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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Kyiv Under 35-Hour Curfew As Russians Increase Attacks Near Capital; Prime Ministers Of Poland, Slovenia, Czech Republican Arrive In Kyiv; Biden To Join NATO Summit On Ukraine Next Week In Brussels; France & Germany Offer Support To Russia TV Anti-War Protester; What Rising Infections In The U.K. And Europe Could Mean For U.S. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired March 15, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: If the only thing they can unanimously agree on is daylight saving time, I say bring that on.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Joy in the streets.




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Ukraine's president is about to ask Congress directly for something the U.S. has not yet been willing to give him.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Kyiv now in a middle of a mandatory curfew, as Russia's unrelenting siege targets more innocent civilians, and a city official in Mariupol says the Russian military is taking hostages inside a hospital.

Then, CNN visits a Ukrainian village where locals are using any supplies they can find to prepare to resist the Russian troops. That includes a 71-year-old grandmother who says if it comes down to it, he'll strangle Putin with her bare hands.

Plus, we now know what happened to that brave Russian woman who protests the invasion of Ukraine by sneaking onto a Russian state TV broadcast.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

We start with our world lead in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv now under a mandatory curfew as Russian forces stepped up their bombardment of civilian areas around the city. This is what is left of a residential apartment building in western Kyiv. The city's mayor says at least four innocent people were killed there after Russian shelling earlier today. A number of other buildings in residential areas were also hit this morning by Russians to the east and also to the north of Kyiv.

Developing right now, a hostage situation at a hospital in the southeastern town of Mariupol where the city's deputy mayor tells CNN that Russian forces have seized control of the building and are refusing to let anyone leave.


SERGEI ORLOV, DEPUTY MAYOR OF MARIUPOL: The Russians are using doctors and patients as hostages in this building, so we do not have any access to them. Of course, it's a war crime.


TAPPER: New satellite images show the widespread destruction across Mariupol. The city's endured weeks of brutal attacks. An estimated 2,500 Ukrainians have been killed just in that city.

Another sobering statistic from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he said today 97 Ukrainian children are said to have been killed since the war 20 days ago, 97. In the last few days -- last few hours, rather, we've also heard of two journalists killed apparently by Russian fire.

That includes Fox News photojournalist Pierre Zakrzewski. We're going to have more on that horrible loss later in the show.

The constant bombing and airstrikes did not stop a diplomatic show of force today. The prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic arrived in Kyiv a short time ago, three key NATO allies standing with warn torn Ukraine by standing in war torn Ukraine.

The White House also announced this afternoon, President Biden will travel to Europe next week for a series of meetings with key allies, including a NATO summit in Brussels.

CNN's Sam Kiley starts off our coverage today from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

And, Sam, the curfew is now in place. What is the latest on the fighting on the outskirts of Kyiv?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you caught me looking over my shoulder when we came up live there, Jake. That's because I can hear the jets above it. I don't know if they're Ukrainian or Russian jets.

We've heard the distant rumble by the bombing or shelling. We're not exactly sure what direction it is because the sounds bounce around this city, but there does appear to have be a significant increase on the level of violence on the outskirts of the city. We saw that, of course, at the start of the day in what appears to be an air strike on a residential block, 16-story residential block in one location here. Four people killed here.

Another as you said in your introduction, a number of residential blocks around the city have been hit. We're not sure, and we haven't gotten any clarity coming from the government over the exact NATO reason for this curfew, but even our special pass as journalists that have allowed us to move around after curfew have been suspended for this period, that period under the presumption that the Russians are likely to step up and come in and attack particularly from the north and the east of the city.

The concerns there is the extent to with which the Russians will use their armor hidden or intermingled with the civilian population, making it very, very difficult as they get into the more urban areas for Ukrainians to fight back. Very effective, I have to say, tank- killing weapons -- Jake.

TAPPER: And some, ahead of his address to the U.S. Congress tomorrow, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy spoke with Canada's parliament today. What did he have to say? What did he ask for?


