Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Nearly 2.7 Million Refugees Have Fled Ukraine; Russian Missiles Hit Military Base Close to Polish Border; Russia Asks China for Military Assistance in Ukraine; China Already Helping Russia on Its War Propaganda; Growing Concerns About a Possible Chemical Attack in Ukraine; Ukrainian Refugees Continue to Flow into Poland; Feeding Ukrainian Refugees Fleeing the Frontlines of War; Sanctions Target High-Profile Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 12, 2022 - 22:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: For weeks now, and I know you've been doing this kind of work for years. I know you just arrived in the city of Dnipro. What's the situation like there?

ALEX WADE, EMERGENCY DIRECTOR, DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: In Dnipro I can say for now it's calm, at least compared to many other parts of the country. It's a place that's received many displaced, who have fled violence elsewhere, and who have either come here to move further west or who have settled here for the time being hoping it will remain safe. It's also a place where certain international organization such as MSF and others are now trying to regroup in order to mount an emergency response to sourced places in dire need east of here, east, south and north of here. So we're hoping it will remain a safe location.

COOPER: I know you've been in contact with a connection you have in Mariupol where the situation is clearly very dire there.

WADE: It's catastrophic. I mean, we were saying it was dire over a week ago. It's only gotten worse every day since. At this point, we were saying it was going to be a disaster. The disaster is now unfolding in front of us. We already know from our staff we've communicated with that vulnerable groups such as people with chronic conditions who needed access to medical care have already started to die.

We know that there have been numerous deaths due to the violence and bombing in the city. Our staff have also informed us they've seen neighbors burying, digging holes in their own backyards to bury the bodies of their neighbors. I mean, this is an absolute nightmare. And we know that water and food are running out or for many of the population, have already run out for several days. So we will now start seeing people dying of hunger and dehydration if something isn't done immediately.

COOPER: I know President Zelenskyy had said that a child days ago had already died of dehydration. We got word today that a large convoy of humanitarian aid destined for Mariupol was unable to make it there today. What are the, I mean, immediate needs -- I've also heard that people in Mariupol really can't contact people outside, so they don't have a sense really of what's going on in the greater Ukraine.

WADE: This has, yes, added to the tragedy. People have no idea what's going on outside of Ukraine, they have no idea what's going on with their friends and family in neighboring villages. They are unable to inform loved ones that they're still alive and well. They're also unable to communicate those who have died to loved ones who might want to know, and they have no idea what's going on.

They also aren't aware of when there's these discussions around possible safe passage out of the city which so many of the population want. They are unaware of these discussions taking place, so they don't know when they can leave safely or not. So this is, again, one of the biggest problems is making sure that safe passage can occur and that the population is aware of it and is able to leave.

But as the days go on and the health, both mental and physical, of the population of near 400,000 people starts to deteriorate, it will become harder and harder for them to be mobile, to be leave on their own means.

COOPER: I've heard you say that Ukraine is now in what you called the disaster phase. What does that mean and how does it affect the work you're trying to do?

WADE: I mean, I would refer to that specifically into Mariupol. To be honest, we can use words like disaster, catastrophe when we've been saying them for a week now and we haven't seen any improvement, they start to sound quite hollow. It's really just trying to sound the alarm that we're going to have a catastrophe unfolding in front of our eyes of thousands and thousands of people dying if we don't find a way to either get resources in to Mariupol, water, food, medical supplies for the hospital, or/and allow people to leave and seek safety wherever they might want to find it.

COOPER: You mention in Mariupol people digging graves in their backyards for family members or for neighbors. We saw also there images of a mass grave that has been dug with reportedly dozens of people placed in it. What does it tell you about a situation that officials dig a mass grave in a city like Mariupol?

WADE: I mean, I think it's -- it just shows you how catastrophic the conditions are, that people have to take it upon themselves to bury their neighbors, that people are afraid to leave the city because if they try to, they will be met with possible violence and death. And it really is a signal of how catastrophic the situation is. It is probably also linked to the functioning of the hospitals. It shows that the entire health system is not able to function as it normally should with ambulances to collect bodies, with a system in place when the health system is operating correctly.


It shows that many systems are failing and reflects the enormous medical needs of a population.

COOPER: Alex Wade, I so appreciate the work that you and Doctors Without Borders does. Thank you so much.

