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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Russia Warns U.S. of Unpredictable Consequences if it Continues to Ship Weapons to Ukraine; Russia Strikes Kyiv Region with Cruise Missiles after Sinking of its Black Sea Flagship; One-on-one with Ukraine's President Zelenskyy; Exclusive, Zelenskyy Says World Should Be Prepared For Possibility Putin Could Use Tactical Nuclear Weapons; Ukrainian Armed Forces Say, Russia Taking Revenge For Sinking of Moskva. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 15, 2022 - 20:00   ET


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Alexandra Field, CNN, Philadelphia.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Alex, thank you for that.

And tonight, we'll leave you with this right here in New York, the Empire State Building lit with the colors of the Ukrainian flag in support of the people of Ukraine.

To find out how you can help visit, Impact Your World at Thanks so much for joining us.

AC 360 starts now.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Should the world prepare for Vladimir Putin to use tactical nuclear weapons?

Jim Sciutto here in tonight for Anderson.

That is the warning tonight from Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking exclusively with CNN's Jake Tapper, who joins us shortly.

He said that Vladimir Putin could turn to tactical nukes or chemical weapons.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The Director of the C.I.A. warned that he is worried Putin might use a tactical nuclear weapon in this fight, are you worried?

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: Not only me. I think, all over the world, all the countries have to be worried because, you know that it can be not real information, but it can be the truth because when they began to speak about one or another battle or involves enemies, or nuclear weapons or chemical -- some chemical, you know, issues -- chemical weapons, they should do it, they could it. I mean, they can. For them, of the people is nothing. That's why we

should think, not be afraid. I mean, not be afraid, be ready. But that is not the question to Ukraine, and not only for the Ukraine for all the -- for all the world, I think so.


SCIUTTO: A tactical nuclear weapon, also known as a battlefield nuclear weapon is a low-yield nuclear device, smaller than strategic nuclear devices, but still, of course, highly deadly.

For its part, the Kremlin is using the veiled threat of, quote, "unpredictable consequences" unquote if American military support of Ukraine continues. The warning came in what is known in diplomatic circles as a demarche basically, an official, but strongly worded note.

A source familiar with it says, it could signal a more aggressive Russian posture against the U.S. and NATO as the war drags on.

On that note, there is new support tonight for Ukraine's claim it sank Russia's Black Sea flagship, the Moskva, a senior American Defense official today said it is their assessment that two Ukrainian anti- ship missiles hit the guided missile cruiser, then sinking it.

We'll talk about the impact on the war that that attack could have, its significance, with retired Army four-star General Wesley Clark.

Also tonight, even as Russia intensifies its attack on the east, we are learning more about the degree of atrocities in the area that Russian forces were driven out of.

Ukraine's national police tonight saying that the bodies of more than 900 civilians -- 900 -- have been recovered in the Kyiv area just in the days since Russian forces retreated.

In his address to his country tonight, Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Ukrainians and these are his words, "Maybe somewhere in Russia cruelty is respected, but in Ukraine, cruelty is despised and punished."

And remarkably, even in places under Russian bombardment, that cruelty is being eased by neighbors bravely helping neighbors. Last night, CNN's Clarissa Ward brought us the story of an 86-year-old woman named Lydia (ph).

I want to show you a portion of her report with a warning, it is truly heartbreaking. But as you watch it right now, and as you'll see for yourself in just a moment, Lydia remarkably is safe tonight.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Volunteer, Igor Golotov (ph) spends his days visiting the elderly and disabled.

Today, he is checking in an 86-year-old, Lydia. Petrified and alone, he has yet to find an organization willing to come and evacuate her.

(LYDIA MIHAYLUK speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): "When there's no electricity and it's so dark and there's shelling," she says, you can't imagine how scary it is.

She tells us she recites prayers to get through the night. "I never imagined that my end would be like this," she says. 'You can't even die here because there's no one to provide a burial ceremony."

For Igor, it is agony not to be able to do more.

(IGOR GOLOTOV speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): "I promise you," he says, "I will help you to be evacuated."

As we leave, Lydia is reluctant to say goodbye. It is terrifying to live through this time to, do it alone is torture.

(LYDIA MIHAYLUK speaking in foreign language.)


