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Russian Offensive Widens: Airstrike Hit Western Ukraine; Biden: Russia Will Pay "Severe Price" If Chemical Weapons Used; Russia Pummels Civilian Targets In Ukraine. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired March 11, 2022 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We begin with breaking news. Multiple Ukrainian cities are under attack right now as Russian forces widen airstrikes into central and western Ukraine. In Dnipro, Ukraine's Emergency Service says new Russian airstrikes hit multiple civilian targets including a psychiatric hospital, apartment buildings, and a shoe factory. The desperate effort to evacuate civilians also picking up speed right now. President Zelenskyy announcing today, Ukraine has organized 12 new humanitarian corridors. Let's hope they hold.

We are also learning more about the horrific toll this war is taking on children. Ukraine says at least 78 kids have been killed since Putin's invasion began. The country's foreign minister tweeting out this video we're showing you right here, toddlers being rushed to a paramedic after very really being hurt in a Russian strike.

And in Washington, President Biden just announced more economic actions to punish Russia, even more consequential, Biden also warned Putin that Russia would pay quote, a severe price if chemical weapons are used against Ukrainians. Let's begin our coverage now with CNN Sam Kiley, he's live in Dnipro, Ukraine, which is coming as I mentioned under new Russian bombardment. Sam, what's the very latest from there?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this morning, Kate, at about 6 o'clock in the morning, just around about dawn, just before dawn, there were three strikes either air strikes or surface to surface missile strikes, we don't know. But they're clearly come under a long range because the nearest Russian ground forces are about 100 miles from here, we understand.

Now a shoe factory was hit, a kindergarten was damaged, and an apartment block was also badly damaged with about eight apartments in that block suffering catastrophic destruction. Now this represents a significant step from the Russian perspective because Dnipro is deep inside the country, a long way, as I say, from Russian ground forces, and not presenting a military target. This wasn't an attack on an airfield that we saw almost simultaneously that with these attacks here, attacks in the west of the country on two different airfields, one in the north one in the south west. These attacks here clearly intended as part of the continuing effort by the Russians to try to break the spirits of the Ukrainian civilian population rather than just break the back of its military. The more that the Russians have run into the sand effectively being held back in a number of locations, even in Mariupol which they fully surrounded in the southeast of the country still being held back there by Ukrainian forces, the more that they've been held back, the more that they have struck out towards civilians. We've seen that very graphically in Kharkiv and obviously in Kyiv, the capital. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Sam, thank you so much. Let's go to Kyiv right now just the same as talking about where Russian forces are approaching the city from all directions. The U.K. says Russia could be preparing for a fresh attack against the capital in the coming days. And that 40 mile long Russian convoy outside the city has largely dispersed and been redeployed. CNN's Matthew Chance, he's live in Kyiv for us at this hour. Matthew, what's happening on the ground there?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, thank you so much. Well you're right about that convoy. It's moved into more defensive positions, taken cover underneath trees and sort of broken up a little bit because it had become a major target for Ukrainian forces that had managed at several positions, to sort of looping around the side of it, and bring it under attack. Obviously, that that tactic that the Russians had been deploying, of putting in as much armor as they could and many supplies as they could through these transport routes via this armored column.

Yes, not working out perhaps as well as the planners in the Kremlin, had hoped they would. We have seen an upsurge in airstrikes taking place as we've been reporting around the country and around the city as well as those Russian forces sort of reposition. But the strategy is still in place. The -- it is still as we understand it, to try as much as possible to encircle the Ukrainian Capitol and to tighten the stranglehold on it.

Now, obviously, there have been many, many instances of civilian residential areas coming into attack. We just heard about the attacks in the Dnipro. There was also an attack further to the west in a city there about 70 miles from the Polish border. So the Russians really broadening out the range of targets they are hitting right now. But there's also been another day here in Kyiv of a humanitarian corridor, I suppose you can call it, an opportunity for the civilians in the north of the city which has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting to get themselves and their families out of that war zone. And that has been happening again, over the course of the decade.


BOLDUAN: Matthew, thank you so much. Let's go to Washington now where President Biden just announced the United States will suspend normal trade relations with Russia. The President also warning to Putin of severe consequences if chemical weapons are used. CNN's John Harwood, he's lived with the White House for us. John, tell us more about what you just heard from President Biden. JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, what the President did was affirmed the direction that Congress is going to take because it requires action by Congress to end permanent normal trade relations with Russia, that means tariffs are going to go up on Russian imports, less impact on the United States, then similar steps would be in Europe, and countries are going to have to go through that country by country to make those decisions.

The United States doesn't have that much bilateral trade with Russia. But the President also announced a ban on some high profile, specialty goods. So no more Russian vodka coming into the United States, no more Russian caviar, no more Russian diamonds, also banning exports of luxury goods to Russia that are consumed by oligarchs.

So these are largely symbolic steps, it's not going to have a huge economic impact in the United States. But the President also addressed what has become the latest focus of speculation fanned by Russia's false flag statements that Ukraine was developing biological weapons, the White House has pointed out that that may signal that they're going to launch a false flag attack. The President was asked what would you do if Russia used biological or chemical weapons in this war, here's what he had to say.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to speak about the intelligence with Ukraine, but Russia would pay severe price if they use chemical weapons.


