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UN: More Than 1.7 Million Refugees Have Fled Ukraine Since Invasion; Gas Tops $4 A Gallon For First Time Since 2008, Oil Soars To 13-Year High; Ukrainian Student Athlete Worries About Her Family In Ukraine. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 07, 2022 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: The refugee crisis in Europe is worsening by the hour. United Nations reports that more than 1.7 million people have been forced to flee war-torn Ukraine now. CNN's Scott McLean is live near the Poland-Ukraine border with more on this. And, Scott, I mean, we are now nearly two weeks into this invasion and whether you stay or go, it is clear the entire situation is becoming more and more dangerous. What are you hearing now?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. Yes, I mean, more than 1 million of that 1.5 number that you quoted have ended up in Poland and the U.S. top diplomat says there could be 5 million if the bombing and shelling continues. The cars that you see here, they are the people who have been able to get out of some of these badly shelled badly bombed-out cities or some of the safer places before that happens to them.

We're about five miles away from the Polish border, we're on the Ukrainian side, obviously, where people are trying to flee and things have definitely picked up in the last couple of days. The cars here are in for a very long wait. Some people have already been traveling for several days and one car at the next checkpoint said that they've been waiting for 27 hours.

Now closer to the border, buses are dropping people off to cross on foot and we have heard some incredible stories there. We met an elderly couple earlier today who told us that they sheltered in Kharkiv in a metro station for eight days and only when a bomb went off at a police station nearby shaking the whole station did they realize this war is not ending anytime soon. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This horror cannot be endured. I cannot express it, the fear, the crying children. When I saw a pregnant woman entering the metro, I understood this cannot be forgiven. There is no excuse for this.


MCLEAN: And, Kate, many of the people who are fleeing places like Kyiv, places like Kharkiv, they end up in Lviv, either trying to catch a train in another town or driving like these folks here. The mayor of that city, which is still relatively safe, says that his city has reached its capacity to help so it is calling or he's calling on international aid organizations to do more. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Scott, thank you so much. Joining me right now for more on this as a former first lady of Ukraine, Kateryna Yuschenko. Thank you so much for being here, Mrs. Yuschenko. As former first lady, watching these images, unaccompanied children crossing the border, to the unknown wives saying goodbye to their husbands not knowing when they're going to see each other next as they get on these trains. You know, more than a million people were forced to flee your country. What do you think when you see this video, these images every day?

KATERYNA YUSHCHENKO, FORMER FIRST LADY OF UKRAINE: You know, it's -- I feel the same thing every Ukrainian feels which is it's devastating, we are angry, we are -- feel defeated in some ways, but we also feel that there is still so much that the world can do to help us. You know, as we speak, we are seeing Russia conducting unspeakable atrocities indiscriminately devastating entire cities, bombing hospitals, critical infrastructure, humanitarian corridors, capturing, and threatening nuclear facilities. And these cowardly missile strikes, air bombardments are killing Ukrainians causing millions of people to be displaced, homes destroyed, and children will be forever traumatized.


BOLDUAN: And we just heard at the very top of the show a strike hitting a bakery and killing folks in a bakery. Ukrainian leaders are rejecting -- you talked about the humanitarian corridors. Ukrainian leaders are now rejecting the latest offer for establishing a humanitarian corridor after Moscow offered that the path, the routes leave through Belarus and Russia. What do you think of that offer? I mean, what does it say to you?

YUSHCHENKO: Well, Kate, we've been there, we've done that for centuries, for decades, millions of Ukrainians have been forced into Siberia, far eastern Russia into slave labor, into the Gulag, into camps. We do not want our people held hostage and then be kidnapped, and their homes then taken to be replaced by Russians moved in so that they could change the population in our country. We've done this before and this -- we've had enough. We will not accept anything close to this offer. BOLDUAN: I mean, when even that it is being offered -- I mean, what does it -- do you -- I mean unserious, seems to be what I'm getting from you, at the very least that Ukraine would even consider that.