KILEY: Well, he's asked for what he's asked for in the Knesset, in the Houses of Parliament, and when he speaks to the United States, which is he wants to see a no-fly zone. He wants the skies clear of the Russian aircraft so that the air superiority, which is not -- or dominance, I should say. It's not yet to that stage, but the Russians final it very difficult to fly their aircraft in this country.

He's being flatly rejected. There's great sympathy for that by the British. He's already being told that it's a nonstarter by the United States. Canada and others think it would provoke a third world war. What they are likely to do, though, and it's already happening, Jake, is increase the supply of antiaircraft weapons, increase the supply of tank-killing, armor-killing weapons, particularly the man portable weapons.

But I think very importantly, if the skies can't be closed by aircraft in a no-fly zone imposed by NATO, the hope for Ukrainians might be they can at least get enough air defensive weapons to make it dangerous for Russians the fly over their landscape. But he's likely to maintain the pressure on the United States as he did with Canada. And he's doing this relentlessly in a frantic round of communications around the world, trying to elicit support for this no-fly zone -- Jake.

TAPPER: Sam Kiley, live for us in Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you. Please be safe. In parts of central Ukraine where Russian forces have not yet advanced, residents have spent the last few weeks preparing for the eventual attack in every way they can from making Molotov cocktails, to selling camouflage netting, to picking up shifts to man the guard post.

CNN's Ivan Watson reports now from outside Vinnytsia, Ukraine.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dawn breaks over the city of Vinnytsia with an air raid siren. The ground war has yet to reach the city in central Ukraine, but locals aren't taking any chances.

This is the entrance to the outskirts of the city, a checkpoint protected by volunteers, an ex-cop, a fireman and an electrician.

Look at how this village is protecting itself. Homemade tank traps, which the locals call hedgehog. They've sewn netting and put up sand bags. And around the wall here of this checkpoint, they've got boxes of Molotov cocktails ready. This all locally made, these are improvised defenses. And this is just one Ukrainian village.

Just down the road, I met a Nina Chataluuk, who seems like a sweet 71- year-old grandmother.

By the way, Nina says that if she saw Vladimir Putin, she would strangle him with her own hands right now.

I'm ready, she says. If by God, the Russians come here, I'll shoot them all and my hands won't even shake. I'll throw grenades at them.

There is seething anger here at Moscow's invasion, and at the same time, examples of tremendous generosity. Stacked inside a garage, humanitarian assistance trucked in from Europe. Personal donations of clothes and food for the struggling people of Ukraine, aid that will then be shipped off to frontline cities.

VLADYSLAV KRYVESHKO, DISTRICT HEAD OF VINNYTSIA CITY TERRITORIAL COMMUNITY: I want to say thank you for the rest of the world -- for the world. I want to say that we need help. We need and we will need help.

WATSON: Is Vinnytsia ready if the Russian military comes to the city?

KRYVESHKO: Yeah. And other cities, you ask the time. We have two weeks to make good defense. Today we're ready, but we don't want this.

WATSON: The war effort extends to Vassily Solskiy and his farm where workers labor, listening to news of the war. Vassily donates of free food to self defense forces.

Vassily Dimitrovich (ph) says he's doing his part to help with the war effort. He says he's planting more crops and he's going to try to grow more food to feed Ukrainians who may be in need in the weeks and months ahead.

One of Vladimir Putin's stated objectives for his war on Ukraine was to demilitarize the country. Instead, he has mobilized farmers, grandmothers, and electricians to form a grassroots resistance against the Russian invasion.


WATSON (on camera): And, Jake, just some added context, that 71-year- old grandmother is one of two separate grandmothers that we've heard from in the last two days here who unprompted have repeated the same line, I would strangle Putin with my own hands.


It's just a sense of the level of anger and hatred now that ordinary Ukrainians have for the Russian president, anger that's reflected in a billboard I saw here in town that said in Russian, Russian occupier, go F yourself -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ivan, when you speak to these Ukrainians who could still try to evacuate, what did they tell you about why they haven't yet opted not to try to flee, why they're choosing to stay?