WADE: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, as horrific as this war has already been, the underlying concern from the outset has always been escalation, either deliberate or accidental. The world's two nuclear superpowers are now uncomfortably close to one another and one of the two is already lobbing at targets dangerously close by. It raises the question, what happens when Russian missiles either by mistake or by design may hit Poland which is a NATO ally. The president's National Security adviser was asked about it today. Here's what he said.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president has been clear repeatedly that the United States will work with our allies to defend every inch of NATO territory, and that means every inch. And if there is a military attack of NATO territory, it would cause the invocation of Article 5. And we would bring the full force of the NATO alliance to bear and responding to it.

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS' "FACE THE NATION": But that's an accidental, errant shot?

SULLIVAN: Look, all I will say is if Russia attacks, fires upon, takes a shot at NATO territory, the NATO alliance would respond to that.


COOPER: So more now on the State Department's stakes, CNN's Kylie Atwood is there for us tonight.

So President Zelenskyy said he thinks it's only a matter of time before a Russian missile falls on -- he said missiles fall on NATO territory. He said that it was part of a renewed plea for a no-fly zone. Russian attacks are obviously getting closer to the border. What is the State Department now saying?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, the Biden administration repeatedly has been very clear. They don't have any intention to get U.S. troops involved in the war in Ukraine. But as you said, there are a few complicating factors here, the first of which is that the Russians are now firing on western Ukraine. Of course, that is close to the Polish border.

Over the weekend there was a military base close to the Polish border that was hit, and the National Security adviser in that clip that you just played from this morning was very clear in saying that if there is an attack on a NATO country, of course, Poland being one of those countries, that would trigger a response by the NATO alliance, including the United States.

This could get tricky because, of course, as Margaret Brennan pointed out, there could potentially be missiles that are accidentally fired into Poland. But he was clear if there is any missile that goes into a NATO country, there will be a response.

I also think it's important to note that the other complicating factor here is the concern that Russia could carry out a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine. And we have seen President Biden say that there would be very severe consequences for Russia if they did that, but not being explicit about what those consequences would be. And over the weekend, we heard from the Polish president who said if Russia did that, that would be a game changer and NATO would really have to think about what its response looks like.

COOPER: We've learned now that Russia is asking China for military help. Is it clear when they asked or even if China responded?

ATWOOD: Well, listen, what we know so far is that they asked for this military assistance after the invasion began, right? So it's not like Russia went to China before in the interim when they were planning to carry out this attack and said, we're going to need your help on this one. They did it after they had already begun the invasion.

We don't know exactly why that is the case, and we also don't know exactly what the Chinese said in response. But we do know that U.S. officials are tracking this. They say they are concerned about any support that China could provide to Russia in this circumstance. They also said that they're concerned about military -- excuse me -- economic support that China could provide with sanctions relief and the like to Russia.

So this is something they're clearly watching. National Security adviser Jake Sullivan is meeting with his Chinese counterpart tomorrow in Rome -- Anderson.

COOPER: Kylie Atwood, appreciate it.

So lots to talk about with CNN national security analyst, former director of National Intelligence, retired Air Force Lieutenant General James Clapper.

Director Clapper, the -- how concerning is it that Russia has now struck so close to the Polish border? A military target but close to the board nevertheless?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's obviously of grave concern, and I just think, Anderson, it's a question of time. It's not if, it's when we have some sort of confrontation that we're going to have to respond to, the NATO will have to respond to. So whether the Russians do something intentionally or unintentionally and strike some part of NATO territory, you know, we're going to have to live up to our word.


And that's one condition. The other, as the previous segment indicated, which I also expect, is if the Russians use chemical weapons in a siege of Kyiv where the resistance is even after -- even if they succeed in surrounding the city and starving it out and bombarding it into rubble, I think they'll still run into resistance. And then they, I think, will be very tempted to use chemical weapons. So those two conditions, I think, are upon us and I think in both cases it's just a question of time.

COOPER: To that point, I mean, you heard the National Security adviser Jake Sullivan say that if Russia attacks a NATO territory even accidental, the NATO alliance would respond. Is it clear to you what kind of a -- I mean, what sort of options there are?

CLAPPER: Well, yes, I've thought about that, and with all humility here as an armchair analyst with no responsibility, one set of options that might be considered is some facility, some target that had a bearing on what happened. If you could, you know, hit the base from which -- assuming it's from within Ukraine from which a missile or rocket was fired, or in the case of chemical weapons, something in the chain, evidentiary chain, of the use of chemical weapons so that you would do damage and also convey a message.