YUSHCHENKO: It's cynical. It's cynical -- it's cynical. And I think that what we're seeing is that they are saying these things only for their own population for domestic consumption. They understand that Ukrainians understand this is untenable. They understand that the whole world sees what's happening. But they're saying this to their own domestic people trying to show this as a victory when it's obviously a great loss for Russia.

BOLDUAN: Yes. There's now a real discussion happening among Western officials about how the West would support a government in exile led by President Zelenskyy should he have to flee Kyiv. What would it mean? What do you think it would mean if he would have to leave the country?

YUSHCHENKO: Well, I do not see our president leaving the country anytime soon. He's been very brave. And I think that that is just not something that will happen. But it all depends on what the West does now. There's so much more that can be done to prevent something like that happening, you know, from a no-fly zone, which would close our skies and stop the slaughter to giving us the airplanes that we need and the equipment, the electronic defensive warfare systems, the fighter jets, the patriot and Stinger missiles from a trade embargo, from much more thorough sanctions. I think there's so much more that could be done to not allow anything like that to happen.

No matter what happens, Ukrainians will not give in. They're -- Ukrainians will not accept a foreign power take your country yet again. We have too many centuries of experience with Russia.

BOLDUAN: Kateryna Yuschenko, thank you for coming on.

YUSHCHENKO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: For more information on how you can help the people of Ukraine as we were just discussing, go to Coming up still for us. Gas prices in the United States are now nearing a record-high as the Russian invasion upends global oil prices. How high prices could go and what could be done to see some relief? That's next.



BOLDUAN: Russia's invasion of Ukraine is disrupting the world's energy supply and causing gas prices to skyrocket. AAA is reporting that the national average of gas in the U.S. is more than $4 a gallon now, its highest point since 2008. CNN's Pete Muntean is live in Alexandria, Virginia for us this hour for a look at -- the closer look at this. Pete, what are you seeing and what does this mean?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kate, I just talked to a customer here. She says it felt like just the other day that gas was $3 a gallon, and really she's kind of right about that. Look at the latest numbers from AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular now $4.07, that went up six cents overnight. It was $3.61 this time last week.

You know what's really going on here is that the price is going up since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, about 50 cents since it started 11 days ago. Also, the U.S. gets about 2 percent of its oil imports from Russia but because of this war, it's really causing a strain on European and Asian markets. Remember, oil is traded globally, so that's causing the price to go up even here.

We are really close to the record for the national average, $4.11 set back July 17, 2008. Experts say this bubble might not burst until we see $4.25 maybe even $4.50 a gallon, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, no sign it's going to be slowing down anytime soon or turning around anytime soon. Pete, thank you for that. Also developing AT THIS HOUR, efforts are underway to get WNBA star Brittney Griner back to the United States. She's currently being detained in Russia after being arrested at the Moscow airport. Griner's wife and now the State Department are weighing in. CNN's Kylie Atwood is tracking this live at the State Department for us this hour. Kylie, what are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN INTERNAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, the Secretary of State was asked about the situation over the weekend, he cited privacy concerns. He said he couldn't actually get into the details of this.


ATWOOD: But he did say whenever an American is arrested detained abroad, the State Department stands ready to provide them with consular assistance. And just to provide some context here. Griner was arrested at an airport near Moscow because the folks who were going through her bags at that airport found cannabis oil in her bags. And so, therefore, she was arrested on drug charges, she could potentially face up to 10 years in prison for those charges. We're still waiting to see how this all unfolds.

And as you said, over the weekend, we heard from her family, from her wife, from the WNBA, from the Phoenix team that she plays for, all, of course, calling for her swift and safe return to the United States. And we should note that she's been playing basketball in Russia in the offseason when it's offseason here in the United States since 2015.

So, this isn't something new. She had been going there for years now. But, of course, it comes amid this backdrop of the crisis in Ukraine and, of course, concerns that this issue could bleed into the fact that U.S.-Russia relations are critically at an all-time high right now.

BOLDUAN: Kylie, thank you. Coming up for us still, a Ukrainian student-athlete here in the United States watching the horror of war unfold in her homeland. Her family, in the war zone, she joins us live next.



