Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Heavy Explosions Heard Across Kyiv As Russia Expands Its Assault; Sources: White Having Discussions About Biden Trip To Europe; Bipartisan Pressure On Biden To Help Ukraine Get More Fighter Jets; Sources: China Has Expressed Some Openness To Russia's Request For Military And Financial Aid; Anti-War Protester Interrupt Russian State TV Broadcast; Average Cases Fall 95 Percent Since January Omicron Peak. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 14, 2022 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Squatters in London today took over the mansion of a Russian oligarch and a Putin ally there. You see the sign that says, this property has been liberated.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: All right. We'll see you tomorrow.

And THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The list of innocent victims of Putin's war against Ukraine keeps growing.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Only 12 miles from Poland. Russian shelling continuing to pummel Ukrainian citizens, cities and towns while getting closer and closer to a NATO ally, where U.S. troops are deployed.

Then, getting some help from a friend. Two U.S. officials tell CNN, Russia asked China for military and economic help in their invasion. This as the U.S. national security adviser meets with a top Chinese diplomat.

Plus, she opened her home to a Ukrainian girl for a student exchange program. Now, 20 years later, she's opening her home again to that same woman, now grown, and her children who are fleeing Putin's war.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start with our world lead today. Multiple explosions rocking the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv today. A Russian airstrike hit a residential apartment building the Kyiv suburbs this morning. Firefighters raced to evacuate survivors amidst the flames and wreckage. Ukraine's emergency services says preliminary information suggests at

least one person was killed. Six others injured. Dozens of residents were, thankfully, able to safely escape. While Russian forces appeared to be gaining ground on Kyiv last week, today, a senior Pentagon official said almost all the Russian advances are around the capital of Kyiv, remain stalled.

This is a bird's eye view of what is left of Mariupol in the southeast of Ukraine after weeks of Russian bombardment. Ukrainian officials say more than 2,500 people have died in that town alone since the Russian invasion began, 2,500. Moments ago, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said it appears Russia is broadening its targets into western Ukraine. One of the latest examples, cruise missiles launched at a Ukrainian military center just 12 miles from the border with Poland -- Poland, of course, a key NATO ally.

And also today, a heart breaking update to a report from last week. A woman in this photograph being carried out of the Mariupol children's hospital after a Russian strike has now died. Efforts to save her baby through an emergency caesarean section were also sadly unsuccessful. Two more of the innocent victims of Vladimir Putin's unprovoked war on an independent, sovereign country.

CNN's Sam Kiley starts us off our coverage today from Kyiv.

And, Sam, you've been hearing explosions throughout the day in Kyiv. What do we know about potential damages and casualties?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand, Jake, that there was an attack in the west of the city, fairly routine now, sadly, attacks in the west and northwest in particular, where an apartment building was struck. In addition to that, the Antonov aircraft factory was also hit with some kind of missiles. The strike that hit the apartment, local authorities here said that two people were killed and at left a seven badly injured, the two bodies were found inside the building, just the latest civilian deaths in the ongoing, fairly random attacks that we're seeing across the capital.

We were also in the west of the town doing another story that we'll bring you later on this evening, Jake. And about 500 meters away, another missile, this one was downed by the surface-to-air anti- missiles missiles, nonetheless impacted on the ground. Mercifully, nobody was hurt. There were a few relatively minor injuries, and a lot of distraction.

But it's yet again another example of this disregard for civilian lives here. Mostly though, the city is being held by what may start to happen or increasing happening in the east, in the satellite town to the east and elsewhere. There's increasing signs the Russians are building up for some kind of significant assault which is anticipated the next few days in the east of the city. And then of course, people are very anxious indeed the southern routes being cut off. Clearly, the Russian plan is that they can't capture Kyiv, they will try to proceed it, Jake.

TAPPER: Some, what do we know about the state of diplomatic talks between Russia and Ukraine?

KILEY: Well, they are advancing. They're continuing. Today, they were continuing by remote discussions, rather than the face to face discussions in Belarus and elsewhere that we have seen between delegations from Russia and the Ukrainians.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president here, saying they had entered something of a difficult phase, but they are talking, getting potentially getting into details.