WATSON: When I asked people around the city are you going to leave, they look at me not even comprehending the question. That's the level of commitment to staying here.

Some men are saying, okay, I'll send my wife and children away. We have that plan if that day comes. But I'm not going anywhere.

As the elderly generation says, this is our land. They repeat it over and over. This is our land. The Russians came here. They came into our country. We're going stay here. This is our home.

And that is this kind of wall of, I don't know, public opinion that Russia will collide against even if it manages some kind of a military defeat in the time ahead.

TAPPER: Ivan Watson in central Ukraine for us, thank you so much. Please stay safe.

Joining us now to discuss, the Maxim Borodin. He's part of Mariupol's city council. He's now in Western Ukraine.

Maxim, I want to get to how things are in your home city. First I want to ask, how are you doing? How are your family and friends?

MAXIM BORODIN, MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL DEPUTY: I'm doing okay. People in Mariupol are living in hell. The situation in Mariupol are catastrophic. Putin's men get all the citizens like hostages. When we tell the Russian military in Mariupol, it's not about military men, it's about terrorists, because they understand that they can't get Mariupol with their troops. So they use our artillery and use explosives, bombing, to totally destroy the city.

In the last five days, they don't stop bombing in a minute. They bomb and shell all the time. And our city is totally destroyed. Totally.

TAPPER: It must have been difficult to decide to pack up your family and leave home, but at the same time, obviously, you want to protect them. Tell us about that decision and that journey.

BORODIN: It was very hard decision because I have a problem with health after surgery. So, when it starts, I take my family, and we think it not be a real war. I think like we stay in Mariupol. But our situation is changing, and now we're moving further west, where I can get medical help.

But we always connect with our friends and families in Mariupol, and for today, the main problem is we don't have close -- close the sky, because Russians use the situation when we don't have anti-missile and anti-plane systems and totally destroyed our city.

Today, some people can flee away from Mariupol with the so-called green corridor, but it's very hard. There's a lot of people that can't get out. And the situation in the city is totally homicide. People don't have electricity for ten days, don't have heat, don't have water, and products going to them (ph).

So I call for all Americans, I call for all European partners, to give Ukraine jet airplanes, MiG-29, and to give anti-missile plane system and anti-plane system, because if you're afraid of Putin, you'll be in one bout with him because hundreds of thousands of people dying. Every minute in Mariupol saw one dying, and we don't know the real count of bodies because no one can count it.


BORODIN: And the problem is so -- so -- I don't have words.

TAPPER: Yeah, it sounds just absolutely awful.


Maxim Borodin, thank you so much fur your time and for your views. Please stay safe. Our thoughts are with the people of Mariupol today.

While people are fleeing, CNN met some Ukrainian women who are boarding trains in Poland in order to return back home to Ukraine, to join the fight against Russia.

Then, we're so close to being back to pre-pandemic life, but now cases are rising in Europe and elsewhere do. We need to be concerned in the U.S.? Stay with us.


TAPPER: Staying with our world lead, more than 3 million people have now fled war-ravaged Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion 20 days ago, according to the United Nations. The majority of whom, more than 1.7 million, traveled to Poland in their desperate search to safety.

But as CNN's Ed Lavandera reports from Poland, many Ukrainians, included women, who left are now returning to support the fight against the Russian forces.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The rail line from Ukraine ends at platform five at the train station in Przemysl, Poland.


After refugees walk off, this same train will go back. For weeks, it's mostly been men returning to join the Ukrainian fight against Russia, but in front of the sign reading "train for Ukraine," women are waiting hours for a ride back into the war zone.

Near the front of the line, we found Tatiyana Veremychenko. She came to Poland three days ago to bring her two adult daughters to safety. Now, the 40-year-old is going home near the town in eastern Ukraine near the Russian border.

Ukraine is equally important for men and women, she says. We're the real Ukrainians. Women have the strength and will and the heart as well.

By our count, women accounted for about half of the passengers in this line waiting to cross the border back to Ukraine.