BOLDUAN: The world is watching this war on Ukraine unfold. The horror of Putin's brutality, the tragedy of innocent lives lost, the injustice of a democratic nation invaded for no good reason. For our next guest, though, this isn't just watching history unfold. This is her homeland, her life, her family, the attacks are as personal as they can get. Kateryna Maistrenko is from Ukraine. She's a senior at Washington State University, a member of the school's top-ranked rowing team. Kate, thank you for being here.


BOLDUAN: For everyone to understand, you're from Ukraine, your parents have had to flee the city, your two brothers are there and have joined the fight, when was the last time that you spoke with your family.

MAISTRENKO: I tried to call them every morning before I go to practice at 5 a.m. and I was very lucky that I could reach out to one of my brothers that didn't answer and didn't return my calls for the past two days because he wasn't able to sleep. And I was super happy that he's alive because for me, like, every single day is a challenge.

Like every single practice, I go through, class, presentations, like being a student pretty stressful. So having this on top of like, losing your friends, like neighbors, everything that you have all your entire life, it's already a blessing that some of your close ones like still alive. That's, for me, it's just incredible. And I'm grateful for what I have every single moment that I'm able to talk to them.

BOLDUAN: I mean, just to say that we're just grateful to know that they're alive is -- I mean, it's just a crushing thing to have to hear you say as you're thousands of miles away. What are you hearing from your parents?

MAISTRENKO: So, every day could be challenging, some days are good, some bad, but you know, they're such strong people. My dad, he was a coach for the USSR. My mom was an Olympic rower as well. So they're incredibly strong people. They're very positive. My mom goes and helps to the hospital that got bombed, and she provides some help to the kids, soldiers, and my dad is helping in our country house baseman.

We have tons of kids from our training camp that my parents owned, but unfortunately, it got bombed. And the -- and like, all my even like a dream of being an Olympian like practice after my graduations now have to be replanned. And, I mean, I -- my parents always taught me like, no matter what's happening, you have to adapt to the situation you're in.

And I knew that, like, I'm strong enough to handle anything in my life but you know, you never think it's going to happen to you so I was like, OK, like, I'm a STEM major, I will able to find a job here in the United States. Like, I don't want to give up on my Olympic dream. So I know they support any of my decisions, but they also like making sure that I'm here and safe and that they are just grateful that I'm not there, even though like my heart is there like 24/7, even though I'm proud that I'm here in the United States in Pullman, Washington.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, I can -- you're thousands of miles away. I mean, can you put into words what the past 12 days have been like for you? I mean, what do you want people in the United States and around the world to hear your message, your story, your family?

MAISTRENKO: So, since I was little, I was always interested in history. And I want to say that history is the future. And when I came to the United States, I barely spoke any English like I speak five languages, but I didn't speak very good English. So through the time, and my supportive teammates and academics out there, I picked up English pretty quick.

And I just want to make sure that people know their own history, so they want to you know repeat the past mistakes that were happening right now in Ukraine. Ukraine, like it's such a peaceful, independent country. They've been only, like, only being independent for 30 years, but within these 30 years that you have so much. Like, it's -- it was just like a blessing.


MAISTRENKO: I -- like I lived in Ukraine for 17 years and it was the best 17 years of my life. And I got to travel to different countries just to be up because I was part of the national team. And since I was 14, I was traveling --


MAISTRENKO: -- Learning different cultures but I knew that Ukraine, that's my homeland and I just felt like this is where I belong and we're as -- like people are united and people are so kind to each other, so I think --

BOLDUAN: And we have been seeing it over and over and throughout, Kate, is just how united Ukraine is. Even if divided by an ocean now, you are united with Ukraine and your family as well. Thank you so much. It's really a pleasure to meet you. I'm so sorry. It's under these circumstances. Thank you. CNN's breaking news coverage of the war on Ukraine continues with INSIDE POLITICS and John King after this quick break.



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS, I'm John King in Washington.