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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Russians Fire Missiles At Lviv, Miles From NATO Territory; WH: Biden Warned China Of "Consequences" For Aiding Russia's War; Austin: Russians "Struggled With Logistics" And A "Number Of Missteps;" Blinken: "Personally, I Agree" Russia Is Committing War Crimes; What Rising Infections In The UK And Europe Could Mean For U.S. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 18, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Russia today striking awfully close to a NATO ally.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Smoke fills the sky from Russian attacks in Lviv in Western Ukraine, hitting just 43 miles from the Polish border, where American troops are currently deployed and these Russian strikes close to Poland are intensifying.

Then, walking a diplomatic tight rope, President Biden talks to the President of China as that country considers sending military and financial aid to Russia.

Plus, for one Ukrainian fighting to save his country, it isn't dying that scares him. It is losing his country to the Russians. CNN talks to members of the Ukrainian military today on THE LEAD.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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

And we start with our world lead and renewed attempts at diplomacy as Russian forces expand their military strikes further across Ukraine. The White House just released this photo of President Biden's nearly two-hour call with Chinese President Xi Jinping today. White House officials saying President Biden warned Xi Jinping of the, quote, implications and consequences if the Chinese government were to send aid to support Russia's war on Ukraine.

Dense smoke filled the skies in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv today. Ukraine's military says Russian war planes fired six missiles. The Ukrainian defense systems were able to intercept two of them. The others appear to have hit an aircraft repair plant.

Lviv is fewer than 50 miles from the border with Poland. Poland, obviously a NATO ally where U.S. forces are currently deployed. Lviv has been relatively untouched by Russian attacks until today. Also in Lviv, this incredibly moving reminder of the devastating human

toll of Putin's war on the Ukrainian people. Strollers set out in the city's central square today. Each stroller symbolizing a Ukrainian child who has been reported killed in the Russian attack so far, 109 children, by the latest Ukrainian government count.

In the capital of Kyiv, Ukraine's emergency services saying today that at least one person was killed and four others injured when a downed rocket landed on a residential apartment building and started a fire.

Let's get straight to CNN's Sam Kiley who's live for us in the capital city of Kyiv.

And, Sam, your team heard more explosions around Kyiv today. You visited some of the destruction. What can you tell us about these latest attacks?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it's become an almost daily pattern, excuse me, going out in the mornings, people to survey the damage usually from air strikes or missile strikes in the early hours or small hours of the morning. This strike though was at 8:00 in the morning, and it was a big one, on the ground, really devastating amount of damage.

I have to say, I've seen a lot of this kind of thing in the past and this was very much at the top end of the size of explosion from a single piece of ordinance. It blew away an entire side of a building, destroying four flats that were brought down, turned into rubble, it shattered vehicles, turning them inside out almost.

It was very close to a kindergarten and close to a school, both of which mercifully were empty, and the miracle of this whole event is that one person was killed. It could have been so better. There were huge number of flats destroyed around that area.

I actually spoke to one woman who was in the same block that was most heavily damaged and she said that she had been almost knocked out of bed by the blast, but protected by a large cupboard in her room. Those are the sort of details, the little -- the difference between torn to pieces by flying shrapnel and glass, and surviving entirely intact could be whether or not you're sleeping near a cupboard, Jake.

But this was a targeted missile, a cruise type missile with a very big warhead. Normally when they're shot down, the warhead is destroyed in the sky. Clearly, this warhead which was intended for some other target, we don't know whether it would have been civilian or military because the Russians have used these kinds of weapons, particularly in Mariupol against civilian targets, notably the theater and indeed the maternity hospital strikes that we've seen in the last 10 days. But nonetheless, this cannot be blamed in terms of targeting civilian areas because it was actually shot down by the air defenses of Kyiv, which are still operating tonight. We've heard a number of detonations which often indicate they're firing the S-300s at whatever targets are coming in to the capital, Jake.

[16:05:04] TAPPER: And, Sam, Ukrainian officials just gave an update on attempts by Ukrainians to defend Kyiv. What did they have to say?