Now, that is potentially a good sign if people on both sides are talking about modalities and structures, perhaps conceivably, there might be talks about a cease fire, probably the greatest thing that could be hoped for.

But a small sign of potentially, hope, is that 160 private vehicles were able to get out of Mariupol and escape toward Zaporizhzhia, the southeast of the country. We don't know how many people that involved. This was a not humanitarian convoy. It was kind of, people taking it into their own hands and taking risk themselves to try to get out.

But it seems that convoy got through. It wasn't at least massively attacked by the Russians so that's a positive side. But on the negative side, a humanitarian convoy yet another day, they've been trying on get in for about a week now, was stopped about 50 miles outside of Mariupol by the Russians and that was to get food and water and other supplies to a city that is frankly on its knees, Jake.

TAPPER: Sam Kiley, live in Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you. Please stay safe.

President Biden could soon travel to Europe to meet with key allies about the Russian war on Ukraine. Sources tell CNN that White House officials are in the early stages of exploring possible stops.

And as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, news of a potential trip come as Ukraine's president directly appealed to President Biden, asking him to add more sanctions on more oligarchs and to cut Russia and Putin further off from both international trade and international waterways.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Russia winds its assault on Ukraine, President Biden is weighing a trip to Europe to show case America's support as the U.S. sees the effects of the invasion at home.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make no mistake, the current spike in gas prices is largely the fault of Vladimir Putin.

COLLINS: The diplomatic visit has yet to be finalized but discussions are underway following Biden's 49-minute call with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy who pressed Biden to take further steps to cut Russia off from international trade, continue targeting Russian elite and close off Russia's access to international waterways.

Zelenskyy will address U.S. lawmakers in a virtual speech to Congress on Wednesday where he is expected to request more assistance.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're thrilled. It is such a privilege to have this leader of this country where these people are fighting for their democracy and our democracy.

COLLINS: Lawmakers from both parties have continued to push the Biden administration to fulfill Zelenskyy's request for more fighter jets, which so far, the Pentagon has rejected as a high risk effort.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): My personal feeling is we should provide those planes, because they are potentially very important to the Ukrainian defense.

COLLINS: National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan sat down with China's top diplomat in Rome today after CNN reported that Russia sought China's help with military equipment and economic stance amid crippling sanctions.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions of Asian efforts, or support to Russia to backfill them.

COLLINS: U.S. officials say Russian President Putin has been frustrated by the sluggishness of his advance in Ukraine, amid concerns that he may now turn to chemical weapons.

SULLIVAN: Vladimir Putin is frustrated by the fact his forces are not making the kind of progress he thought they would make against major cities, including Kyiv.

COLLINS: Although negotiations between Russia and Ukraine are expected to continue Tuesday, U.S. officials say that for now, there is no evidence that Putin is changing course.

WENDY SHERMAN, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: So far, it appears that Vladimir Putin is intent on destroying Ukraine. We need to help Ukrainians in every way we can.


COLLINS (on camera): Now, Jake, on that meeting that the national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, had with a top Chinese diplomat today, we were told it was intense. It lasted about seven hours and obviously Ukraine was a big part of that discussion. Officials coming out of that meeting are saying they have deep concerns about China's alignment with Russia, though, Jake, they are refusing to come on whether or not the U.S. does believe China is open to providing that assistance to Russia at this time.

Of course, whether or not that is economic assistance or military equipment, and they've declined to say whether or not China has provided Russia with any assistance since the invasion of Ukraine began, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Joining now to us discuss, Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada. She's on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also on the Senate Homeland Committee.

Senator, thanks for joining us.

You've called for the U.S. to work with its allies to transfer those fighter jets to Ukraine. The Biden administration seemed to consider the proposal from Poland to do that last week before ultimately rejecting it.

Has anyone in the Biden administration given you a satisfactory answer for why they backed off that?

SEN. JACKY ROSEN (D-NV): Well, first of all, thank you for having me.