Irina Orel brought her grandchildren to Poland. She's returning now to be with her family in Odessa.

How worried are you about your safety?

I'm anxious, she says, but the feeling has become dull over time. I just want to be next to my family.

Do you feel like this is a way of fighting for your country?

Of course, she says. We've all become united during that time, each doing what we can to help our military. Women are doing it, and men as well.

Standing with several women, we met Mariia Halligan. She's going to Kyiv to be with her husband and family to fight in her words Russian terrorists.

MARIIA HALLIGAN, KYIV, UKRAINE RESIDENT: If you know what you need to do, it's impossible to feel nervous where something exists. I have to do this. I can do it for my country, for my relatives, for my friends.

LAVANDERA: And what stands out to me in this line for people going back to Ukraine, there are so many women. Why do you think that is?

HALLIGAN: I'm not man. I can't kill. I'm woman. My work keep balance and have and be kind and care about relatives, family, friends, but now, I feel that all Ukrainians are my relatives.

LAVANDERA: Before she leaves, Maria shows us a heart-shaped Ukrainian flag given to her by Polish children to protect her.

Those returning walked past a carriage has a sign that reads "safety for all." The train leaving platform 5 disappears into a war zone where safety is a dream.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Jake, the reason for returning home for many of these women vary between all the different people we spoke to waiting in that line. There was one theme that seemed to connect them all. They're returning home, standing in that line was a symbolic gesture of resistance, going home to stand up, to face down the Russian army and Vladimir Putin -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ed Lavandera in Poland for us -- thank you so much for that report.

Next, we're talking to one American who went to Polish border to help the millions of refugees exiled by far.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, this is what escaping war looks like right now in Ukraine. Three miles away from the Polish border, streets lined with refugees, dragging only what they can carry. In some cases, volunteer buses have arrived to ferry some to safer ground.

The United Nations says more than 3 million people, 3 million have now fled Ukraine since the start of Russia's invasion 20 days ago. More than half of them have ended up in Poland.

I want to bring in Seth right now. Seth is one of the many American volunteers in Poland, helping some of those refugees. We're not sharing his last name to protect his safety, nor we're going to share the last names of his posse behind him, Alex and Ryan, who are fellow medical fellow workers and Anna who's a translator. But thanks to all of you for the amazing work you're doing.

So, Seth, you're an EMT. You're a PhD student. You joined a group, Volunteer for Ukraine.

Was there something that motivated you to leave your life in United States behind and offer your specific skill set to help these refugees?

SETH, U.S. ARMY VETERAN: There definitely was. I grew up in New York. I'm no longer there thankfully. But I was in New York when 9/11 happened, and I very much remember the very strong sense of insecurity and fear that I felt after 9/11 occurred and the nightmares that followed of not really feeling like my home was safe.

And once this starting taking off and Russia invaded Ukraine, I felt I couldn't in good conscience do nothing when these people, these refugees now are living out my worst nightmare. And so I got in contact with Volunteer for Ukraine, and after a little bit of work and some very gracious donations from some sponsors, we were able to get a team over here.

TAPPER: And how long have you been in Poland, and has there been urgent need for your background as an EMT so far?

SETH: We've been in Poland for a few days now. We've actually been pretty lucky that we have not had any shellings or any bombings that have been close by recently.


The air raid sirens did go off this morning and we basically rushed and grabbed our trauma bags and got out the door, expecting there was going to be something unfortunate occurring. But we were very lucky and grateful that nothing did occur.

TAPPER: Other volunteers with your group include lawyers, surgeons, truck drivers, mental health professionals. Many are volunteers. And also former service members from the U.S. military.

Is that background useful near the border?

SETH: Absolutely. I think that any profession can be useful here. I mean, we -- even though we're medical workers, we've been loading up buses, loading up trucks. Pokowisko (ph), which is the nongovernment organization we're working with here, is sending about five truckloads and double-decker busloads of humanitarian supplies into Ukraine Daily, and so even something as simple -- excuse me, not as simple, but even something like a forklift driver which is a specialized skill is extremely useful for unloading the pallets of donations that we're getting.