KILEY: You know, this was quite a remarkable set of statements and claims made by the defense ministry here, by the deputy chief of staff. Ukrainians are not the Russians. They don't tend on come out with completely fantastical claims. We have no way of verifying some of this except for our own eyes.

Now, in the last three days, I would say, including the 36-hour period in which everybody was not allowed on the streets at all, it would appear to confirm the Ukrainians have gone on the counter attack around the capital city. They claim to have had considerable success, pushing the Russians back, they claim, in the southwest of the city, through on the right bank in the east of the city. They say they pushed the Russians back there, 70 kilometers, about 50 miles. That would be a very substantial success.

They're essentially saying at the moment, Kyiv is much safer than it was a week ago, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sam Kiley live for us in Kyiv, Ukraine. Thank you. Please stay safe.

Top officials in the U.S. say they're worried that China could soon send the military or financial aid to Russia to help Putin's the war on Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. The Biden administration has already promised to punish China if it does. A warning president Biden repeated during a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping this morning, according to the White House.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports now from the White House on what the two leaders discussed in their nearly two-hour discussion today.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For an hour and 50 minutes today, President Biden spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping as he seeks to deter him from bailing out Russia.

WENDY SHERMAN, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: China needs to stand on the right side of history. It needs to ensure that it does not backfill financially or in any other way sanctions that have been imposed upon Russia.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He also conveyed and described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia.

COLLINS: Biden hoping the persuade the Chinese leader to distance himself from President Putin and find out whether China plans to answer the request for desperately needed military equipment.

SHERMAN: What's critical is for every nation all over the world to call on Vladimir Putin to end this horrendous war of choice, this war of carnage. That's where we are. COLLINS: China has refused to call the invasion an invasion or

condemn Putin for brutalizing a sovereign country. Today, Biden warned Xi of the consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians.

Chinese state media says President Xi told President Biden that conflict isn't in anyone's interest and quote, the Ukraine crisis is something we don't want to see.

The critical conversation coming as top U.S. officials are warning that Russia is spreading more lies, including ones that have been amplified by Chinese state media.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: This meeting and these lies are designed for one purpose and one purpose alone, deflect responsibility for Russia's war of choice and the humanitarian catastrophe it has caused.

COLLINS: As the U.S. plans to send $800 million more in military aid to Ukraine, Russia's foreign minister is claiming they'll view any shipment of weapons as a, quote, legitimate target.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says that Russia will view any weapon shipments into Ukraine as, quote, legitimate targets. What is the president's response to that comment?

PSAKI: That's a threat he has made before. We will watch closely if they follow up on that threat.

COLLINS: As the U.S. tries to increase the pressure on Putin, top officials are making clear, their goal is not to oust him from office.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Does the United States support regime change in Russia?

SHERMAN: That is not what we are about. We are not -- this is a decision for the people of Russia.


COLLINS (on camera): Now, Jake, despite the fact that president Biden spoke to President Xi for nearly two hours this morning, the White House says they are concerned that China might answer that request from Russia for more military equipment and say they'll be watching closely to see what China does going forward.


PSAKI: We have that concern. The president detailed what the implications and consequences would be if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians. And that is something we'll be watching and the world will be watching.

COLLINS: So that concern hasn't gone away following the call?

PSAKI: Obviously, actions are a key part of what we'll be watching.


COLLINS: And, Jake, one other thing to know. We asked the White House if President Xi referred to this as an invasion during this call with President Biden. So far, he has not called it one publicly. They declined to say, Jake.

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

Joining us now to discuss, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. He's on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

You just heard Press Secretary Jen Psaki say, even after that nearly two-hour call between President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, that the White House remains concern that China is going to help Russia in its war on Ukraine either economically or militarily.


Do you think China is going to actually do that?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Well, Jake, first good to be with you. I think President Biden underscored the point that China needs to be on the right side of history. Any country that assists Mr. Putin in what he's doing has accountability for these atrocities. And I think President Biden made that very clear.