And as I watch the news, all along in the last few weeks, particularly the segment before me, I can tell you that we have to do everything we can to support the brave and resilient people of Ukraine against the brutal, inhumane unprovoked attack by Vladimir Putin. So we have to do everything we can.

Right now, giving the planes to Ukraine, the president is still resistant. I believe that we can work with our allies and partners to provide the proper kind of support or equipment that they need through our allies and partners. We need to give Ukraine all the tools that they need on the ground to be successful, to stop Vladimir Putin and his regime.

TAPPER: Now, President Biden, has he or anybody in his administration given you any satisfactory answer as to why they won't participate or help Poland deliver these planes?

ROSEN: I think that they're continuing to work with our NATO allies trying to find a back channel without provoking World War III. These are some of the things he's working on. We're trying to press him on this.

As you've seen, some of my colleagues have been in Poland and Germany and other Eastern European countries over the past few weeks, pressing the humanitarian aid, the military aid.

Last week, we passed the omnibus, about $14 billion with military and humanitarian aid, offering Ukraine. We need to continue to supply all the support that Ukraine needs. Because Vladimir Putin must be stopped and he must see that the whole world, the whole entire world is against him, and we will not stand for this type of behavior, unprovoked, against a sovereign democratic country.

TAPPER: Your Republican colleague Lindsey Graham said today that if Russia uses chemical weapons against the Ukrainians, he would then support the U.S. creating and enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Would you? What's your red line for -- of no-fly zone?

ROSEN: Well, let's be clear. If Vladimir Putin decides to use chemical warfare, that is a violation of international -- it's a war crime. And so he will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

So if he chooses to cross that line, we will have to determine what the appropriate response is.

To this point, he has not done that. But if he does, I believe it will have to, with members of Congress, both houses, working with the administration, NATO, the United Nations, determine what the best course of action is going forward. Let's hope he doesn't cross it.

TAPPER: Don't you think he's already committed war crimes? I mean, there have been unprovoked attacks on civilian buildings, maternity hospitals. I mean, there are a lot of individuals who think what he's done already has been something that should be referred to the International Criminal Court.

ROSEN: I do believe he's committed war crimes, because he's attacked civilians, like you said, maternity hospitals. We saw in your prior piece, the sad, horrible story of a pregnant woman trying to be saved -- her and her baby, unable to save them. We saw them carried on a stretcher.

This is someone's wife. She may have other children. This is also someone's child. We see horror after horror go on and on.

I do believe he has -- he has committed war crimes. We must find every way to stop him without entering World War III. That's what we're working now.

There are some other things I'm working on. I am the only former computer programmer in the United States Senate. So I've sent a letter with 20 of my colleagues to Secretary Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland Security, to be sure that we're ready for any cyber attacks in our critical infrastructure that may come our way as a matter of retaliation for the support that we're giving Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, to our NATO allies, also in support of Ukraine and the region.

And we're hoping that Secretary Mayorkas along with our cyber security and infrastructure security agency will be able to provide with us what they're working to prevent, mitigate any cyber attacks, and if they need any resources to help us in that regard, because we are sure we haven't seen the last of Vladimir Putin's brutality.

TAPPER: On that topic, you led a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to the Biden administration today asking for details on how to frequent country from Russian cyber attacks. Not to mention disinformation campaigns.

Who exactly do you think could be a target? Are we talking about government websites? Private companies? What do you think is the most vulnerable, most likely to be hit? ROSEN: Well, I think you've seen Russia do the Solar Winds attack.

You saw that that was on some of our critical infrastructure. We've seen some intrusions in what they call the log4J shell and -- excuse me, and sub routines. We've seen incursion after incursion.

So, I want to be sure that the Department of Homeland Security is marshalling all of its resources to give them out to our public- private partnerships in particular, for our critical electric grids, our water infrastructure, any of our pipelines.


It's important that they are on their highest, highest guard right now, and that they have all the tools and resources that they need.

Of course, our government agencies already have this information. We want to be sure that everyone is not just promoting the best cyber hygiene, but if they see any uptick in activity of malicious events, then they need to let us know immediately so we can do everything we can to prevent or mitigate it.

