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At This Hour

Kyiv Under Fire As Talks Pause Between Ukraine & Russia; U.S. Officials: Russia Asked China For Military, Economic Help; Ukraine President To Virtually Address U.S. Congress On Wednesday. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired March 14, 2022 - 11:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: And hello everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga in for Kate Bolduan. We begin with breaking news on the war in Ukraine. An apartment building in Kyiv has been hit by Russian shelling this morning. Firefighters rescuing the injured and putting out the flames, at least one person was killed. Now it comes as talk scheduled to resume today between Ukraine and Russia will pause until tomorrow. Putin's unprovoked war is now dangerously close to NATO territory. Dozens of people are dead and more than 100 others hurt after a barrage of Russian missiles struck a military base just 11 miles away from Ukraine's border with Poland.

And in the south, residents are finally beginning to get out of the besieged city of Mariupol through a humanitarian corridor. The city has sustained some of the worst damage of the war thus far with Russian tanks firing relentlessly on residents there. The Red Cross this morning warns the time is running out to get trapped Ukrainians out. And let's begin our coverage this morning with CNN's Sam Kiley, who is live in Kyiv. Sam, what are you seeing on the ground there?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, here in Kyiv there still is something of what one might call it operational pause, Bianna. The Russians have not been maintaining the level of bombardment at the city that we've seen before. But nonetheless, there have been some strikes. One missile indeed was shot down by an antiaircraft battery and in the west of the city landed caused some minor injuries and some severe damage to certain shops and so on but nothing catastrophic yet. And that is because the expectation is the Russians are preparing to regroup and come in from the east of the country. Simultaneously though with this, there's been civilian deaths on the other side, if you like, civilians have been killed about 20 of them. But what probably has been a Ukrainian missile, a long range ballistic missile that the Russian, Russian backed separatists or the Russians themselves shot down over Donetsk. And the debris fell on civilians killing at least 20 there according to local authorities, but I think the really significant development here in the humanitarian story is this move out of Mariupol. It's been more than a week since the mayor there has been telling CNN and the deputy mayor telling CNN that the town has got no water, no electricity, no food, that people are being shelled on a daily basis.

We've seen some very dramatic footage of what appears to be the ones in destruction of civilian apartments by a tank firing in Mariupol. But now there is some movement on the humanitarian corridor to the town of Zaporizhzhia into Ukrainian government territory, 160 cars, we understand have now been able to join that corridor, it hasn't yet been attacked by Russian forces. And that in and of itself is a small but significant mercy, so people are managing to get out but of course there's 400 to 500,000 people potentially stuck in that town. We don't know how many people left in the first place. But clearly, this is a very significant positive step. Bianna?

GOLODRYGA: Yes, this as the situation in Mariupol continues to get worse by the hour. Sam Kiley, thank you.

Well, Ukraine's president is demanding the release of two mayors who were kidnapped by Russian forces and replaced with pro-Russian officials. This comes as we learned the first American journalist casualties in the war. CNN's Scott McLean is live in Lviv and Western Ukraine with the latest. Scott, what can you tell us about the mayors who have been kidnapped?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Bianna, yes, the second one yesterday this according to the Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, this was in a small city in southern Ukraine called Dnipro route in Zaporizhzhia Region. And as you mentioned, the second mayor since Friday to be abducted by Russian forces according to the Ukrainians, the first one was abducted in Melitopol, not too far from there, by -- in broad daylight, by a group of armed men, charged with terrorism offenses. There's no evidence to suggest that any of that is true or that the charges are legitimate. But very soon after there was a second pro-Russian mayor that had been installed making very clear that Russian T.V. channels would be put on television in that region to make sure that reliable information in her telling would be available to citizens, obviously telling a very different version of events.