I would hope that China wants to be on the right side here. The unprovoked attack by Mr. Putin, any support of that, will cause consequences and accountability.

TAPPER: You know, I just wonder -- China is an oppressive autocracy. They're currently according to the State Department committing cultural genocide of the Uighur Muslim minority population. What makes anyone think the Chinese would care about what side of history they're on?

CARDIN: You know, China does not share our values. We recognize that. Their leadership does not share that, and that's disappointing. But we would hope that their leadership would understand the importance of respecting the sovereignty of state, and that what Mr. Putin is doing violates every international norm in regards to sovereignty.

And China believes that we need to respect the sovereignty of its own country and other countries. So, I would hope that the leadership would recognize that Mr. Putin crossed a line. That no one wants to be on what he's doing and facilitating what he's doing.

TAPPER: When -- explain to our viewers why they would think that China, considering what it has done in Tibet and Hong Kong and Taiwan, why China would have any sort of belief in sovereignty for another country, considering how they behave when it comes to territories, countries that don't want to be Chinese but are being forced to be.

CARDIN: Well, you raise a very valid point. Recognize that China's territorial disputes relate to what they believe is legitimately their country through either the rights of sea or through the historic relationship between Taiwan and mainland China. The issue concerning their domestic population areas that we believe violate international norms, but they're certainly not sovereignty issues.

So I think the sovereignty of a country, even for China, what Russia has done has gone too far. We hope they understand that. You know, what Mr. Putin did is unprecedented -- unprovoked attack against a sovereign nation that was peaceful. I would not think that any legitimate government would want to support that action.

TAPPER: President Zelenskyy addressed western leaders in a speech today saying, we shall call even loud order certain Western leaders, and remind them that this will be their moral defeat if Ukraine does not receive the advance weapon that will save the lives of thousands of our people, unquote. Note he's not saying that about the U.S. maintaining a no-fly zone. He's talking about, he seems to have lowered his request to within where leaders might consider it to be more practical and pragmatic.

Is the U.S., is President Biden doing enough to help right now? Should Biden be facilitating Poland's push to get Ukraine these MiG jet fighters?

CARDIN: First, let me tell you President Zelenskyy's message to the members of Congress and the American people and the world, what a powerful message. What an incredible leader. I think we all have the utmost respect for his courage and his leadership.

Yes, President Biden has delivered. He's delivered defensive weapons that have allowed Ukraine to defend itself. He's delivered the toughest sanctions that are really crippling Mr. Putin and the Russian economy.

And more importantly, he's delivered international support, unity, globally under the leadership of President Biden and now we're providing humanitarian assistance in Ukraine and in regard to the refugees. What Mr. Zelenskyy wants is more and we all want more. He wants us to have a staying power.

So, the House of Representatives passed an important bill yesterday that dealt with trade issues and global Magnitsky, to the enablers in addition to those who commit these atrocities. We want to see that done. President Biden supports that.

So I think we need to do more. You've got to stay resolved. But President Biden has provided the leadership to allow Ukraine to be able to defend itself and has organized unity among the global community.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, thanks so much for your time today.

Coming up next, as Russia hammers southern Ukraine, what happens to the innocent people who cannot leave?

Plus, what is it like to face the army? CNN talks with the Ukrainian fighters who says death is not scary. Losing Ukraine is.



TAPPER: In our world lead, remarkable images from southern Ukraine today. Eerily quiet streets in the city of Odessa as that town braces for a looming battle, a looming attack by the Russians. Street signs taped and covered, presumably to confuse invading Russian soldiers. Residents have even barricaded off access to the local opera house.

Nick Paton Walsh joins us now live from Mykolaiv, to the east of Odessa.

Nick, Odessa obviously a crucial target for the Russians. What is it like there right now?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Yeah, I mean, to be honest, when we left this morning, it is a city really bracing potentially for the worst. Constant reports of Russian ships off the coast of Russian jets being down, of shelling off its coast.

None of that immediately seems to impact the kind of eerie images you're showing now of the city center.