And that's -- that's why we sent the letter. Like I said, Senator Mike Braun tonight sent that, along with 20 of our colleagues, hoping to hear back from the -- they got confirmation that they received the letter last night. We home to hear back from them in the next few days as to their plans.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada, thank you so much. Appreciate your time, Senator.

They met in Orlando, Florida, as part of a student exchange program. Now, 20 years later, they are trading the terror of war for the safety of a long time friend across the ocean. That's next.

Plus, a bold move. Russia cracks down on anyone speaking out against the invasion of Ukraine. That's ahead.



TAPPER: In our world today, more than 2.8 million Ukrainians have fled the country since Russia began its brutal invasion on February 24th, that's according to the latest United Nations estimates. While pressure is mounting for the Biden administration to do more to help the Ukrainians, CNN's Rosa Flores spoke to one mother whose harrowing tale brought her and her two children from Kyiv all the way to Orlando, Florida.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Yulia Gerbut fled Ukraine's capital Kyiv with her sons, 11-year-old Nikita and 14-year- old Max, she packed what she could, including this candle.

YULIA GERBUT, FLED UKRAINE: You can't imagine how many times I kissed this candle.

FLORES: And she came here to Orlando, Florida, to stay with, Meegan Yockus, a woman who 20 years ago hosted Yulia during a student exchange program.

MEEGAN YOCKUS, HOSTING UKRAINIAN FAMILY: She really has been like a daughter.

FLORES: A daughter who loved life with her boys in her Kyiv home.

But in the early morning of February 24th, bombs started going off and Yulia called her host mom.

Y. GERBUT: While talking to her, I saw the explosion from my bedroom window. And that is when I was really scared.

FLORES: Yulia says she had to hang up.

YOCKUS: It is very emotional. I can't fathom what she went through. Somebody I love.

FLORES: Yulia and the boys rush to the one room in the house with no windows.

Y. GERBUT: They were shocked. Nikita started crying.

FLORES: Hours later, more signs of war.

Y. GERBUT: We saw this helicopter which was throwing fire rockets from both sides of it.

FLORES: What did you think?

Y. GERBUT: My house will be bombed like next second.

FLORES: What was your biggest fear?

YOCKUS: That they wouldn't make it out.

FLORES: That she would die?

YOCKUS: Possibly.

FLORES: As Yulia drove away with Nikita and Max, she agonized over leaving her third son Martin behind.

Y. GERBUT: The grave of my son is left there. I can't take him with me.

FLORES: Martin died of cancer in 2019. He was 4 years old.

How does a mother fleeing war take her baby's grave with her?

Y. GERBUT: It was breaking my heart that he is staying, in some way. And you don't know. Maybe the bomb will fall down on the cemetery. FLORES: After four days of traffic jams, a stop at a shelter guarded

by Ukrainian military, and eating an outdoor mass feeding kitchens, they ended up at a refugee camp in Slovakia.

Y. GERBUT: I was absolutely shocked.

FLORES: What shocked you?

Y. GERBUT: A couple hundreds of people in one room. Everybody speaking, kids are crying.

FLORES: After escaping the new reality at home, they fled to Orlando.

And last week, Yulia enrolled her sons in school. The images of war still fresh in their minds.

NIKITA GERBUT, FLED UKRAINE: I heard explosions. I heard shooting. I was super scared and the first two, three hours of riding, I was listening to every sound and begging to not hear those explosions.

FLORES: What is Russia doing to your country?

Y. GERBUT: Genocide. That's what it is. They are just burning our cities and our people, destroying us.

FLORES: Yulia fears for the life of her 72-year-old father who is in Mariupol, a city where civilian buildings, including the maternal hospital where Yulia was born have come under shelling. Thousands have died.

Y. GERBUT: I haven't heard from my dad for 12 days. I don't know if he's alive.

FLORES: Despite the fog of war, this mother says in a way, she managed to bring little Martin with her.

Y. GERBUT: I can light the candle, you know, pretend he is with us. So no matter where we will end up, we will have a candle to light.


FLORES (on camera): Even though Yulia and her boys are safe hear in Orlando, their future is still uncertain. They've been volunteering to help Ukrainian relief efforts and Ukrainian organizations.