Meanwhile, the people in that city are, well, they're protesting that move. The local politicians are calling for treason charges against this pro-Russian mayor, unelected pro-Russian mayor that has been installed there. And here in Lviv, Bianna, I mean it seems like a million miles away from the problems in southern and in eastern Ukraine, people are going out about their business. But over the weekend this city got a wakeup call. A bomb fell, series of strikes fell about 30 miles from here and only about 11 miles from the Polish border, an area that many figured would probably be spared from Russian attacks because of its proximity to NATO's eastern front, that is apparently not the case.


Now, you can see people are still out and about today. Air raid sirens have been going off, almost daily for the last several days. And lately people have been largely ignoring them. But now it seems like people are starting to perk up a little bit as the bombs get closer. And one of the fears here is that so many people have sought shelter here in Lviv from other parts of the country not wanting to leave Ukraine since it's still relatively safe here. And the fear is that many of these people will be running for the exits if the bombs get any closer.

Even one woman that I came coming into Ukraine to be with her nine- year-old son told me that she would not leave the country unless it was absolutely necessary. But today she is on a bus to Poland to get out of the line of fire, she says.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, one of the over 2.5 million refugees who have now left that country. There's also been another tragic development from the bombing on a maternity hospital last weekend in Mariupol. What are we learning about two of those victims?

MCLEAN: Yes. So remember, this was last Wednesday, this was during a period of time, a 12-hour period of time where there was supposed to be a humanitarian corridor established to get people out of that city, a desperately needed corridor, as conditions at that time were starting to quickly deteriorate. There was no power, no water, no heat, and they were running out of food and water still very much the case today, but even worse.

And on that day, the Russians struck a hospital in that area that was treating children and treating expected mothers and delivering babies. One of the women who was photographed in the aftermath of that on a stretcher we now know, has died. The surgeon who tried to save for life in the aftermath said that they performed an emergency C section but it pulled the baby out with no vital signs and attempts to resuscitate both the mother and the baby, more than half an hour were unsuccessful, so again, one more tragedy in Mariupol, a place that surely does not need any more.

GOLODRYGA: Scott, we are just at that point where we're at a loss for words to describe how brutal and tragic Putin's war has been thus far, just three weeks in. Thank you so much for that report.

Well, now let's get to the growing humanitarian crisis and the frantic efforts to get Ukrainians out of the country. The United Nations reports that more than now 2.8 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Poland, where refugees continue to arrive. And Ed, the generosity that we've seen towards these refugees these past few weeks has been one of the few bright spots. What are you seeing there now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that generosity continues, Bianna. We are at the train station in Przemysl, Poland, which is just a few miles away from the border checkpoint. If you're coming by train from Ukraine, this is the initial entry point. There are many people walking across taking buses to the border checkpoints a few miles away. But if they're coming by train, mostly from Lviv and Odessa, they are coming through this train station here. And it is an arduous journey.

And as we've spoken with people over the last few days, Bianna, we're struck by the lengths and the distance that people are coming from. And given the intensity of the fighting and the bombing throughout many parts of central and eastern Ukraine, many of those family members on their journeys have been traversing those very war zones, making it to Lviv. Several people here have told us that the simple train ride from Lviv to this train station here on the Polish border, which should normally take no more than two hours, roughly, it's less than a three hour ride by car is right now taking about 11 hours.

Much of that has to do with the fact that they're having to do border control checkpoints and customs and those sorts of things. But it is an arduous journey just to get to this point.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, unimaginable what these people have been going through, obviously. Most of them just women and children as men have had to stay behind and fight this war. Ed Lavandera, thank you.

Well, this morning we're learning more about China's role in this war. U.S. officials telling CNN that Russia asked China for military and economic assistance for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. It comes as the White House National Security Adviser just met with his Chinese counterpart in Rome. CNN's Kylie Atwood is live at the State Department. Kylie, what are you learning about China's role in helping Russia here?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well listen, what we're learning is that Russia has asked China for economic and military support as part of their invasion into Ukraine. And there's two timing aspects of this that are significant. The first of all, is that Russia asked China for this support after their invasion began. So it wasn't like they went to China at the onset before in their planning and said, we're going to need your help. They went to them after they had already began the invasion. And it's significant, because we don't know exactly what prompted this request. But we have been reporting on the ground that Russia has run into logistical problems, they've run into fuel shortages and the like.