Now, again, I'm just an armchair analyst here, but it would be those kind of things, and certainly keep it conventional to be clear, that I guess I would -- I think the Department of Defense would be considering anyway to recommend to the president.

COOPER: It certainly seems like a number of the -- actually, all of the Russian strikes in the west just in the last several days have been aimed at airfields in two cases and in the case of what happened just yesterday or early this morning -- the timing is a little bit confusing here -- a military base. It certainly seems like trying to stop the flow of weapons, trying to stop as much as possible or hinder the flow of any supplies coming from the west is a prime interest for Russia right now.

CLAPPER: Yes, I think it's that, and I also think there is a degree of messaging, a certain amount of messaging here since essentially the western portion of Ukraine has pretty much been, for the most part, exempt. So I think the Russians want to convey a message and specifically those facilities that might be aiding in the flow of supplies. And for that matter, we've already crossed Putin, by the way, Putin's red lines by providing a lot of Stingers and a lot of Javelins which have caused the deaths of probably thousands of Russian soldiers and lots of Russian equipment. So, you know, the confrontation is already -- the game is on, I guess.

COOPER: I mean, obviously the situation here and presumably the intelligence as well is changing. If you were advising President Biden right now, what would you tell him?

CLAPPER: About what the Russians are going to do? COOPER: About -- yes, about what the Russians are going to do, what

U.S. options may be just in terms of continuing supplying.

CLAPPER: Well, as the intelligence person on it, I would try to be -- restrict my comments probably to intelligence matters only what the Russians are going to do. I think the Russians, Putin, I say Russians, Putin is committed to conquering, if he can, which I think will be impossible, all of Ukraine. And that's why I find the notion of negotiating with him kind of a lost cause at this point. So that's pretty clear.

I think it's very probable he'll use chemical weapons at some point. And I think that this is going to get more brutal and more -- there's going to be more of the graphic, wanton brutality that they've witnessed. We're going to have more of that, and we do need to be prepared to live up to what we said essentially -- that phrase not used, red line, but we've issued a couple red lines already. Jamie Sullivan did this morning.


COOPER: Yes. Yes. Director Clapper, appreciate you time. Thank you.

We're going to touch more on what this all may add to from one of the keenest observers around, we'll be joined by CNN global affairs analyst and "New Yorker" staff writer Susan Glasser, and later with the number of refugees from the war growing, daily, approaching three million, a live report from one of the busiest stopping off points now on the planet. What it's like right now just across the border in Poland.


COOPER: Well, we've been talking about that missile strike which was just some 15 miles from the Polish border, about 26 miles from here in Lviv. Also the possibility of Russia turning to China for help for military aid, according to a U.S. official, the lingering speck of chemical and biological weapons which Director Clapper was just talking about. All of it a demonstration on how Russia conducts a war in populated areas.

These things hint of some pretty dark places. Want to get perspective about it all now from CNN global affairs analyst and "New Yorker" staff writer Susan Glasser.

Susan, thanks so much for being with us. How significant do you think it is that Russia is asking for both military and it seems economic assistance now from China?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, you know, it's very significant. First of all, you know, it suggests that this kind of notion of an axis of autocracies is beginning to take shape, in part perhaps just because Russia has now become a prize state when it comes to the West so they don't have anywhere else to turn. But I think it's a very important decision point for China as well, how much are they willing to, you know, double down and embrace Russia at a moment when Russia is being isolated from the rest of the world, and what are the consequences from China if it chooses, once again, to go in that direction.

COOPER: I mean, it would certainly complicate the situation here if China were to agree to that.


Obviously providing economic support to Russia right now would be a direct violation of the sanctions put in place.

GLASSER: Well, that's exactly right. I think it really is a decision point for China. it's interesting because there was just this meeting between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping right before the Olympics open at which they essentially announced what amounted to not maybe an explicit alliance but certainly a close alignment between the two countries, including a 5,000-word, essentially shared mission statement that spoke really of a world of challenging, existing Western institutions and the United States.

But, you know, did China really bargain for the kind of war that Putin has now unleashed and the kind of global isolation that's come along with it. It's not entirely clear, which is why I think it's such an important moment for China to see if Xi Jinping is willing to go all the way with Vladimir Putin or not.