And Jake, Yulia, of course, thinking about her son martin that is still, his grave is still in Ukraine, and knowing that they are hoping to go back to Ukraine at some point.

TAPPER: Rosa Flores live for us in Orlando, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Russia is reportedly asking for help from China. Coming up next, what the U.S. is telling China about that request from Russia. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, the White House has yet to say the Biden administration took advantage of a high stakes meeting to press China about Putin's request of President Xi for Chinese assistance for Russia in its attack on Ukraine. A senior U.S. official does say that the meeting between Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan and a top Chinese diplomat was intense and lasted seven hours. We're told he told China that the outcome of assisting Russia in its war with Ukraine.

This conversation come as sources tell CNN the Kremlin is asking for China for help, economic and military, including drones to use in its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

CNN's David Culver is in Shanghai, China.

And, David, the Chinese government is expressing some openness to Putin's request, which seems rather significant.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that's according to several U.S. cables and U.S. officials telling CNN, yeah, that they're considering it. It is incredibly significant, especially if they take action and provide either military or economic aid to their northern neighbors, somebody who President Xi considers to be his best friend -- those are his words in describing President Putin.

I think it is especially significant when you consider where China has come in all of this even before the invasion. Of course, publicly, they have said that the Kremlin has legitimate security concerns when it comes to the eastward expansion. They've backed they will in a lot of the rhetoric, a lot of the propaganda, certainly regurgitating what Russian state media is saying by replaying that right here in China, to the domestic audience.

But then they've also tried to create this role of saying, we're neutral players. We want to be peace keepers. We want to mediate between Ukraine and Russia. Now it seems we've come to a point where they might have to take a stance. China may out here and say, where explicitly they're going to fall in all of this by the actions they take in the next days or weeks.

Now, you mention that had high stakes meeting that played out just a few hours ago in Rome. That was between as you mentioned, Jake Sullivan and his Chinese counterpart. A man, by the way, whose name is Yang Jiechi. This guy is significant because of the role he plays in China. He's part of the party. Not necessarily part of government, an extension of that, even higher up, has more influence, has the ear of President Xi Jinping. He's a key adviser on foreign diplomacy and policy.

And so, he is going to no doubt come back to Beijing with what was discussed there. And one thing the Chinese have been adamant about, they don't want to be spoken down to in all of this. They don't want to be told what to do. So it is very likely that they're looking for not only the U.S. but E.U. partners to come at this in a unified way and then perhaps China can figure out a way to diffuse the situation and at the same time, try to save face with their northern neighbors, Russia.

TAPPER: David Culver, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Reporting from Shanghai.

A provocative and courageous move from an anti-war protester in Russia. Watch her bold and brave act during a primetime broadcast on Russian state TV this evening.

That sign reads in Russian, quote, "No war. Stop the war. Do not believe propaganda. They tell you lies here." The last part of the sign wrote, "Russians against war," unquote.

The program quickly cut away to video. At this hour, it is unclear what happened to this woman after her onset protest. Russia, of course, does not allow freedom of speech.

I want to bring in CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson who is in London today after reporting for weeks from inside Russia.

Do we know, Nic, if anti-war protesters such as this woman have gotten the attention of Vladimir Putin?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You would expect this one would be brought to Vladimir Putin's attention, even if he isn't watching the TV all the time himself. The country is just enforced and put in place these new very strict measures. Journalists were arrested who were covering the anti-war protests just this past weekend. They're arrested in numbers.

And that has been a significant change. It would seem very likely that this lady working at the TV station there, we understand she is being detained right now, will face the full force of that law. If you pull out one of those posters, even one just this size that says no to war on the streets, you will face being rounded up and hauled off by the police and potentially charged. So it would seem likely that she will face a much stiffer penalty.

Putin is not going to be happy about this. Not just with her but the whole security at this prime state TV channel, Russia 1. This is the nation's premier main TV outlet, the place he wants Russians to get all their information.


Not as he would see it as disinformation.