WARD (voice over): "It is so nice to see real people," she says, "Probably, it's going to get worse."


SCIUTTO: One of the many faces of the war right there.

Well, Clarissa Ward is in Dnipro for us tonight. CNN's Ed Lavandera, he is in Odessa; at the White House tonight, CNN's Kaitlan Collins; and in Kyiv, where he spoke with the Ukrainian President, CNN's Jake Tapper.

Let's begin though with Clarissa.

Clarissa, one of the remarkable aspects of this war is that despite the many millions who have fled the country, there are many tens of millions who have stayed behind, bravely trying to stay, where they live in their homes. You were able to find Lydia again today, how is she doing?

WARD: (AUDIO GAP) -- pretty heartbroken. You know, the windows were blown out from blasts nearby. It was very cold in there. She's alone. She's in a wheelchair, she's terrified. And it just wasn't clear that she was really in a position to care for herself at all.

So we were able, following a huge outcry from people all over the world who saw our story, to help get her out of that town of Avdiivka today, and she is now safely nearby to where I am. Take a look.


WARD (voice over): Lydia Mihayluk (ph) thought this day would never come. After weeks of horror, she waits outside her apartment to be evacuated.


WARD: So we're here at the Big Heart living facility and we're just waiting for Lydia to arrive. She has driving for some hours and we're excited to see her.

Here she is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got her out.

WARD (voice over): Lydia greets cameraman Scott McWhinnie.


(LYDIA MIHAYLUK speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): "It's our old friend," she says. "I am so glad to see you again."

After we left Lydia, Thursday, there was an outpouring from people who wanted to help. We managed to connect volunteers to a care home in the relative safety of Dnipro.

(LYDIA MIHAYLUK speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): Leaving Lydia alone in her apartment was incredibly tough. To see her safe is a huge relief.

(LYDIA MIHAYLUK speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): "Today, I will finally feel calm," she says. "This is so important. Thank you."

(LYDIA MIHAYLUK speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): Her journey out of Avdiivka was far from easy.

(LYDIA MIHAYLUK speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (on camera): She is saying that there was a lot of shelling this morning and was terrified.

WARD (voice over): It took six long hours to get here, but she made it.

(LYDIA MIHAYLUK speaking in foreign language.)

WARD (voice over): "I'm so lucky," she says. "Safe and comfortable at long last." (END VIDEOTAPE)

WARD (on camera): Now Lydia's son actually lives, Jim, in Russia. She told us that he doesn't yet know that she is safely out of that frontline town. She hopes to be able to get through to him tomorrow. But really it just illustrates the pain and challenge for so many families because so many Russians have lived in Ukraine and so many Ukrainians have lived in Russia, and the two countries have been so intertwined for so many years.

Now, families are finding themselves torn apart, separated, and unable to be with each other and to look after each other.

SCIUTTO: Well and targeted, frankly. There has been so much evidence of Russian deliberate shelling, not just of civilian areas, apartment building, cities, et cetera, but I, like you have heard accounts from Ukrainian officials for some time of deliberate shelling of these humanitarian corridors.

Lydia seemed to have the same experience on her way out.

WARD: Yes. It was a very difficult journey for her. At one stage, they actually had to pull over because the shelling was so ferocious and they had to wait in a safe house for a couple of hours until it was okay to move on.

And actually, when we were in that town yesterday, and asking people: Why are you still here? Why haven't you evacuated? A lot of people said we're afraid to evacuate because we know that these buses that people are evacuated on frequently do come under attack and we saw that again today in the Donbas region, another instance of volunteers, who I should stress, you know, these guys do not have helmets and bulletproof vests. They are going out there every single day risking their lives to try to ferry people to safety, and today once again a busload of volunteers came under fire as they tried to evacuate people.


WARD: And you can imagine the effect that that has on the morale of people who would be considering trying to leave -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question, and a helmet and a bulletproof vest against shells, they won't sadly, save your life, in many circumstances.

I wonder this? Because we've also seen evidence of this over recent weeks. Do these evacuations, together with deliberate shelling of civilian areas literally razing of cities, do they appear to be part of a Russian plan, not just to destroy the cities, but empty them?