HARWOOD: Now, Kate, the question is, what would that severe price be? The United States and NATO have drawn a line against direct military engagement with Russia. Would chemical or biological weapons made them -- make them cross that line? Or would it make them go one more step on the most severe kind of economic sanctions, for example, completely sanctioning the Russian exports of oil and gas. That step has not been taken so far, that would have a severe impact on Russia, and on Europe, in the United States economies. BOLDUAN: Absolutely. John, thank you.

So with Putin's war in Ukraine now in its third week, it's becoming increasingly clear how much Belarus is helping Moscow and its attacks. New surveillance from NATO reveals that Russia has been using Belarus as a springboard for many of its air operations. CNN's Natasha Bertrand is live in Brussels with more on this. And Natasha, you are able to get a very unique view into this. What are you -- what more are you learning about the role Belarus is playing in this war?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, Kate, so we were on board in NATO surveillance mission that was flying over the Ukrainian- Polish border yesterday, kind of monitoring the Ukrainian airspace and looking at the Russian activity there. And what we were told by the NATO airmen is that they have been seeing Russian made jets taking off from Belarus and flying into Ukrainian airspace. Now interestingly, they cannot tell whether or not this is Bela-Russian forces flying Russian made aircraft into that airspace or Russian forces because Russia and Belarus actually use the same type of aircraft.

But what they did make clear to us is that these flights that are operating out of Belarus and flying into Ukraine are clearly operating in an effort to support those Russian military operations there. Take a listen to what one NATO airmen told me onboard yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do see activity coming from Belarus going into the Ukraine, but we cannot distinguish whether it is a Russian aircraft or Bela-Russian aircraft. But sometimes there are some sort of periods on a day which are not on a regular basis where we do have a lot of activity getting in, like a larger package with 10 to perhaps 20 aircraft coming in from the Belarus airspace into Ukraine.


BERTRAND: The clear message here is that Belarus has become a really indispensable part of Russia's military operations inside Ukraine. We asked as well whether this information, this intelligence is being provided to Ukraine, we were told that NATO as a bloc is not providing that directly to Kyiv. But the member states such as the U.S. and the U.K. can do so at their discretion. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Good to see you Natasha, great reporting. Thank you.


Coming up for us, more and more Ukrainians are joining the resistance to fight off Putin's invaders. Up next, I'm going to talk with a member of Ukraine's parliament who's defending her country's independence.


BOLDUAN: We are following the breaking news out of Ukraine. A huge explosion at an airport lighting up the sky in Lutsk overnight. Russian forces are expanding their airstrikes into Central and Western Ukraine. Those forces also are inching closer to Kyiv. New Satellite images show that 40-mile long Russian convoy that we've been talking about now for weeks is dispersing and now hiding under the cover of trees.

All of this as fears are growing that scenes like this that we have been watching in Mariupol where Russians bombed a maternity and children's hospital. They fear is that scenes like that will soon be playing out in other parts of Ukraine. Joining me right now is retired General Wesley Clark. He's a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander. It's good to see you General Clark. Let me put up the first map that I want to talk because there are clear signs now that the Russians are pushing West carrying out airstrikes in Lutsk, you see it's in the far west of the country as well as Ivano-Frankivsk. This includes hitting military airfields in both places. What does that mean to you?

[11:15:17] GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it means that they're responding to the dialogue. They're hearing in the Western news media about possibly sending some MiGs in, they want to make sure that no airfields that can support Ukrainian aircraft, they're trying to shut down Ukraine's air defense. And they're closing in on Kyiv. They're going to use aircraft with increasing freedom of maneuver in the skies.

In other words, what this is, is a give and take. Russia is acting, we're reacting or trying to react. And they're ahead of us on the decision process. I say us, this is not NATO, this is all the nations of the world. We're interested in the rule of law and trying to stop the humanitarian slaughter that's underway in Ukraine.

BOLDUAN: The Russians are also making a push to cities that are have so far gone untouched and more central Ukraine cities like Dnipro that you can see over there. Ukraine is saying that missile strikes hit a residential area, a primary building, primary school building, apartment buildings, and even a shoe factory. General, can you put that all together with the attacks we were just talking about in Western Ukraine? What is Russia trying to do now?

CLARK: Russia is trying to do two things. They're trying to encircle the forces that are east of the Dnipro. They're trying to close the encirclement of Kyiv. And at the same time, they're trying to terrify the population, create a humanitarian catastrophe, and force President Zelenskyy to give in as soon as possible. So the pressures on and there are some in the West who keep asking, well, can't there be some diplomatic agreement, can't -- isn't there some off ramp?

But I think we have to conclude, Kate, that Mr. Putin doesn't want an off ramp. What he wants to do to the diplomacy is and the humanitarian corridors is to forestall Western action. He wants us to stand by while his military which has thus far been relatively inept, closes in and squeezes the life out of the culture and the Government of Ukraine. That's the plan. Encircle, besiege, and then clear them out, and keep the West at bay while he does it.