It should be bustling, frankly, even in a freezing cold March with ordinary people, and instead, deserted with tank traps.

But whether or not Odessa sees a Russian military invasion, it essentially informed by what's happening here in Mykolaiv, where I'm standing to its east. This is where the big stand-off has happened against Russian forces that have taken Kherson further to the east, along the Black Sea coast. It is here where we seem to be seeing Ukrainian forces pushing back to some degree.

Today, we're on the main road from here down to Kherson and we saw how a lot of the villages there are now under Ukrainian control who are pushing Russian forces back towards them, all fortified positions closer towards Kherson's airport, where we know for a fact there have been significant Ukrainian strikes against Russian armor. Whether or not Ukraine can push down toward Kherson is a key question frankly, because it was the first city to fall to Russia and for Ukraine to reestablish a fat hold, even outside, would be a significant move.

But as we've seen time and time again, Jake, when Russia seems to lose ground strategically, it responds with massive brute forceful there is no exception this morning. A key town north to the town where I'm standing hit by a missile strike. It appears to have hit an arms depot according to the mayor there, much closer to where I'm standing, we're still trying to learn the details here. But another it seems missile strike, hitting a military base here

close to the city of Mykolaiv. I think it's fair to say, significant numbers of injured certainly from that. But it just really shows whatever gains are made by the forces on the ground, hard fought as they are, the response is brutal and massive from Russian long distance missiles -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Paton Walsh, thank you so much. Please stay safe.

Turning to the front lines in central Ukraine, in Russia's wavering dominance, a top American general says Russia's rank and file do not appear to be, quote, particularly motivated.

Today, CNN's Ivan Watson sat down with a major in Ukraine's territorial defense forces. And despite some cracked rib from a combat mission, the mayor seems to be a prime example of Ukraine's unbroken resolve.


MAJ. SERHII TAMARIN, UKRAINE TERRITORIAL DEFENSE: It's not so scary to die. It is much more scary to lose. When we met, the second army in the world by statistic, we expected more professionals. We expected more aggressive. And more strong fighting.


TAMARIN: It is hitting in Russian tanks.

WATSON: And that's hit by Ukrainian artillery.

TAMARIN: Artillery, yes.

WATSON (voice-over): Drone footage that CNN cannot independently verify, from battlefields northwest of Kyiv, filmed by a battalion of Ukraine's territorial defense force, commanded by Major Serhii Tamarin.

Has your battalion had casualties?

TAMARIN: Yes, yes.

WATSON: People killed, people wounded?

TAMARIN: Yes. I prefer not to tell the number of people but we have -- I already lost my friends and people who suffered. We have people who -- wounded.

WATSON: What is the weapon that is hurting your men?

TAMARIN: The most dangerous, it's artillery.

WATSON: Tamarin is a veteran of the long war against Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine's southeastern Donbas region. He reenlisted, along with most of his battalion of nearly 400 after Russia invaded Ukraine on February.

He calls his strategy aggressive resistance.

TAMARIN: Just separating for small troops, not more than ten people, with few grenade launchers, and some kind of clean-up group with rifles and machine guns. I can say the Russian army, regular army, infantry groups fight well. They even have food banks which expired a few years ago so they don't have normal food. They don't have even water.

WATSON: Your battalion. How many armored vehicles, tanks do you think you've destroyed?

TAMARIN: Right now, more than 20. It's not only tanks. It's like tanks and other armored vehicles.

WATSON: Does your battalion have an estimate for how many Russians they killed?

TAMARIN: for now, we destroyed 200 Russians. Keep alive closer 6 or 8 soldiers.

WATSON: Tamarin is recovering from injury sustained during a combat operation.

TAMARIN: The bridge was blowed up.

[16:25:07] Half of my ribs are broken.

WATSON: He says his men have started to receive some foreign weapons, shoulder-fired missiles and he's confident Ukraine will have victory but at a terrible price.

TAMARIN: The price which pay Ukraine right now is I think impossible. It is some kind of sacrifice of all nation.

WATSON: Ivan Watson, CNN, Vinnytsia, Ukraine.