WARD: Well, if you look at the new General in charge, Aleksandr Dvornikov who is nicknamed the Butcher of Syria, and you look at the sorts of tactics that Russian forces were using in Syria, primarily from the air, from the skies, bombardment really targeting ordinary civilian life. When I was in Syria, I saw a fruit market blown up before my eyes.

They were hitting schools, courthouses, hospitals, and the natural knock-on effect of that is that you completely demoralize the local population. Ordinary civilians receive the message loud and clear that you cannot live a normal life in these places.

And that does have an effect on the battlefield, and it does petrify people and it does change the sort of tone and tenor of any given conflict. And again, it comes back to this sort of Sophie's Choice that so many people living in these areas are being forced to make.

Do they stay and risk their lives? Risk being constantly bombarded? Do they try to leave without the proper infrastructure to care for them without enough money to look after themselves? Simply put, Jim, these people don't have any good options. And Lydia is just one woman of very many vulnerable people who are still stranded in their homes alone tonight -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Many millions of them and a through line from Chechnya, to Syria, to what we're seeing in Ukraine today.

Clarissa Ward, thanks so much.

More now on what it is like in a strategic southern Ukrainian city where there has been heavy bombardment since early in the invasion, and now it appears to be growing, including new attacks on civilian areas, including using cluster munitions, which are deadly -- just deadly for civilians.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has that for us.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The cluster of explosions jolted this residential neighborhood in Mykolaiv Friday morning. Witnesses say some people were walking their dogs in a park at the time.

One of the munitions struck just feet away from an Orthodox Church.

LAVANDERA (on camera): You can see the impact spot of one of the munitions that went off this morning and as you look around here, you can see the impact and the damage done to this church here as well.

LAVANDERA (voice over): Multiple people were killed and more than a dozen others injured. Paramedics treated victims on the scene.

Across the street, under the shattered windows of an apartment building, this man told us he helped drag two injured people into a store for safety.

YURI ZAYTSEV, MYKOLAIV RESIDENT (through translator): The noise, the noise of a rocket flying and explosions. That's what I saw and heard when I was in the shop. People ran into the store and I saw people scared. I saw people dropping to the ground from explosions. LAVANDERA (voice over): The sounds of explosions inside the city

started around mid-morning and appeared to strike at least three different locations.

Mykolaiv authorities released this video of a private home burning after a rocket strike.

Mykolaiv strikes come as residents in Southern Ukraine are worried about Russian retaliation for the sinking of the Moskva warship in the Black Sea, and Russia's renewed offensive in Eastern Ukraine.

In recent days, CNN has witnessed long convoys of families fleeing Russian occupied areas near Mykolaiv. This bombing struck a densely populated area.

Galina Mironchuk says she was brushing her hair when the bomb landed just outside her apartment window. The blast shattered the glass and shattered her sense of peace.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Did you think something was going to happen to you?

(GALINA MIRONCHUK, MYKOLAIV RESIDENT speaking in foreign language.)

LAVANDERA (voice over): "I didn't think of anything," she tells me. "I thought that was the end of the world."

The recent attacks have also crippled parts of the city's infrastructure. The water has been out for three days, forcing hundreds of people to get water from a river and natural spring.

This man evacuated his mother and plans to stay in the city to fight off the Russians.

LAVANDERA (on camera): How worried are you that the Russians are getting closer?

(VIKTOR ZURAVEL, MYKOLAIV RESIDENT speaking in foreign language.)

LAVANDERA (voice over): "It worries me a lot," he tells me. "That's why I sent my mother away, that's why we are getting ready. We are still working, but if the Russians are close, I will fight them."


LAVANDERA (voice over): For now, residents are left to clean up the bloody aftermath and brace for the next attack.


SCIUTTO: Just the courage, the perseverance of these people.

Ed Lavandera joins us now along with Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

Ed, if I could begin with you, Odessa has been a prime target of Russian forces for some time. You saw some of that shelling today, what kind of fighting is taking place right now? And to what degree and extent on the western front really of this war?

LAVANDERA: Right, yes, that western front is about 35 miles away near the City of Kherson, and this is all on the northern edge of kind of entering the Crimean peninsula and that is a place where Russian forces have been able to send in military troops and all of the reinforcements that is needed.