BOLDUAN: As you talk about in circle, it makes me think of Kyiv. And I want to focus in there and on these new satellite images that have been coming in showing that that 40 mile long military, Russian military convoy that we've been watching so closely for weeks now, the satellite company, Maxar, they say that that convoy is dispersing, and repositioning and forests and tree line areas, what are they doing?

CLARK: Some of it is artillery, some of it is a multiple launch rocket systems that are waiting to be moved closer to Kyiv, some of these are out of brains right now. They've got to get in closer. Some of it was destroyed the fuel vehicles and others were taken out. A lot of people were killed in that convoy, but Ukrainians lacked the airpower to really go in and take that convoy out. That convoy should have been the highway of death to Ukrainian aircrafts, and it wasn't. And so the Ukrainians had missed a key opportunity.

What's coming up Kate is the question of whether they can prevent Kyiv from being encircled. If they can prevent it from being encircled from the south and the west, then there's always a chance to get reinforcements and resupply in. If the Russians closed that encirclement, then it's a different situation and those people inside are going to be hanging on for dear life.

BOLDUAN: General, thank you so much. I really appreciate it as always. So one big takeaway from this war so far is the resilience and determination of the Ukrainian people and that includes this woman we're going to show you, Kira Rudik. She's a member of Ukrainian parliament and former business executive who was profiled this week in "The Wall Street Journal" after joining the national resistance against Putin's forces. And Kira Rudik joins me now. Thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

As you've been getting weapons training and preparing yourself to fight, I mean, I saw that you're also helping at the Kyiv train station as well. I mean, what are you doing there right now? What have you been doing there? And what are you hearing from the people there at this point?

KIRA RUDIK, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Thank you so much for having me. So today, I indeed additionally to the training that I'm taking, along with my resistance team that is growing bigger and bigger. We went to the train station, where the refugees from all over the country are coming in in the hope To get to the West. The trains are still running and still going so people are able to get on them or at least get their children there so they could flee to the West.


Unfortunately, because of the shelling of the western cities tonight, people are so confused and frightened, and they just say, take me somewhere safe. They don't know where they want to go. They just say like, somewhere safe. Take me as far as possible from this hell. So I was helping out today with the refugees from the city of Irpin and Kherson is the ones that were under the siege for two weeks, people who have seen so many tragedies, so one day, he is IT specialists he is doing the Payton's (ph) like that the world applauds to and like just next day, this person under the firing arms is running to get candles and water because they're sitting in the basement along with his family, without water without electricity, without the bathrooms like, and this is crazy. And people are still cannot process the tragedies that they have been through.

So it's really devastating there, the children are so scared, some of them are not even talking to you. And we were giving away the toys, something to support them to say that you are closer to them. You're closer to a normal life now that the terror you have been through is gone, you will be better. But honestly, I don't know if they will be better because they're going to the Western Ukraine that has also been bombarded right now. And where is the safety Ukraine right now?

BOLDUAN: Kira I wanted to ask you, because adding to that when you're talking about we don't know when they will be, how they will be safe. And yourself included in this as you were in Kyiv. President Biden was asked today about the possibility of what should be unimaginable, which is the possibility of a chemical attack in Ukraine coming from Russia. And when he was asked about it, he said that if that would happen, Russia will pay a quote, severe price if they'd make that move. What do you think about, honestly, even that as a possibility?

RUDIK: During the last 16 days, since the war started, we have seen many things that were unimaginable. We have seen people suffering from the bombarding, we have seen people suffering from starvation, from dehydration, from all the things, so they just add up as another threat. I'm more concerned about the nuclear threat, honestly, because what we see is happening in Chernobyl station where it was disconnected from the grid is more scary to me. I remember Chernobyl. I know what influence the radiation has in people's lives.

So with all these threats combined, I'm still asking the question, what is the plan from the NATO countries? Like how are we supposed to fight if we are not getting the support from the air, this is the main point right now. Putin is able to bombard the nuclear plants, because Ukraine cannot oppose him in the air. And this is much more critical for what I see right now than the threat of the chemical attack. I see it as a higher possibility. And that's why we were continuously asking for jets for additional weaponry, so we will be able to fight him back because right now he's just coming on to our cities and bombarding them and destroying people's lives, destroying people, destroying the country.

And we need to be able to contradict him. We are doing it very well on the ground. We are fighting him very well. We are giving him a good fight and we will be standing up to his army and continue doing so but we do need help in the air. We continuously do need help in the air because this is our way to survive. This is our way in this war.

BOLDUAN: Kira Rudik, thank you so much for coming on. Thank you.

We can hear it in her voice, we can hear it in her voice, the desperation and the calls for help from inside Ukraine right now.


Coming up, as we were just discussing, millions of Ukrainians have are in Ukraine, but they have also fled Ukraine and fled this bloody war. Up next, I'm going to speak with an American. We've got his wife and his newborn son out of Kyiv, and they're going to tell me about those harrowing days long journeys. We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: The United Nations reports that 2.5 million Ukrainians have now fled their war torn country since the start of the Russian invasion.