TAPPER: Our thanks to Ivan Watson for that report. Coming up next, CNN's Don Lemon sat down exclusively with the secretary of defense, while General Austin was in Eastern Europe. Secretary Lloyd Austin's assessment of the Russian army, a CNN exclusive, that's next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin telling CNN's Don Lemon in a new exclusive interview that Russia has made a number of missteps in its invasion of Ukraine. The assessment comes as the Pentagon chief was in Bulgaria meeting with U.S. and NATO troops ahead of the president's visit to Brussels for a NATO meeting next week. Let's get right to CNN's Don Lemon who sat down with the defense

secretary earlier today.

And, Don, Secretary Austin said Russia seems to be struggling with logistics and they're coping with low troop morale?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR, "DON LEMON TONIGHT": Yeah, it was surprising to hear, at least very interesting, at least, to hear the secretary of defense criticizing the much vaunted Russian military, basically saying their hearts aren't in it. That they were incompetent in many ways and that's why they are resulting to this sort of rudimentary form of war.

I also spoke to him about China getting involved. As you know, the president of the United States speaking with Xi Jinping earlier today and saying that he supports a diplomatic path to getting out of this and I asked Lloyd Austin, what happens if China gets involved? Should they stay out of it?

Here's what he had to say.


LEMON: What is your assessment of Russian forces now? Are they stalled? Are they regrouping so they can increase their assault? Increase their violence on Ukraine? What is your assessment of the Russian military?

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, it's hard to tell, Don. I think they have not progressed as quickly as they would have liked to. I think they envisioned they would move rapidly and very quickly, seize the capital city. They've not been able to do that. They struggled with logistics.

So, we've seen a number of missteps along the way. I don't see evidence of good employment of tactical intelligence. I don't see integration of air capability with the ground maneuver.

So there are a number of things that we would expect to see that we haven't seen. The Russians, it has presented them some problems. So, many of their assumptions have not proven to be true as they enter the fight. So --

LEMON: The president is speaking with Xi Jinping, and we are getting reporting that Russia has been asking China for drones and for help. What happens? Do you think China will stay out of this and what happens if they don't?

AUSTIN: Well, again, I don't want to speculate or get involved in hypotheticals. I would -- I would hope that China would not support this despicable act by Putin. I would hope that they would recognize a need to respect sovereign territory. So hard to say what they will do. But you know, we've been clear, if they do that, we think that's a bad choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: And, of course, the top priority for the United States and for NATO is really not to get involved in a direct conflict with Russia. The secretary spoke about that. And Jake, he also talked about the possible use of nuclear and chemical weapons. And he said, listen, the United States, NATO, they are dedicated to keeping Article 5. They are dedicated to Article 5.

And if Russia attacks a NATO nation, that means an attack on all. An attack on one is an attack on all. He said they will do whatever it takes to combat that if that does happen. So, I think the number one priority, a big priority is not to get involved directly with Russia. But if there's an attack on a NATO nation, who knows where that can go, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah. Don Lemon, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

And you can watch Don's full interview with the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. That's tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN, on "DON LEMON TONIGHT", 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, at what point does Putin's invasion of Ukraine and the massacre of the Ukrainian people, at what point does it constitute genocide? Our next guest was the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, a blatant shift on the subject of war crimes, from this statement from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki two weeks ago --


REPORTER: Is it now the position of the U.S. government that Putin has engaged in war crimes?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's an ongoing process. We have not made conclusions.


TAPPER: To this statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken just yesterday.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yesterday, President Biden said that in his opinion, war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. Personally, I agree.


TAPPER: Let's get right to former U.S. ambassador at large for war crime issues, David Scheffer.


David, Mr. Ambassador, good to see you.

You're also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. And the president of the council, Richard Haass, tweeted yesterday, quote, enough with all the talk about war criminals and reparations. The focus for now and the immediate future needs to be on stopping the carnage and on negotiating peace. We can then turn to other things, unquote.