COOPER: You know, the Biden administration is careful not to use that term "red line" when asked about the possibility of a chemical strike by Russia. General Clapper, just right before the commercial, was talking about -- you know, in fact, we've already or the United States has already kind of laid down some red lines, just not really using that term.

Jake Sullivan, as we mentioned, talking about the need to respond or the need to defend NATO if there was some sort of strike in Poland or one of the other NATO countries.

GLASSER: Well, that's right. I think, you know, there's this -- first of all, there is a big question because does Vladimir Putin think he's already in a war with us, even if, you know, we're eager to communicate, no, we are not engaging directly with you. And so I think that's one worry is that have we already crossed Vladimir r Putin's lines.

But I think the very real fear is that Putin has used these kinds of weapons before. And Putin has shown when backed into a corner before, his choice is often to corner rather than to deescalate. And, you know, he has a lot of weapons, chemical and otherwise, that he hasn't yet put into the fight in Ukraine that he could. And so I think that's where you start worrying that, you know, there's already enormous pressure on President Biden and administration to do more.

People are outraged, understandably, at what they're seeing coming out of Ukraine, and if Putin was to take the next step, you know, that puts incredible political pressure on Biden and on NATO to get closer and closer to being in the fight themselves. COOPER: I wonder what you think about the possibility of there being

some sort of negotiated settlement in the offing. I mean, certainly when the foreign ministers met last Thursday, really there was some hope about that, but really it seems like nothing came out of it. In fact Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, was kind of, you know, parroting the talking points that Vladimir Putin, that some have thought maybe Vladimir Putin was backing off about denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine.

And now it seems like some Ukrainian officials including President Zelensky has -- they've been saying sort of somewhat more optimistic things. Ukrainian officials said that they think they will, quote, "achieve concrete results," from ongoing or from upcoming talks with Russia in the next few days. How realistic do you think that is?

GLASSER: You know, you don't want to rule out diplomacy. In fact, it's very, very important for it to continue even if it appears to be hopeless but, you know, I've seen people talk again and again about Vladimir Putin and offramps and exit ramps and de-escalation, and it doesn't seem to be that that's the point where Vladimir Putin is at right now, especially because he's thrown his entire economy into turmoil.

He's caused enormous losses of life and limb and property already as a result of this war without achieving any of his major objectives. So it strikes me that we are not looking at the end of the war. You know, sometime that's going to miraculously happen in the next few days. Now does that mean it's hopeless? No, of course not. It's very important, it seems to me, that not only are they still engaged, but there are intermediaries. The Israelis and others who are engaging directly with Putin.

That seems important, but, you know, I've seen it too many times before where people are looking for Putin to be taking offramps that he's not interested in, and he's playing just a very different game.

COOPER: Yes. Susan Glasser, really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

GLASSER: Thank you.

COOPER: With all the talk now of Russia seeking Chinese military assistance, it's worth remembering that they're already getting support from Beijing in fighting the information war.

More on that now from CNN's David Culver from Shanghai.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): China's national broadcaster, CCTV, looking increasingly like Russian state television these days.


Its anchors parroting the Kremlin, calling the invasion of Ukraine a special military operation. Its stories highlighting Moscow's grievances against Kyiv and its Western allies, along with Russia's military progress on the battlefield. They rarely mention the fierce resistance and growing suffering in war-torn Ukraine.

Publicly, Beijing stresses its impartiality in the conflict, even indicating its willingness to be a mediator. Coverage in its strictly- controlled state and social media tells a very different story.

CNN combing through Chinese TV and digital news reports in the first eight days of the Russian attack, along with thousands of social media posts from the outlets.

(On camera): Our findings? China has largely adopted Russia's talking points, actively helping the Kremlin disseminate its version of the bloody war to millions here and beyond.

(Voice-over): The Chinese Foreign Ministry has yet to respond to our request for comment. But remember, Russian President Vladimir Putin's last foreign visit before he launched the invasion was here to China. Following the 38th meeting, between Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping since 2013, and just hours before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, the two governments declared a partnership with no limits.

China and Russia's increasingly close ties had included coordinating their message on the global stage. Such coordination, it now appears, has drawn Beijing into playing an important role in the Kremlin's disinformation campaign.