Throughout the last 24 hours, we've heard a long kind of steady drumbeat of bombardment throughout the night. So it's clear, there seems to be a great deal of activity down along that edge of that city. And the question for these residents now is, you know, is it something that as Russian forces are reinvigorating their push in the east, is this also going to happen on this other side of the Russian occupied areas? And that is the question that so many people that are in that city are fearful of right now.

SCIUTTO: No question. Kaitlan, Russia this week sent a formal protest, a demarche and what appeared to be a veiled threat to the U.S. over its weapons shipments, its growing weapons shipments frankly, to the Ukrainian military. Is the White House concerned that Russia is building a case, in effect, a justification to begin attacking U.S. and NATO weapons convoys?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think they're definitely concerned that they could go after them and attack them. So far, they've continued uninterrupted since this invasion began. But that's always been a concern for them, is how quickly they can get this material, this military assistance into Ukraine.

But they don't really seem that deterred, Jim, from these warnings, from what they heard from Russia on Tuesday, because it was the next day that President Biden came out and announced this $800 million package that they're sending to Ukraine. We're told that the first shipments of that should arrive by about 10:00 AM tomorrow morning.

And of course, this is a package that includes a lot heavier duty and more sophisticated weaponry than the past packages that we've seen come from the White House. It's got the helicopters in it. It's got hundreds more of those switchblade drones. It's got some artillery systems included.

And so they don't seem deterred by it, but I do think they are concerned that they could go after weapons packages that are making their way into Ukraine, but they also say that this shows that they're very effective.

I mean, we've already known that because of course they've helped the Ukrainians fight back against the Russians, but this shows that the Russians are worried about what the U.S. is giving to Ukraine.

SCIUTTO: No question, a lot of these weapons have had immediate, devastating impact on the battlefield.

Ed, where you are, it's a choice, right, whether to evacuate, or to stay. Some people frankly, don't have a choice, right, because evacuation can be a dangerous thing as well given Russian targeting of corridors. How do they make those decisions? What are they most worried about?

LAVANDERA: You know, this is a thing, Jim, that has been rather striking to me as we've been kind of driving along that line. We've spent a lot of several days in rural areas outside of Mykolaiv, very close to the frontline and there is a sense of resolute steadfastness of people there, wanting now not to evacuate. They say, "I'm not going anywhere. This is my home, this is my land. I'm not going anywhere."

But at the same time, in a shelter, you might meet someone who just escaped Kherson and they describe the horrors of living in these areas occupied by Russian forces, and they've fled. They couldn't take it anymore.

So that's the dividing line and that is the two sides of this, that these families and these civilians are having to face right now.

SCIUTTO: And many people who stayed lost their lives, their families, and more.

Ed Lavandera, Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much to both of you.

Coming up next, we will have more from Jake Tapper's conversation with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. His staggering assessment of Russian military casualties so far and the impact as he sees it of the sinking of Russia's Black Sea flagship, the Moskva.

Later, we're going to ask retired Army four-star General Wesley Clark to weigh in on the military significance of Ukraine's achievement, as well as what Russian retaliation might look like.



SCIUTTO: For the very real threat that nuclear weapons posed during the height of the Cold War, there was something of a taboo about world leaders speaking publicly and bluntly about even the possibility they might be used in battle. The planners planned for it, negotiators tried to forestall it, and they succeeded.

Thankfully, strategic forces went on and off alert, but a world leader coming right out and saying as Volodymyr Zelenskyy did today, that we should now be least prepared for the possibility that Russia might use tactical or battlefield nukes against his country that would have been no less jarring then than now, saying for the very public Russian nuclear saber rattling that Zelenskyy was responding to.

He has not only talked about either today, when he spoke with Jake Tapper anchor, of "The Lead," co-anchor of State of the Union. Jake joins me now from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

Jake, first I want to ask you because we've watched the Ukrainian President hunker down for weeks now in the face of a devastating Russian invasion and air assault, including on the capital. It must be fearful. It's got to be very difficult to keep up his energy and continue to run the country and the defense of his country. I wonder what his mood was like today.