TAPPER: Aside from money, from monetary donations, many Americans have donated items like body armor, medical supplies. But we understand, getting supplies to Poland has been a challenge. What can you tell us about that?

SETH: There definitely is an issue with logistics and getting supplies over here. I can't speak to as far as transportation goes, but I can say that once the supplies hit the ground, it all has to be sorted organized. And so, if there's anyone is listening, please label them as accurately as you can and that will help everyone on the ground to process them and get them out where they're needed quicker.

TAPPER: Seth, thank you so much and thanks to your team behind you, too.

You can learn more about his yore nation at, Best of luck to all of you.

Coming up, she defied the Kremlin, protesting Russia's invasion of Ukraine during a state TV broadcast, and now we know what happened to her.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Back with the world lead and three journalists killed in Ukraine including a photojournalist who worked for Fox. The network says that Pierre Zakrzewski was traveling with Fox correspondent Benjamin Hall when their vehicle came under fire. Hall was injured. He is currently hospitalized. Fox says Oleksandra Kuvshynova was also killed. She was a Ukrainian and freelance consultant for the network.

Their deaths come after American journalists Brent Renaud was killed this past Sunday. Ukraine blames Russian forces for all three of these deaths.

Zakrzewski was well known and respected in the world of foreign coverage. CNN's Clarissa Ward called it a great privilege to work with him. She noted his extraordinary spirit, his tremendous talent. She called him one of the kindest, most gracious colleagues she'd ever known.

Today, Germany and France offered protection for the anti-war protester who boldly interrupted a primetime broadcast on Russian state TV. Take a look.


TAPPER: We first showed you this woman's very brave protest yesterday here on the lead. We now know more about her. Her name is Marina Ovsyannikova. She worked as an editor for Channel 1. That's a network that's tightly controlled by the Kremlin.

She was arrested. Hours after her arrest, she turned up with her lawyer. And as CNN's Nic Robertson reports for us now, her quick conviction may suggest that Russia and Putin are trying to keep this arrest away from the headlines.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): These are editor Marina Ovsyannikova's last moments before arrest, bravely protesting Russia's war in Ukraine.

Her banner: No war. Do not believe the propaganda. They tell you lies here. Seen live by hundreds of thousands of Russians on the state's prime propaganda channel, Russia 1. In court the following day, found guilty of an administrative offense, organizing an unauthorized event, fined 30,000 rubles, about $280 -- an apparent reference not to storming the set but to a video she posted on social media shortly prior, calling for protest.

MARINA OVSYANNIKOVA, EDITOR, CHANNEL ONE: Go to the rallies and do not be afraid. They can't arrest us all.

ROBERTSON: Russia has banned all antiwar protests, but they continue. More than 900 arrested this past weekend, almost 15,000 since the war began. According to an independent human rights group, most getting a beating, a fine, and overnight detention. Unclear if the Kremlin is trying to minimize Ovsyannikova's extraordinary prime-time protest or if she'll face stiffer charges later.

Initially, state media reported investigators were considering charges under Russia's new draconian laws that prohibit what it calls disseminating false information about Russian forces and can carry a maximum 15-year jail sentence. Ovsyannikova, whose father is Ukrainian and mother Russian, appears to

be expected to be silenced. Her prerecorded social media post pulling no punches.


OVSYANNIKOVA: What is happening now in Ukraine is a crime, and Russia is the aggressor country, and the responsibility for this aggression lies in the conscience of only one person. This man is Vladimir Putin.

ROBERTSON: The question for some now is her protest an indication that Putin's propaganda machine is faltering.

STANISLAV KUCHER, RUSSIAN JOURNALIST: No matter where whether she had spent, you know, days preparing for that, or hours, it definitely shows a change in the mood of those working on Russia state TV.

ROBERTSON: Too soon to say if cracks are opening up, but Russia's third top rated channel NTV just lost a long-time anchor. Lilia Gildeyeva reportedly told a Russian blogger she resigned and has left the country, saying she was afraid they wouldn't let her go. NTV has declined to comment.