TAPPER: Today, Nic, Fox reports that one of its correspondents Benjamin Hall has been wounded while reporting near Ukraine's capital of Kyiv. This after we see Russians lying about the American journalist killed in Ukraine earlier. Today, Russia's ambassador to the U.N. said that journalist Brent

Renaud was not a journalist and they called him a filmmaker. They said he was killed by Ukrainian forces, not Russian forces. Renaud was a journalist. He was also a documentary filmmaker.

Nic, not only does the chief of police in Kyiv say the shooters were Russians. Other journalists in that convoy who survived say it was Russians shooting them who killed him at that check point.

ROBERTSON: We should be absolutely clear here, Jake. Russia wants to stamp out any information that it doesn't regard as legitimate. And independent Western journalists are exactly the sort of message that Russia calls fake news. They accuse Western independent journalists in Ukraine of siding with the military there. When they say that, that makes they will justifiable targets.

There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the way Putin treats his press at home by subjugating they will, by running his own state essentially propaganda enterprise through state media and shutting down all independent voices, is exactly the way international independent media are being viewed by Russian forces inside Ukraine. They are not in Putin's eyes there to explain to the world what is happening. They are in Putin's eyes there, to spread disinformation -- information he doesn't want his population or anyone else to have.

It is quite clear that Russia will go to great lengths to stifle those voices, arresting people at home. And in Ukraine, clearly much worse.

TAPPER: Yeah, we all know how incredible Vladimir Putin is. He's the one that said Russia had no intention of invading Ukraine. Nic, on Russia's request to China for aid, this comes as CNN reports that almost all of Putin's advancements in Ukraine have stalled, at least at this point. How do you read Putin's ask of China? Is it a sign of desperation?

ROBERTSON: It's a sign that he needs help. He needs help to plan his next moves. We know that the sort of relationship that he has with China is one that is deep, strategic. If you read the last principled document the two countries issued a year ago outlining what they call their strategic coordination, and again, the one that they released just before the Olympics a month or so ago. They see themselves as being in lock-step.

If Putin can't at this stage count on President Xi for that support economic, to escape the burden of some of the sanctions, it won't help much but it may help. It does indicate that maybe he isn't falling short at the moment with you to continue the pressure and the attrition that he's getting at the moment, that he is going to need that help.

Is it a sign of weakness? I don't think you can read it as weakness at the moment, because the two countries do seem to still walk the same strategic coordinated path that they've trotted out the last number of years.

TAPPER: Nic Robertson, thank you so much. Appreciate it. A heart-breaking update to that Russian attack on the maternity and children's hospital in Ukraine. That story, next.



TAPPER: Sticking with our world lead. You might remember this heart- wrenching image of a woman on a makeshift stretcher in Ukraine. This is after Russia bombed a maternity hospital in Mariupol last week.

CNN learned today, that the mom and her baby did not survive. And as CNN's Phil Black reports, this tragedy has become a defining depiction of Putin's ruthless campaign. A warning to our viewers, this report includes disturbing images.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know this woman's name but we can see the desperate effort to rescue her, from the desperation of Mariupol's maternity hospital. She's hurt. There are terrible injuries down her right side. She appears dazed by the enormous blast that hit here only moments before but she's conscious, and clearly concerned for her baby.

At another medical facility, doctors worked to save them as their condition deteriorated. The surgeon team said they tried to resuscitate the woman while also performing a cesarean delivery. They couldn't revive her or her child. They both died.

Russian officials claim the hospital was being used by Ukrainian troops, and all civilians had left before the attack. The evidence shows that's not true. Children, patients, staff, all experienced the terrifying blast that created this crater.

We do know this woman's name. Mariana Vishegirskaya, hurt and bleeding, she walked through the chaos after the explosion. The next day she gave birth in another hospital. She and her husband had named their daughter Veronica.

The strike on Mariupol's maternity hospital has become a defining moment in a war already notorious for its brutality and great suffering inflicted on the innocent.

Phil Black, CNN, London.


TAPPER: And our thanks to Phil Black for that report.