I know the CPR has diversity of view points. You're certainly allowed to disagree with Richard Haass. You've been vocal about calling out Putin's war crimes. What do you make of Haass' argument that now isn't the right time because we need to have a diplomatic off-ramp for Putin?

DAVID SCHEFFER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR AT LARGE FOR WAR CRIMES ISSUES: Well, I would disagree but I do understand the emphasis that he's putting, what the major priority is, which is to stop the atrocity crimes from during. To stop the aggression and to push back the Russian forces so that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine are restored and frankly, the civilian population saved. So, that is the highest priority.

But as these things are during, it is inevitable that the identity, the description of them is going to be of paramount concern and frankly, the victims themselves seek justice. They want accountability. And so, getting it right as to what kind of criminal conduct is taking place and describing it as such is very important. And I must say, it is very important for governments to finally get there and call it out.

We made a mistake in 1994 in the Clinton administration when it took us two months to describe the slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda as genocide and were severely criticized for that and it tarnished our reputation for a while until we could sort of claw back from that. So I think it is very, very important and useful that President Biden and the secretary of state Blinken have made the statements they've made.

TAPPER: Another question that I wonder about is, given all the civilians that are at this point, you know, at this point, just too many incidents for it to be a coincidence, that civilians just happened to be killed and we know that Putin playbook. At what point does this become a genocide that Putin is trying to kill as many Ukrainian civilians as possible and it technically would be considered by the international community to be a genocide?

SCHEFFER: Well, first, it will be easier at this point to prosecute crimes against humanitarian. When you get to genocide, you have to establish the specific intent of leaders to literally destroy all or a substantial part of a protected group. In this case, it would be the national Ukrainian citizens.

Now, as this conflict continues, you're going to get closer and closer to that line of whether or not this really is an attempt to destroy, namely, eliminate a substantial part of the Ukrainian population. And that's -- that will be determined as we go along.

But remember, genocide is not just killing. It is also imposing upon that protected group bodily injury, mental harm, creating conditions of life that are so inhumane that they completely debilitate that population as a protected group, as a population. And it is getting close to some of those red lines in Ukraine.

So I would suggest the Russian leadership has to be very careful that they understand there are red lines and they can get close to them and even pass them when it comes to genocide.

TAPPER: The U.S. is diplomatically supporting the International Criminal Court. That's the main forum for prosecuting war criminals. But the U.S. does not officially recognize the court. You told WNYC radio that the U.S. declined to join under President George W. Bush because the Bush administration was preparing to go to war in Iraq.

Do you think President Biden should push for the U.S. to join the International Criminal Court? Would that make any difference when it comes to prosecuting Putin?

SCHEFFER: Well, I don't think it would make a difference in terms of prosecuting Putin. I do think that the first step the Biden administration should take would be to reaffirm the fact that we did sign the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and we stand by that signature. Namely, we will not do anything to try to undermine the International Criminal Court which was the objective under the Trump administration to literally undermine it.

That should no longer be the objective of the United States. And I know it is not under the Biden administration.

Beyond that, of course, we want to provide as much support as we can to the objectives of the ICC in its investigations, and we can provide that kind of support. And during the Obama administration, we provided assistance and actually tracking and capturing certain fugitives of the ICC and making sure they arrive in The Hague.

So those steps can take place. But I think the first thing we can do in Washington, Jake, frankly, is to press forward with the crimes against humanity bill that would make it possible for our federal courts to prosecute crimes against humanitarian which are happening big time in Ukraine right now, and reach the level where we can have some jurisdiction over Russian generals and political leaders who are involved in that, and bring them into our federal courts, if necessary, if we gain personal jurisdiction over them.

TAPPER: Ambassador David Scheffer, thank you so much for your time today, sir. Appreciate it.

Coming up, how worrying is this new COVID sub variant? Will adults need another booster shot?

Stick around for a check up with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


TAPPER: In our health lead today, is the fourth time the charm? Moderna now joining Pfizer in seeking emergency use authorization for an additional COVID booster shot. But unlike Pfizer which is only seeking another dose for people over 65, Moderna wants a fourth shot for every adult.