TAPPER: His mood was, you know, it was a very wide-ranging conversation. And so there were lots of different topics that we discussed. We started talking at the very beginning about our children because I asked how his kids were doing and he and I found some common cause in the fact that both of our teenage daughters have limited respect for their dads.


TAPPER: But then generally when it came to subjects beyond that, he was intellectual, he was strategic, he was political, he was diplomatic.

He was emotional at times when discussing casualties and the trauma that his people have been through. So, he was pretty impressive, I have to say -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Tell us more about what --


TAPPER: That Russian warship, the Moskva, the one that Ukrainian soldiers told to eff off, sank. The Russians say -- and the Russians are liars -- but the Russian say it sank on its own. Can you offer some clarity and evidence as to what happened to that ship?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): We know that it does not exist anymore. For us, it is a strong weapon against our country. So its sinking is not a tragedy for us.

I want you, the rest of the people to realize that the less weapons the Russian Federation that attacked our country has, the better for us. The less capable they are, this is important.

And about what happened to it, history will tell.

TAPPER: Do you have any idea how many Ukrainian soldiers or Ukrainian civilians have been killed?

ZELENSKYY: I know, I know about --

TAPPER: How many?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): As of now, based on the information we have, because it's very difficult to talk about civilians, south of our country where the towns and cities are blocked, Kherson, Berdyansk, Mariupol, further east, the area to the east where Volnovakha is, we just don't know how many people have died in that area that is blocked.

Let's take Volnovakha as an example. Volnovakha as other towns are empty, they are all destroyed. There are no people there. So, it's difficult to talk about it now.

As to our military, out of the numbers we have, we think that we lost 2,500 to 3,000 in comparison with the Russian military, who lost about 19,000 to 20,000. That's the comparison. But we have about 10,000 injured, and it is hard to say how many will survive.

TAPPER: I'm sure you have seen the video of the Ukrainian mom, finding her son and her sorrow.


TAPPER: Her crying just is devastating to hear. And you have seen a lot of videos like that. What is it like for you as the President of this country to see those videos? To hear the cry of the moms?

ZELENSKYY (through translator): This is the scariest I've seen in my life in principle. I look at this first of all, as a father, it hurts so, so much.

It's a tragedy. It's suffering. I won't be able to imagine the scale of suffering of these people, of this woman believe. It is a family's tragedy. It's a disaster.

The dreams and the life you've just lost. We live for our kids, that's true. Kids are the best we were given by God and by family. It is a great pain for me. I can't watch it as a father, only because all you want after this is revenge and to kill.

I have to watch as the President of the state where a lot of people have died and lost their loved ones, and there are millions of people who want to live. All of us want to fight. But we all have to do our best for this war not to be endless.

The longer it is, the more we would lose. All these losses will be just like that one.


SCIUTTO: Zelenskyy articulated as well, and we mentioned this earlier in the broadcast his fear that Russia might resort to nuclear or chemical weapons and he articulated something that officials had been speaking about privately for some time, but it has become more of a public warning.

And I wonder for Zelenskyy, is there something specific that makes him believe that. Does he believe that that's a far-fetched possibility or is there something he's seen or believes that makes him believe it has become more likely?


And I wonder for Zelenskyy, is there something specific that makes him believe that? Does he believe that's a farfetch possibility or is there something he seen or believes that make him believe it has become more likely? TAPPER: When I asked him about the CIA Director Bill Burns' public statement, Thursday, that he was concerned that Putin out of desperation might resort to using a tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon, Zelenskyy, first of all, he answered in English, which was notable, because most of his answers were in Ukrainian. So, this was something he definitely wanted to people on the English-speaking world to hear from himself.

He said that it was a fear for the whole world, not just a concern for him but for everyone, something that he was not afraid of but were prepared for. And very notably, he didn't say we have intelligence on this. He just said based on how Vladimir Putin behaves, in terms his complete and utter disregard for human life, it is something that cannot be ruled out. So, I think he takes it very seriously.