On February 26th, after two nights of Russian bombardment, Zelenskyy shared a video of himself on the streets of Kyiv. Russian officials quickly alleged that Zelenskyy had fled the country and the video was pre-recorded. Less than 15 minutes later, CCTV flashed a news alert, claiming Zelenskyy has left Kyiv, initially without any attribution. More than 160 Chinese state media outlets reposted the CCTV alert. A hashtag, "RussiaSaysZelenskyyHasLeftKyiv" later got more than 510 million views on Chinese social media, Weibo. And yet, it was not true.

Perhaps most damning, an internal memo, purportedly from state-run publication, Beijing News, surfaced online two days before the Russian invasion even started. The memo directed staff not to publish anything negative about Russia or pro-West. It was mistakenly posted on the outlet's social media account before being set to private, and eventually deleted.

CNN research has found that China's major state media outlets appear to be following that playbook. Of the most retweeted post on Weibo from February 24th, through March 3rd, more than 46 percent contained pro-Russia comments, compared to less than 5 percent, with pro-Ukraine statements. Roughly 35 percent of the post included attacks on the U.S. and its allies.

With reports by Russia's state media outlets being banned in many Western nations, and in Moscow enacting its own great firewall to censor dissenting voices domestically, Chinese state media is spreading and amplifying, Putin's narrative, on air, and online, around the clock, and across the globe.

David Culver, CNN, Shanghai.


COOPER: That's what's happening in China. Meanwhile, the White House is warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be setting up a false flag operation to lay the groundwork for potential chemical attack on Ukraine. Mr. Clapper was talking about that a short time ago. The question is, what would NATO do if Russia does wage a chemical strike? More on that ahead.



COOPER: You just heard from former Director of National Director, James Clapper, who says he think Vladimir Putin very possibly will use chemical weapons in the future if unable to make progress in the assault on Kyiv. The White House is issuing threats to Vladimir Putin but stopping short of saying exactly what the U.S. and its allies might do if he wages a chemical attack.


SULLIVAN: It is a very legitimate concern, fear that Russia would use chemical weapons in Ukraine. As the president said on Friday, if Russia were to use chemical weapons in Ukraine, they would pay a severe price. And I'm going to leave it at that.


COOPER: We don't know all the chemical agents that Russia might have in its arsenal. We do know Kremlin foes have suffered mysterious fates after being poisoned in the past. There was Viktor Yushchenko in 2004. He was a Ukrainian presidential candidate at the time. He was taking on a Russian-favored opponent. He was badly disfigured, as you see, nearly killed after dioxin poisoning. Ukrainian officials alleged that the Russian government was involved. The Kremlin never officially responded to those allegations.

Then came the 2006 assassination of Russian intelligence defector Alexander Litvinenko in London. He was poisoned by highly radioactive polonium. In 2018 there was the attack on former Russian agents Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the United Kingdom. They were sickened by a military-grade nerve agent. Both survived. And more recently in 2020 Russian opposition leader Alexie Navalny was also poisoned by the nerve agent.

Russia of course has not accepted any blame for these attacks but they are seemingly right out of Vladimir Putin's playbook. Russia also stands accused of providing cover for Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria to use toxic gas on his own. President did not enforce his own red line on that back in 2013.

So the question would America put a severe price on Russia as the Biden administration claims if Russia uses chemical weapons now? I'm going to talk about that with Joby Warrick, national security reporter in "Washington Post." He's author of "Red Line: The Unraveling of Syria: The America's Race to Destroy the most dangerous arsenal in the world.

So, Joby, based on your reporting of Russian attacks in past military campaigns, how likely do you think it is that Putin might resort to using chemical weapons?

JOBY WARRICK, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, chemical weapons are a desperation weapon. We should put that on the table first. There's a way he can avoid doing that because I think he understands what the backlash could be, but it's something he has in his back pocket. It might be murky. I mean, we know that Russia has military nerve agents they've used them in these attacks that you've mentioned.

It's quite potent but it also has a clear Russian signature on it. So the other possibilities it could use another chemical like an industrial chemical such as chlorine which is toxic and has been used in chemical weapons in the past including in Syria but everybody has chlorine, every country does. So they can try to make -- to have some kind of deniability. Was it us, was it Ukrainians, and make it look vague, and that makes us harder for us to have a response as well.

COOPER: That's one of the things that a Ukrainian official have frequently point out which is Russian often -- Russia accuses others of doing as something they might do themselves, accusing Ukraine of having military biolabs.