So it appears that they're going to China when they've come up against some challenges as their invasion has occurred. The other significant timing aspect is that these reports are coming out from U.S. officials, as the National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is headed today is meeting with his Chinese counterpart. This puts China in the hot seat. They're going to have to explain potentially, if they're actually going to provide any support to Russia. Thus far, they haven't said anything about these reports saying that they have never heard of this. But I want you to listen to what Jake Sullivan said to Dana Bash over the weekend, about the consequences that Russia, excuse me, that China would face if they provide the support to Russia.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We are communicating directly privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences for large scale sanctions, evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them. We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country anywhere in the world.


ATWOOD: So we're waiting to hear from the White House for a readout of that meeting that Jake Sullivan is having today with his Chinese counterpart in Rome to learn any more that we can about what China's plan is for more support or potentially less support for Russia as part of this invasion. Bianna?

GOLODRYGA: Yes, the big question is whether Xi will heed those warnings from the United States. Kylie Atwood, thank you.

And coming up, as Russian forces launched more attacks in western Ukraine, NATO countries are standing ready to defend the Alliance. We'll discuss the latest threat up next.



GOLODRYGA: We are following breaking news in Ukraine, an apartment building in Kyiv has been killed -- has been hit by Russian shelling. Firefighters rushing to rescue those trapped inside and to put out the fires. Now it comes after a Russian attack on a military base in western Ukraine brings Putin's war to the doorstep of NATO countries. Joining me now is retired Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, also with us Angela Stent, she is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council. Angela is also the author of the book "Putin's World." Welcome both of you. General, let me begin with you. Russia's military attacks have only intensified the most recent just miles from the Polish border. Do you view this as a shift in strategy from the Russians at this point?

BRIGADIER GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, it could be. I think the first thing they're doing is going after the supply line. So supply lines include some of the airfields that are in western Ukraine, whether this is part of a ground offensive that they will launch fairly soon is yet to be seen. But they know they're taking damage from those weapons that are being brought in by NATO. And they want to turn that off.

GOLODRYGA: Well, the Russia's deputy foreign minister just this weekend said hitting those supply lines would be quote, fair game. And that's clearly what we saw play out. Angela is targeting a military facility so close to a NATO member a sign that Putin is perhaps prepared to now expand this war beyond just Ukraine? ANGELA STENT, FMR. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE OFFICER FOR RUSSIA AND EURASIA: Yes, it seems to be somewhat of a different playbook. I think first of all, they have to achieve their goals in Ukraine before they can expand it. But it's getting very dangerous, the closer they get to a NATO member. And if there is some unforeseen event here, and which directly involves Poland, then NATO would have to respond. So they are taking greater risks here in the hopes of stopping as the General said, the supply of arms to the Ukrainians.

GOLODRYGA: So in general, how alarming is it that we see Russia taking greater risks, clearly in response to the war not going the way they had intended it to go? We don't see any signs of an off ramp here.

KIMMITT: Well, I don't think there is an off ramp at this point. And I don't think Russia is taking greater risks. Yes, they didn't achieve their initial objectives, which was a quick takeover of Kyiv and a change to the government. But now that they've realized that this is a slog, they are doing what they've always done in history, which is a slow, bulldozer like vehicle that pushes everything out of their way or underneath them. They're going to start the siege of Kyiv pretty soon. And I think we'll see that strategy play out.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And what's really alarming is I've heard analysts say what we're seeing in Mariupol and the siege surrounding that city is a preview of what we could expect to see in Kyiv in the coming days and weeks. Angela, we have seen President Zelenskyy appeal to President Biden again, to increase and ratchet up the sanctions already at unprecedented levels against Russia. What is left to sanction on the table and would that include European countries coming in and sanctioning that oil and natural gas that they so desperately rely on?