If he has other reasons to believe it, I'm sure that whatever CIA Director Burns learned, they have probably passed on in some form to the Ukrainians. But beyond that is just his witnessing what Putin and the Russian forces are doing to his country already and thinking why wouldn't he use a nuclear weapon.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's a good point, because to your point, many thousands of civilians have already been killed there and not by accident, it appears. It appears to be a deliberate strategy of the Russian military. Jake Tapper, great to have you in Kyiv, thanks so much for sharing the interview.

TAPPER: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: A quick reminder, you can see the full interview this weekend on CNN State of the Union. That is Sunday morning, 9:00 Eastern Time right here on CNN.

And just ahead, Russians flashing their anger on state television at what is a major loss, frankly, embarrassment for the military, the sinking of the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet.



SCIUTTO: The sinking of the Russian warship Moskva is an enormous loss and a giant embarrassment for Russia's military. Moskva was the flagship of Russia's Black Sea fleet. Russia claims it sank as a result of on board fire. But U.S. officials now say they believe definitively that Ukrainian missiles, two of them, sank the ship.

Ukrainian officials say a Russian airstrike on a target outside the capital of Kyiv today was likely retaliation for the sinking. And commentators on Russian state television are expressing their anger at the sinking, calling for the bombing of Kyiv.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The warship Moskva is absolutely a cause for war 100 percent. It is our flag. There is nothing to think about. There has to be a response, but what kind.

We should bomb Kyiv. Then they won't come. That's what needs to be done.


SCIUTTO: Much to discuss tonight with CNN Contributor Jill Dougherty. She's an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. And General Wesley Clark, he's a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, he's a Senior Fellow at UCLA Burkle Center. Great to have you both on.

Jill, if I could begin with you, it is notable here, right? Because the official Russian story is that it was an on board fire, this was not sunk due to enemy fire here. When you hear state T.V. really calling for blood in response here, it seems that, should we expect the official story to change on this, that Russia will grant this was a loss in the war?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You never know. But right now, I would say, Jim, the state of play is that a lot of Russian propaganda is internally contradictory. So, you heard that man kind of slightly deranged approach. And I'm serious. I've watched that video a lot of him. Even the state media don't seem to be buying the official story. Hence, you had in that show and in another one, this person who said, well, the Ukrainians were hunting that ship. It was planned in advance.

Now, of course, if it was the Ukrainians, that's not the party line. And then the other part is it is highly humiliating for the Russians to admit that the Ukrainians could have done this. So, then the narrative immediate shifts to, it must have been NATO, it must have been the United States. And that's where it all goes back to the United States.

SCIUTTO: I want to get to that point because it speaks to the potential escalation here. But before we do, General Clark, the Moskva, this was an air defense cruiser. I mean, it was supposed to provide air defense for the Black Sea fleet. But, apparently, its own missile defenses could not protect itself. I wonder how significant a revelation that is, right, for just how advanced the Russian navy is.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's a good question, Jim, because you would think that they could handle this. Now, they were apparently distracted by a Ukrainian drone overhead. And a ship that can't defend itself against more than one threat at a time is extremely vulnerable.

Normally, a ship like this would operate in a formation. So, there would be multiple ships working together. Possibly, the Russians were a little bit lax on keeping their guard up. They may not have the right kind of training and drills for this ship. But whatever reason, it really speaks highly to the Ukrainians' ability to target and build a system like Neptune which went out and took that ship down.

SCIUTTO: Jill, so a question here, and we hear that on state T.V., and you start to hear it from statements and demarches from the Russians taking aim not just at Ukraine but NATO, NATO arming Ukraine here. And then state T.V. talking about revenge, right, exacting revenge.

I wonder, do you fear that Russia in the propaganda, in the demarches- , is beginning to build a case for striking at least U.S.-NATO weapons convoys, if not, actual NATO military targets?

DOUGHERTY: I definitely think there are indications of that.


You know, some of this, like Russian T.V., even though these talk shows seem kind of crazy, they're used with as trial balloons. And one person will say something and the Kremlin is constantly polling and looking at how people react to these shows. And they can release a little trial balloon about NATO, and then it could grow and then be repeated.

So I think there is a kernel of truth in what you're saying. I don't know where that is going to go but it could develop in that way. In other words, it could go as one man on another show, I think it was the same person, said, what are we fighting again? What is it called? And they had to remind him, special military operation.