Two major cities in China are going into lockdown as COVID spikes again in that country. What might this mean for COVID restrictions closer to home?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead, new signs the U.S. is quickly approaching the endemic phase of COVID. Average weekly cases have dropped more than 95 percent from their mid-January omicron peak. This is the lowest cases have been in about a month. We're also learning more about when the vaccine will be available for children under 5.

Let's discuss all of it with Dr. Megan Ranney. She's the associate dean of public health at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, thanks for joining us.

So, Pfizer says it hopes to have a vaccine for kids under 5 by May. This is something a lot of parents have been anxiously anticipating for years now. But as the country opens up and with mask mandates going away, are you worried that parents might not feel the same urgency to get their young kids vaccinated?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICNE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: We've already seen lower rates among 5 to 11-year-olds than 12 to 17- year-olds and I fully expect we'll see the same pattern for the younger children.

There's going to be a small portion of the parent waiting on pins and needles to get their kids vaccinated but the majority, I'm betting, are not going to get their shots for their kids until it time for the yearly check-up, their pediatrician recommends it or God forbid, there's another surge.

I just hope that if and when these vaccines do get approved for the younger age group, and I'll say I'm tracking not just Pfizer but also Moderna which apparently has some promising data. I hope we can be consistent in our messaging about the value that these vaccines provide in protecting our youngest members of the society from a largely preventable illness, long determine disability and death.

TAPPER: Pfizer's CEO said that adults in the U.S. are definitely going to need a fourth dose of the vaccine to help defend against any future COVID waves. Explaining that protection from the third shot doesn't last very long, what does this tell you about the possibility for future surges and future variants?

RANNEY: So this is yet more evidence that we're likely going to have to approach the COVID shots the same way that we approach flu shots or other times of vaccine that's require more regular boosters. The coronavirus that makes up COVID -- that causes COVID, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it's mutating so quickly and it does seem that those antibodies are not sticking around as long as we hope. A shot every year is something many of us do for flu.

Again, time will tell. There are other vaccines in development but for now, I think we should expect when fall comes, many of us will go get a fourth shot. TAPPER: The Chinese government is reporting the highest number of

daily cases in that country since the initial Wuhan outbreak in early 2022. Major Chinese cities have been placed under lockdown for at least a week.

Is this latest surge in China something that Americans and the rest of the world should be concerned about?

RANNEY: I'm not deeply worried about China. First of all, they're reporting about 3,000 cases a day. Here in the U.S., we're still well over 30,000 cases a day. Second, the Chinese have received by and large less effective vaccines for all the debate about the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines we've had here in the U.S., remember, they are so much more effective than the ones being offered elsewhere in the world right now.

And the third thing is our health care system, for all its faults, is better prepared for that in China. What I'm watching much more closely is the cases, hospitalization rates in Europe where there are some concerning signs in the U.K. and the Netherlands about new surges. I'm watching to see how high those go, how high hospitalizations go, and how long those last. I think that will be a better bellwether for us here in the United States.

TAPPER: So last night marked the second anniversary acknowledging that COVID was a pandemic. In the U.S., deaths and hospitalizations and cases are all going down. The CDC expects them to continue to decrease.

Do you think we are in the endemic phase of COVID now? In other words, we've learned to live with it? And how would we know when it is the endemic phase?

RANNEY: The endemic phase means we're be seeing surges anymore. It is too soon to say. Endemic does not mean harmless. Clearly, we as a country have made a decision to move on from things like masks. Time will tell what happens with future surges.

And at the end of the day, I'm watching my hospital and my hospital beds.

TAPPER: Dr. Megan Ranney, thank you so much. Good to see you again.

The littlest victims of the war waiting to meet their moms and dads outside of Ukraine. CNN visits a nursery caring for surrogate babies in the middle of a war zone.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, a multicity manhunt underway for the suspect wanted for shooting homeless men while they sleep. Police in New York and Washington, D.C. now say the same man is behind five such incidents, two of which resulted in murder.

Plus, precious cargo trapped by war, shelling happening just yards away from a nursery caring for surrogate babies born in Ukraine but destined for families in other countries.

And leading this hour with breaking news, Ukraine's capital under siege, relentless shelling rocking Kyiv and Russia hitting new targets in the Western part of the country.