It seems potentially as a precursor to that.

WARRICK: Yes. That's very much in the playbook, to raise the possibility the other side is about do something as cover for you to do it yourself. And what we've seen really in Syria this has played out so well any times where the Syrians have again and again accused the rebels of being the ones responsible for the chemical weapons attacks even though independent investigators have said in and said this is a Syria offense. But Russia has echoed those talking points. They pushed this narrative on social media.

And so sometimes the goal is no so much to convince other people that it was them, but just to throw up so much dust and make it so confusing that people just give up trying to figure out what the truth is. And so along with the use of weapons itself. It's just disinformation which really muddies the picture and makes it easier for them to get away with things.

COOPER: You're talking about international investigators kind of tracing the source of chemicals. How difficult is it for the international community, though, to identify the source of who used a chemical weapon in a war zone?

WARRICK: Yes, sometimes it's easy just because we know who make certain things this agent that was used to kill the Skripals or try to kill the Skripals back in 2018 is a very known Russia nerve agent. So that's, you know, if that's used somewhere in the world we have a pretty (INAUDIBLE) made it. Chlorine is much harder to assess. Chlorine dissipates very quickly once you use it. It evaporates into the atmosphere so we creating, you know, who is responsible would require having specters on the ground.

That's really hard during a war. So, you know, the forensics would be very, very difficult and I think maybe Putin might be counting on that. If he does use chemicals, you know, in sort of a non- conventional way just to sort of try to demoralize the opposition, he can claim, you know, having nothing to do with it and it will be hard for the rest of the world to make a clear case, quickly at least, that it was him.

COOPER: Yes. Poland's president said today that if Vladimir Putin uses any chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, it would be a, quote, "game changer." It's not clear exactly what that means. Dr. Clapper was saying any kind of response or if a missile even a conventional missile fell in a NATO territory, there would be some sort of response, but likely one option, at least, would be to try to keep it limited to wherever the source of that missile came from where the source of this specific incident came from and not enlarge it to a superpower confrontation.

WARRICK: Yes. One problem with chemical weapons is they often will spread, so if you have a toxic, you know, substance used on the border near Poland, there is a possibility that chemical could spread across the border and then you have this additional complication of maybe an inadvertent spread to a NATO country which would really confuse the potential response. I think So I think everybody is very much on alert right now. They're watching for something, whatever happens if it does happen in this sort of chemical weapons arena is so very dangerous for many reasons, and yet you see Jake Sullivan being calibrated in his response because arsenals are limited and they're difficult when you're dealing with a country with nuclear weapons.

COOPER: Yes. Joby Warrick, appreciate you being on. Thank you very much.

WARRICK: My pleasure.

An update ahead on the refugee emergency, the United Nations officials calling it the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. We're live at the border of Poland, next.



COOPER: The flow of women and children across the border here only is continuing, growing nearly 2.7 million refugees have so far fled Ukraine. I'm going to get an update on the situation in Poland which is where we find CNN's Ed Lavandera tonight.

Ed, talk about what you have been seeing today. ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, throughout the night

here in the border town of Medyka, Poland, and just a few hundred yards this way, Anderson, is the crossing where we've witnessed thousands of Ukrainian refugees making their way into Poland this evening. Approaching now almost 4:00 in the morning here local time. It has slowed down a little bit, but this is one of the most recent buses that has already been filled up with Ukrainian refugees.

This bus will go to a temporary shelter in a nearby town, and from there over the next couple of days, these refugees will begin trying to figure out where they can go next. They have been making their way. We've talked to a number of them throughout the evening, Anderson, who say they have spent the day -- let me get out of way of a few of them here -- riding buses from the interior parts of Ukraine to make it to this point.

One family had been on a bus since 7:00 in the morning and made it here after midnight. So a long, arduous journey through obviously territory in Ukraine that is very much a dangerous war zone situation. So these people making their way through very treacherous situations. Many of them arriving here, Anderson, leaving their homeland in the darkness, completely unsure if they'll ever see their homeland in the light again -- Anderson.

COOPER: How long -- I mean, are there still those long lines of cars? Early on, this was two weeks ago, we were seeing, you know, people waiting for, you know, 24 or 48 hours in vehicles, you know, coming across. It seems much more streamlined now.