But the thing is it is a war. But if Russian defines it as war, then we're in a very big step forward. And if it is war, then you can make that leap to NATO. So, we don't know where this is going but there are some indications.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it could mean a whole host of things, including a national draft there, then you're talking about much more military personnel.

I wonder, General Clark, on the battlefield, what is the loss of the flagship mean for Russia in terms of next military steps? Because there have been a great deal of concern on the U.S. and Ukrainian side about a seaborne assault on Odessa, but if your flagship can't even stay above water right now off the coast of Ukraine, is that off the table for now?

CLARK: I wouldn't think it is totally off the table, no. But I do think that they are concerned because there obviously are strong defenses around Odessa. And so -- and there -- it is not a great area for amphibious assaults. It is not a lot of broad sandy beaches there to get a shore on. So, this is a tough target to go after. They know it and they're probably not ready to take that risk yet.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, and we should note, that Moskva was involved in the shelling of Snake Island, another encounter now, famous encounter there in the early stages of the war.

Jill Dougherty, General Wesley Clark. Thanks so much to both of you.

Coming up next, a CNN Exclusive, a series of revealing text messages from two of Donald Trump's biggest supporters on Capitol Hill to Trump's former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, sent between the 2020 election and the January 6th insurrection.

The lawmakers supported Trump's attempt to overturn the election until they discovered, even they discovered there was no evidence of fraud. And then they warned the chief of staff of dire consequences. We'll have those coming up.



SCIUTTO: Tonight, we have an important CNN exclusive, a series of text messages between two of former President Donald Trump's staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill and then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

The texts were sent in the weeks between the 2020 election and the January 6th insurrection and revealed that the lawmakers were major supporters of the attempt to overturn the election results, until even they discovered there was no evidence. One of them tried to warn Meadows the big lie could backfire for the president badly.

More from CNN Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Congressman Chip Roy of Texas, two of former President Donald Trump's most loyal defenders in Congress. But in dozens of private texts to Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a picture emerges of how both went from aiding the efforts to challenge the election results, to ultimately warning against it.

The texts obtained by CNN show how they were trying to help initially but, by the end, raised concerns to Trump's deputy about his campaign's effort standing in the way of the certification of the 2020 election.

We're driving a stake in the heart of the federal republic, Roy warned Meadows in a text on January 1st, that is in possession of the January 6th select committee.

Historic warning came after weeks of begging Meadows for hard evidence of election fraud and concerns that the lack of specific evidence was a real problem for the Trump legal team. We must urge the president to tone down the rhetoric, he wrote to Meadows on November 9th.

Roy did believe that there were problems with the election. In early December, he went to the House floor, imploring his colleagues to look into the thin examples of fraud.

REP. CHIP ROY (D-TX): The American people are raising legitimate questions about our elections and this body is missing in action and doing nothing.

NOBLES: Like Roy, Senator Mike Lee started out hopeful that there was a path to challenge election results. In early November, he touted the work of conservative lawyer Sidney Powell, encouraging Meadows to get her an audience with the president, calling her a, quote, straight shooter. But less than two weeks later, Powell appeared with Rudy Giuliani in what would become an infamous press conference where the duo made wild, baseless claims about the election.

SIDNEY POWELL, ATTORNEY WHO CHALLENTGED 2020 ELECTION RESULTS: President Trump won by a landslide. We are going to prove it.

NOBLES: Lee then changed his tune, calling Powell a liability and turning his focus to touting Attorney John Eastman.

Lee pushed a plan to convince state legislatures to offer up a set of alternate electors. When that plan fizzled, Lee decided he was no longer on board.

He texted Meadows on December 16th, quote, I think we are now past the point where we can expect anyone will do it without some direction and a strong evidentiary argument.

Both Lee and Roy ultimately chose not to join other Republicans to vote against certifying the election.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R-UT): Our job is to open and then count, open, then count. That's it. That's all there is.

NOBLES: Privately, they were they are more emphatic about the fool's errand Trump's team was on. The president should call everyone off. It's the only path, Roy texted Meadows on December 31st, while Lee argued the effort was on dangerous constitutional ground. Three days before January 6th, he warned, I know only that this will end badly for the president unless we have the Constitution on our side. They did not.

