I just understood that that my, you know, I made an analogy that Ukraine is my birth mom and United States is my adoptive parents and you know, and I have love for US. My home.
COOPER: It must be so hard to adjust made that connection and now see this conflict, you know, takeover. Maksim Chmerkovskiy, I really appreciate it and look forward to seeing your efforts in the future. Thank you.
CHMERKOVSKIY: Thank you so much.
COOPER: The Russian invasion of Ukraine is hitting home for one of the largest Russian American communities in the United States and many are angry with Putin for his atrocities against the Ukrainians. We have that story coming up next.
COOPER: Despite in thousands miles away from the conflict, many Russian-Americans are speaking out against the war in Ukraine and have some strong critiques for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Our Gary Tuchman tonight had that story.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here on the boardwalk next to the ocean, anger about the war in Ukraine and about the man who started it, Russian President Vladimir Putin. And Anastasiia Stepanova was born and raised in Russia south of Moscow. She came to the United States eight years ago.
ANASTASIIA STEPANOVA, NATIVE OF RUSSIA: I think that he's drunk with power. And I'm not sure what goals he tries to pursue. But I just hope that he will wake up one day and look in the mirror and ask himself. Is he happy with what he's done? And one day the answer will be no, and he will step away and he will keep his hands of the people out there.
TUCHMAN: The boardwalk is in Brooklyn's Brighton Beach neighborhood, where the elevated train noisily rumbles over businesses that have signs in Russian. So many people from the countries the former Soviet Union live here that the neighborhood is also known as the Little Odessa.
Lilia Rakhmangulova moved here about five years ago from the city of Smolensk, Russia.
(on camera): Lilia, you are from Russia. What do you think of Putin?
LILIA RAKHMANGULOVA, NATIVE OF RUSSIA: Putin is a Killer.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Putin is a killer, she says. This should not have happened. We live together with Ukrainian brothers and sisters. This has to be stopped. Inside the Brighton bizarre grocery store full of Russian specialty foods and delicacies we meet Michael, who moved here about 20 years ago from Moscow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Government of Ukraine and government of Russia should negotiate. The war shouldn't be. I agree with this.
TUCHMAN (on camera): But do you think Russia has any business invading Ukraine?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably not.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Up the road a bit is the Brooklyn Banya, a traditional Russian bathhouse with a TV tuned to Russia news and clientele from the countries of the former Soviet Union. Alona Kruglak is a Ukrainian has owned the business for two decades and says everyone has always gotten along here.
ALONA KRUGLAK, BROOKYLYN BANYA OWNER: And now all of a sudden we're being divided saying your Ukrainian they hate you. You're Russian, I hate you. It just not so. Nobody hates anybody. Nobody wants this war.
TUCHMAN: Here at the Brooklyn Banya, we meet one woman who says both her parents were sent to a Soviet gulag in Siberia after World War II for political activities. Tiiu Altosaar immigrated to the U.S. from Estonia.
TIIU ALTOSAAR, NATIVE OF ESTONIA: I think it's unbelievable, especially because this war is now like a 20th century war on 21st century. And I feel hopeless, because knowing what Putin could do. It could be forevermore.
TUCHMAN: Back at the beach, Anastasiia says for her, this is unbearable.
STEPANOVA: I lost my sleep. I lost my appetite. I cry every day I read the news. And I just -- can I say one thing in Russian.
STEPANOVA: (Speaking in Foreign Language)
TUCHMAN: What does that mean?
STEPANOVA: I said that please hold on. And we're together here for you and there for you. And everything will be good because there's no other way.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: Gary, did you hear any optimism from people there that this could come to some sort of incident.
TUCHMAN: Anderson, the people we talked to are passionate, they're eloquent, but we didn't talk to anybody who's optimistic this will end soon. Instead, people are just frozen in fear about the next terrible thing that will happen. It's very traumatizing time here Little Odessa. Anderson.
COOPER: Gary Tuchman. Appreciate it. Thank you. Stay with CNN for the latest from Ukraine. The news continues. I'll see you tomorrow after a short break.