The continuing street protest show how many Russians remain to put their liberty on the line, heartwarming for Ukrainians, but so far the numbers are nowhere near the tipping point for the Kremlin.


ROBERTSON (on camera): Now, if the Kremlin is giving her a lesser sentence, they could really lock her away for a long time, and it is -- if it is to sort of keep her and her antiwar protests out of the headlines, she didn't get lenient treatment when she was arrested. After she came out and called that, she says she was held for 14 hours and she wasn't given access to a lawyer and not given access to her family either, which is why, you know, for so long, her lawyer had no idea where she was.

Anyone who gets picked up by the Russian authorities, whatever the offense at the moment, can expect it appears that really harsh type of treatment, Jake.

TAPPER: And, Nic, in other actions by the Kremlin today, Russia announced they were sanctioning a host of prominent American officials including President Biden, his son Hunter, members of his administration, Hillary Clinton, nobody from the Trump administration or family, we should note.

Could these sanctions have any real consequences, or is this mostly just symbolic do you think?

ROBERTSON: I think it's symbolic. It's been a long time coming. You know, Putin has been sanctioned. His family has been sanctioned.

They always said -- the Russian officials always said they would respond perhaps asymmetrically, not quite clear what they meant by that, but definitely, you know, in a way like-for-like. I think that's what they've done here. So, that's symbolic.

But it does really show you the diplomatic gap, the diplomatic gap that exists. It does make it harder to imagine a moment when President Biden and President Putin could get in the same room should President Biden actually want to do that. And, clearly, it's not going to be in Russia because that's one of those sanctions that President Biden can't go to Russia.

But I think in terms of the impact it's going to have, it may make them feel good in the Kremlin for a while, but it's not going to affect anything in the outcome, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. Nic Robertson, thanks so much for that report. I appreciate it.

Are rising COVID cases in Europe and Asia a cause for concern in the United States? That's next.



TAPPER: In our health today, growing concerns over rising COVID infections in Europe. Daily cases are rising in more than half of the countries in the European Union, as well as in the U.K., which is seeing spike in hospitalizations since COVID restrictions were removed. Throughout the pandemic, Europe has been the harbinger for what's to come in the U.S.

Let's discuss with CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, as always, what's most concerning is hospitalizations and deaths, not necessarily the spread. But there is growing concern from medical authorities in the U.S. about the rising numbers in Europe because it's not just cases. It's also hospitalizations. Are we seeing a possible preview of what may play out in the U.S.?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we have to pay attention, Jake. Over the last two years, every time we've seen these sorts of trends, these cases go up in Europe, specifically the U.K. We have followed behind by a few weeks. I can show you, you know, just look at cases going back to end of last year, end of 2020 rather. You'll see sort of how that trend line has continued.

Now, the white line is Europe, starting to tick up. It's nowhere near what omicron was. It's about -- it's less than a third right now. The fact it's going up at all is of concern. Where the orange line is still low, but again, are we going to start to creep up as well? That's a concern.

If you look at the U.K. specifically, look at trends over there, Jake, I think this may surprise people a little bit to note just over the past week or so, you've had cases go up 48 percent, and you've had hospitalizations as you mentioned also go up, 17 percent.

Now, you'll remember, Jake, we talked about this so many times. Typically hospitalizations do lag behind by a couple of weeks from cases. Right now, they seem to be going up somewhat simultaneously, and they're not entirely sure why. Are these more and more people coming to the hospital and then getting diagnosed with COVID or how many of these people are coming in for COVID symptoms? That's data that we're still going to need.

One bright spot in this, Jake, is that ICU beds -- the capacity for ICU beds, that really hasn't gone up.


So, people may be going into the hospital, getting diagnosed with COVID, either with or for. But they're not going so severely ill as compared to previous waves. So, we'll see if that changes as well.

TAPPER: And do we know? And maybe we don't from the information we have, but do we know for those who are hospitalized, how many are not vaccinated or not boosted?