LAVANDERA: It does. We've been asking them up on the other side of the border, on the Ukrainian side, our vantage is very difficult to see. But it kind of ebbs and flows throughout the course of the day. Some have told us at times there have been waits of several hours to get across the checkpoint into Poland here.

Now here in the overnight hours, it appears to be rather quicker, but it really kind of depends how many people arriving by bus or on foot at these border checkpoints. And then a little bit further interior here in Poland, there are trains that are also coming from places like Lviv and Odesa, Ukraine. And those trains are making it a little bit further into the interior, and that is where they are crossing the border checkpoints and getting into Poland as well.

So there are various ways that people are coming to get to this point and kind of depending on the time of day and the number of refugees that are arriving at any given time could dictate exactly how long it takes to get into Poland. But really the uncertainty starts now because so many of the communities along this part of the Polish border are essentially filled up, either in people's homes or in shelters, and the process now really begins for them to spend the next couple of days figuring out where else in Europe they can go.


And at this point they're not really sure, are they going for a couple weeks? Are they going for a couple months? Some people we've spoken to really talked about their home in the past tense.

COOPER: Yes. Ed Lavandera, I appreciate you being there. Thank you.

Coming up, we're going to turn to an American chef who is helping provide meals to refugees in Poland along the border with Ukraine. His name is Marc Murphy. He's working with Jose Andres' World Central Kitchen doing some incredible things.

Why did you want to be here?

MARC MURPHY, WORLD CENTRAL KITCHEN CHEF: You know, I was sitting at home, I was in New York City, and I've been watching the news like everybody else, and I'm a chef. I need to help. I need to contribute. I'm not really good at sitting around during times of trouble and not helping. I mean, chefs are always ready to jump in and help out, and I felt like I needed to do this. I felt like, you know, we just went through COVID.

There was friends of mine who had restaurants who were helping feed people. And I couldn't do that much. I didn't have any restaurants at that time, so I decided that this -- I really, I just had to do it. I couldn't -- it's easier for me to work, and while there's other things going on in life, and it makes me feel good and it makes me feel like I'm contributing I just had to get on a plane and come over here.

COOPER: It's interesting, because I mean, having a restaurant is a very hands-on thing. I know you had television commitments. I think you were supposed to shoot some TV shows with Bobby Flay. You basically just cleared your schedule and came here.

MURPHY: Yes. I mean, this is more important than anything else. Yes, I was supposed to do, you know, be a guest host on his show, which I love and, you know, Bobby is a good friend, and I just called him and said, listen, I'm going to do this. You're going to have to find somebody else. And I had some other commitments and people understand. I think this is something that's bigger than me. I have to do this.

COOPER: So World Central Kitchen, obviously has a unique model. They stand up restaurants, they fund existing kitchens, but in this case they've also built this enormous facility in Poland by the border. That's where you are. I understand there are like 12 enormous paella pans in that kitchen. What does it like operating this?

MURPHY: Well, first of all it's amazing. Jose Andres has put together such a team. I mean there's the logistics team. There's the people that -- there's people that like, you know, finding out where distributions, where distributions are going to go, how many meals can go to certain places. And yes, the kitchen is quite extraordinary. From what I understand it was basically acquired somehow and they have -- they built it in like five days.

I got there, they were just finishing putting the walk-in together, hooking up all of these huge paella pans. Each one of these pans we can cook depending if it's soup or like a goulash we're making a lot of, we can make up to about 1,500 to almost 2,000 portions at once. So it's really interesting. I've never actually had to do recipes this large, but you know, I know how to cook and we adapt. We bob and weave. That's what we do.

COOPER: Wait, did you say you can make up to 500 to 2,000 portions at once?

MURPHY: Yes. They're very, very large, these paella pans. They're very deep paella pans. Yes, so we're making -- made today, we made a, you know, a beef stew and you know, we used horseradish beets, so it was like a borscht beet stew, and it served about I think 1,800 people, yes.

COOPER: I don't know if you've ever been at a crossing when hundreds of thousands of people, you know, now more than two million people have left this country. More than two million are internally displaced. Have you ever seen anything like that up close?

MURPHY: No. I mean, I think I've -- no. I've not lived through anything like this before. You know, standing at the border watching -- I went to check out the actual where our food is being served from because I wanted to see it and just seeing the line of women and children with one suitcase, crying babies, crying children in line waiting to get on a bus to go somewhere or some lucky ones hopefully being picked up by relatives or friends, but it is absolutely heartbreaking.