STENT: Sure, so, what's the sanction, as you said, it's the European imports of Russian oil and gas. The U.S. has practically done everything it can to sanction all parts of the Russian economy, which will have a devastating effect as time goes on, although not immediately, it will affect the entire industrial economy. It would, though, Europeans would have to forswear purchasing Russian hydrocarbons. And they're not ready to do that yet. They can only do that if they are assured that they have other supplies of oil and gas. So there are -- there's not that much left to sanction.


GOLODRYGA: I'm curious to get your insights, Angela, as to what more pressure can be exerted upon Putin from the outside world as opposed to internally given that we've seen a sharp decline in the ruble, the economy, no doubt will be in free fall, the stock market has been closed since this war began. Do you think that we should be focusing more on how Russians internally respond to the Kremlin as opposed to what Western countries can do at this point?

STENT: Yes, I mean, I think it's very important to reach the Russian people. They're, you know, they hearing this one narrative, which they apparently believe many of them, of course, some have left, we should be redoubling our efforts to try and get other sources of information to them so that they understand what's going on. And to put, you know, pressure in that way on the Kremlin. Again, that will take time to work. But unfortunately, a majority of the Russian people remain behind this. And this is what we have to try and penetrate better.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. It comes as any independent media has now been banned in Russia. And you hear time and time again, stories of family members in Russia not believing what they're hearing from their loved ones in Ukraine about what's going on. It's quite stunning. General Kimmitt, let me end with you because President Zelenskyy is now scheduled to address Congress Wednesday morning. He was also scheduled, though, to speak to the European Council today, that event was canceled due to quote, urgent and unforeseen circumstances. What does this tell you about his security and safety?

KIMMITT: Well, I think he's put himself at tremendous risk by showing up on television and showing up on inside the presidential palace. But I also think he is starting to realize that this negotiations that's happening with Russia is just a sham. Russia and any country that is winning does not negotiate. So I think he's recognizing that not only is this a sham, but he's got to prepare for the inevitable siege which is about to start on Kyiv.

GOLODRYGA: All unfolding before our eyes, Angela Stent, General Mark Kimmitt, thank you as always.

And coming up, Russia turns to China for both military and economic health. Will Beijing face consequences if they do assist Putin? We'll discuss up next.



GOLODRYGA: A fourth round of talks between Russia and Ukraine half paused. They will resume again tomorrow. Russian forces again are hitting civilian targets as they make their push toward the capital of Kyiv. U.S. officials tell CNN that Russia has now turned to China for both military and economic assistance as much of the world has sanctioned Russia to punish them for the deadly war in Ukraine.

Joining me now is David Sanger. He's the White House and national security correspondent for The New York Times and a CNN political and national security analyst. David, always great to have you on. So let's talk about this leak, this news, revealed from the White House that Russia has turned to China both for military and economic assistance. It appears to be embarrassment for Russia three weeks into the war, not to mention the fact that Russia is the one who's producing these weapons that they've sold to China. What do you make of the strategy of leaking such information?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, all through this conflict in the whole run up, we saw the administration do very strategic leaks designed to try to throw Putin off of course, make it difficult for him to appoint somebody who was going to take over for President Zelenskyy or reveal that their troops were getting ready to move. Most of their evidence turned out to be right. The U.S. accurately predicted the invasion when the Europeans doubted it and even when many Ukrainians doubted it. This one was a particularly fascinating leak, though, because on the one hand, it humiliates President Putin, because it looks like he's gone into a military adventure that he couldn't sustain without going to China for help. And he hates the idea of being the junior partner to China, the reverse of how it was in the Cold War.

And then it puts the Chinese on the spot. It was only three weeks ago, Bianna, that the Munich Security Forum, the foreign minister of China said we respect nation sovereignty and borders, and that includes Ukraine. So if they came in and help Russia now, they would basically be contradicting the principle that they said to be espousing or pretended to espouse at the time.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And we should note that China never recognized Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 as well. So given all of that setup for this meeting today, what do you are looking for to come out of it?


SANGER: Well, a couple of things. Certainly, I think you can expect the Jake Sullivan, the national --