But the Trump team and a group of loyal Republicans went ahead with their plan anyway. As it became clear, their effort would not be successful, hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in protest. As the violence was raging, Roy texted Meadows, fix this now.


He then went to the House floor and placed the blame squarely at President Trump's feet.

ROY: And the president should never have spun up certain Americans to believe something that simply cannot be.


SCIUTTO: We have to overturn the election last week, involved many people. That was Ryan Nobles reporting on the Hill.

Coming up next, a look at how one school for Ukrainian children and the children of Ukrainian immigrants here in the U.S. is incorporating war into their curriculums and the impact that it's having on their young students. That's coming up.


SCIUTTO: As we continue to bring you the latest out of Ukraine for Ukrainians here in the U.S., particularly those with family and friends still in Ukraine, these last several weeks have been extremely difficult, watching, reading the news about what is happening in their homeland, all those that are losing their lives and their homes. But the impact of the war is also taking a toll on Ukrainian-American children.


360's Gary Tuchman visited an afterschool program where the war has now become part of their lesson plan.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's called the Ukrainian academy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good afternoon, everyone. So, today we are going to speak about war and peace.

TUCHMAN: In the Cleveland suburb of Parma Heights in Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you raise your hand if you have grandparents in Ukraine?

TUCHMAN: Almost all of their parents were born Ukraine and many of these children were also born there. This is a private preschool, daycare as well as an afterschool program for children ages 6 months to 12 years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are we in a state of peace or are we in a state of war in this country?

STUDENTS: Peace, peace, peace.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about Ukraine?


TUCHMAN: The feeling here is that they know what's happening in Ukraine is frightening, it's important for these children to learn about it and talk about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What can you say about soldiers? How do you feel about them?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're brave, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Soldiers help people to not die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If someone comes to your house, start destroying it or taking your stuff, you know, would you be happy about that? STUDENTS: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think this is right?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When another country like coming to another country and taking stuff and bombing, and do you think this is right?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Who came to Ukraine?


TUCHMAN: The teachers ask how the children are feeling about all this.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scared. What other words is war? How can we describe a war?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My family is -- well, are very scared for my grand, my great grandma, my relatives that are also in war. And it's very anxious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope Ukrainian win, because some Russian people are good and saying stop to the other Russian who is being bad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, not all the Russian people are bad, right? There are some people who just, you know, say no war, please stop it. They're asking the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It's not because of the Russian people. It's because of the president. He's greedy and trying to take over the country.

TUCHMAN: Roman and Helena Dutka are the owners of the academy.

Do you think your students here are now prouder to be Ukrainian- American than even before this war?

ROMAN DUTKA, UKRAINIAN ACADEMY OWNERS: Yes, I think they are proud about their roots, that they're Ukrainians and about that Ukraine is standing strong. I think that --


TUCHMAN: Before we say goodbye to the students, I get to talk with them a bit.

If you had superpowers, what would you do if you had superpowers?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Save the good people.

TUCHMAN: Save the good people?


TUCHMAN: That's what you would do as superwoman?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes, and make the house fly into the air.

TUCHMAN: Make the house fly into the air?


TUCHMAN: Fly to safety?


TUCHMAN: The laughter of children who have a lot on their minds.


TUCHMAN (on camera): The children are also learning about charitable donations. They, their parents, the teachers, the community donating food, medicine, clothing, so many donations that the owners you just saw a few weeks ago got in a plane with 30 large cases, flew to Poland, drove the donations to the border. The donations then went into Ukraine. The donations kept coming, Jim.

So, they have more donations. And the owner's left last night for another trip to Poland. They're in Warsaw as we speak driving to the border this week, bringing the donations to the Ukraine and it's all courtesy of the Ukrainian Academy of Ohio. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Good for them and the work they're doing. I got to tell you, it's great to see those smiles on those kids' faces. And you'd be amazed you meet kids in Ukraine itself still smiling through all of this as well.

Gary Tuchman, thank you.

Well, as large teams of Ukrainians work now, the worst job in the world you can imagine, recovering the bodies of the victims of Russia's massacre in Bucha, Russia could be posing a new threat. The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warning the world to be prepared, we'll have the details next.