It's amazing that this is even happening in this time in my life or any of our lives, and it's troubling. But as I said, I'm committed to just sitting in that kitchen and just keep cooking. That's what makes me -- I know how to do it and it makes me feel good, so I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing.

COOPER: Well, it is extraordinary the number of people who have been in their homes and witnessed what's going on and just, you know, everybody wants to do something, not everybody can for, you know, a million different reasons, understandably, but it's great for those who can who are doing something, and you're one of them.

Chef Marc Murphy, thank you very much.

MURPHY: Thank you.


COOPER: Well, still to come tonight, a symbol of the West sanctions on Russia seized superyachts. A report on the latest Russian oligarch yacht to be seized. Also Randi Kaye has a report on what the sanctions are causing perhaps the most high profile of these Russian billionaires.


COOPER: On Friday, Italy seized the super yacht of a Russian oligarch over what they say were connections to Vladmir Putin's war planning. He disputes the charges. That yacht is apparently worth just over half a billion dollars. It was designed by Philip Stark and its maker says it's one of the largest yachts in the world. The oligarch is one of many Russian billionaires that the U.S. and its Western allies are now targeting with sanctions.

Randi Kaye tonight has the story now of another of Russia's elite billionaires, one of the most high-profile oligarchs.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): That's Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich celebrating a win by the British football club Chelsea, a team he bought in 2003 for what amounts to about $233 million.

MAX BERGMANN, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It's about time that the West really look at where is this money coming from.

KAYE: But the welcome mat in the U.K. is now gone. Abramovich is one of many oligarchs sanctioned for their alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

BERGMANN: So at any time can essentially get a meeting with Putin. He is very close to him.

KAYE: In Abramovich's case, the British government has banned him from its shores and frozen all his assets in the U.K. One day before he was sanctioned, Abramovich announced plans to sell the Chelsea Football Club and was also reportedly trying to unload at least some of his homes in London which include a 15-room mansion on what's known locally as Billionaire's Row.

BERGMANN: Russian oligarchs that when they get their money, oftentimes through very underhanded and corrupt means want to park that money in the West. Want to gain respectability.


They buy real estate, whether that's in the United Kingdom, whether that's an apartment in New York which Roman Abramovich has. They buy yachts. This was a way of Roman Abramovich protecting his money, growing his wealth.

KAYE: The British government called Abramovich one of Russia's wealthiest and most influential oligarchs, saying he's being sanctioned because his wealth and connections are closely associated with the Kremlin.

Abramovich's representative did not respond to CNN's request for comment. Forbes estimates as of this year, Abramovich is worth $14.5 billion. But now he's in jeopardy of losing many of his high-price toys, super yachts, luxury helicopters, supercars and mansions.

Abramovich accumulated much of his wealth when the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s. And Russian state assets were divided up.

BERGMANN: You had all these state-owned companies that suddenly got privatized and Roman Abramovich was there and was able to buy up and be part of buying up a number of these companies and became incredibly wealthy. And this is sort of the classic era of gangster capitalism in the 1990s.

KAYE: Abramovich bought an oil company from the Soviet Union for $200 million and later sold it for nearly $12 billion. With some of his remaining assets being seized by foreign governments, Roman Abramovich's future is suddenly uncertain.

BERGMANN: This is absolutely devastating for him, for his family, many of whom are remained in the West. This is costing the oligarch class tens of billions of dollars, and I think Abramovich personally at the very least, you know, in the billions.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Palm Beach, Florida.


COOPER: Before we go, a note about the podcast I've been doing while here. It's called "Tug of War." Last week I talked to Clarissa Ward for it, and in the episode I posted today I had a fascinating conversation with CNN's international security editor Nick Paton Walsh who's been reporting from the southern part of Ukraine for weeks.

I want you to get a kind of behind the scenes look of what it's like to report here in talking to Clarissa and Nick. Nick and I talked about the challenges of covering a war when one side is deliberately lying and his approach to talking to people while they're experience the worst moments in their lives.

To listen to the "Tug of War" podcast you can find it in your favorite podcast app or open the camera on your phone right now. You can scan the QR code in the bottom of your screen. I hope you take a listen to it.

Stay with CNN for the latest from Ukraine. The news continues right now after a short break.