GUPTA: We've not -- we've not seen that data yet for this U.K. data. You know, we've known from previous waves here obviously in the United States, it's close to nine out of ten getting hospitalized are unvaccinated. My guess is that that's what remains the case, but we're going to see. And that's going to give us some insights as well into questions about boosters and needs for further vaccines down the line.

TAPPER: Right. This is all taking a look and trying to figure out if this is something that's going to be hitting and how concerned should we be. We're not trying to be alarmists right now bringing this information to everybody.

GUPTA: That's right.

TAPPER: But let's talk about the BA.2 subvariant because that now accounts for nearly a quarter of all cases in the U.S. and it's as high as 40 percent ion some regions of the country, according to new CDC data.

Is this something we should be concerned about? What do you make of the BA.2 omicron subvariant?

GUPTA: You know, we've been following it closely. One thing we've been looking at is not only the percentage of the country they're diagnosed with this particular variant, but how quickly you're seeing the doubling as well. Again, you can see on the graph, it's doubling pretty quickly every week or so now.

So this is increasingly becoming a larger and larger proportion of cases here. When we look at the U.K. data, what was interesting, Jake, this is more contagious. Omicron is far more dangerous than omicron. The subvariant appears to be far more contagious as well.

According to some of the data, up to 82 percent more contagious. So, you do have the situation where it's clearly more contagious. Is it going to cause as much severe illness? That's the part we don't know yet. Again, you saw hospitalizations going up in the U.K. How much is due to this BA.2? And if people do get hospitalized, are they going to be hospitalized to the point they need ICU care? That's something that is important to look at as well.

We don't know yet. We're not at that tipping point. Perhaps if we get to 50 percent of the cases being BA.2, that's typically when you start getting data where you say, yeah, this is the degree of illness it's causing. Here's the primary ones, vaccinated, unvaccinated.

Right now, again, 23 percent within the next week or so. If we're at 50 percent, I think it's going to be pretty clear BA.2 become as dominant variant.

TAPPER: We still don't have a vaccine for kids under 5 years old. A just released CDC study shows that kids under 5 were admitted to ICU at record-high levels during the omicron wave even though severe outcomes were less likely. This is the age group that still not be able to get vaccinated. Maybe in May, that will come, we hope.

What's your reaction to these findings? Should there be pressure to finally get these young kids approved?

GUPTA: I really do think that's the line that needs to be coming out of this, that we need to get that vaccine. This line tells the story going back into the variants and delta and on the far right of the screen, omicron.

This is broken down by age, all age groups, and these lines represent children under the age of 5. Look at what the spike has been for omicron in terms of hospitalizations overall for some of these young children. I mean, it's pretty stunning. What I did when I first saw this, so different than delta, so different than the previous variants in terms of the impact of this particular variant on young children. It's higher than what we saw with H1N1, a bad flu pandemic in terms of hospitalizations and kids.

We've got to pay attention to this. People keep saying kids are not as likely to get sick, and they're not. But they're far more likely to get sick with these new variants than they have been in the past.

TAPPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, good to see you again. Thanks so much.

CNN visits a hospital in hard-hit Ukrainian city forced to turn out the lights at night to make sure they're not targeted. That's ahead.



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

This hour, an arrest made in the multiple shootings of homeless men in D.C. and New York. What we're learning about the accused suspect.

Plus, drivers are seeing record rise in gas prices. But the price spikes are so much for truck drivers, who must use diesel fuel to move products across the United States. Will those costs be passed to you?

And breaking news leading this hour. Right now, Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, is under a mandatory curfew as more homes have been decimated by Russian shelling around Ukraine's capital. Today, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Canadian lawmakers to help impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, something that Zelenskyy will likely request of the U.S. Congress tomorrow morning in a speech.

Today, the White House reiterated President Biden's opposition. Meanwhile, the White House has announced the president will travel next week for meetings with key American allies who make up NATO as Russia continues on its relentless and brutal path.

As CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports for us now, the Ukrainians who have stayed to defend their cities and those who choose to escape, they're all facing new terrors and enormous obstacles.