Let's discuss with CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who we're lucky enough to have in studio today.

Good to see you, Sanjay.

So, why are Moderna and Pfizer approaching a second booster shot, a fourth shot total, so differently? Do you think Pfizer is going to end up amending their emergency use authorization request to make it a fourth shot for every adult?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They might. Or it could be the reverse, which is that Moderna is basically saying, hey, let's ask for everything and leave it up to the FDA to make a more specific determination as to who should actually benefit from the fourth shot.

They're both relying on the same date. A it is from Israel. For the most part, it is showing that people under the age of 60 were not getting a significant benefit from severe illness. What they seem to be doing is raising their antibodies to where they were after the third shot. So, antibody levels wane, bringing it back up. So, it wasn't turbo the amount of antibodies and it didn't seem to make a difference in terms of the hospitalization because they were -- the three shots was doing a good job in terms of protecting them against that.

So the big question, looking at this data, is for people 60 or 65 and older, and determining specifically, does this actually reduce the likelihood of hospitalization? There is some data circulating now the United States if you look at omicron here which shows people who have been unvaccinated, versus fully vaccinated. The unvaccinated are four times more likely to be hospitalized, 12 times versus people who have been boosted.

You asked me about this yesterday, Jake, in terms of vaccinated versus unvaccinated breakdown. That's a little example of how effective just the three shots are.

TAPPER: So we're seeing these cases of the BA.2 sub variant of omicron, they're rising in Europe. Dr. Fauci told me yesterday, they're not seeing the severity of the disease with this BA.2 sub variant, but it is highly infectious.

What does that tell you as the subvariant grows in the U.S.?

GUPTA: I think there are two major points, I was looking at this data pretty carefully. First of all, they didn't see an uptick in intensive care unit beds in the U.K. and I think that's what Dr. Fauci was sort of alluding to when he said there's not severe illness that seems to be going up.

Hospitalizations have gone up, around 17 percent. But they've gone up at the same time as these cases. So, what seems to be happening is you have a very contagious virus. People are getting tested now for the first time and all of a sudden, no surprise, a lot of people have COVID that didn't know they have it.

I think that's why you're seeing the hospitalization rates go up. The big difference is in the U.K., you get about an 80 percent vaccination rate among adults. Here it is about 65 percent among eligible adults. So the higher vaccination rate may be protecting them. We'll see an increase in cases almost assuredly. We may see a slight increase in hospitalizations because of our lower vaccination rates. But I think it is clear this is not causing as severe a disease as we saw with delta or alpha before that.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

U.S. officials say Vladimir Putin is expected to take control of Ukraine in just a few days. But over three weeks after the invasion, Ukraine is holding back the Russian army. We're going to take a look at Russia's losses.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, what did the U.S. state department, Ukrainian hackers and Arnold Schwarzenegger all have in common? We'll tell you, coming up.

Plus, they escaped Russian brutality in Ukraine after their homes were destroyed. Now they're facing a new fight. The fight to cross from Mexico into the United States.

And leading this hour with breaking news, President Biden wrapping up a call with Chinese -- China's leader, trying to convince the Chinese government to not help Russia with their invasion of Ukraine, this as we get a look from, with the homes.

Another civilian target destroyed by Russian strikes in Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv. In western Ukraine, smoke seen rising from outside the city of Lviv after Russian missiles hit just 43 miles from Poland, a NATO ally, where American troops are currently deployed.

The city has been largely spared from Russia's military assault so far, Lviv, and CNN's Fred Pleitgen reporter joins us from there.

Fred, what do we know about this apparent new targeting of the city in which you're standing?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. You're absolutely right to say that this city is, of course, one that for the most part of this war has been fairly safe and also has been a place that many people have fled to from other parts of Ukraine because of the relative safety. But then, of course, there are those times when you really notice very quickly that no place in this country is safe and certainly this city now also has been under attack as well.

And all of this happened in the early hours of this morning, around 6:30 a.m., we heard the sirens go off here in the city, the air raid sirens.