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Don Lemon Tonight

Humanitarian Crisis Worsening Across Ukraine; Ukraine Refugee Recounts Escape From War; Vulnerable Ukrainians Struggle To Survive; What Does Russia's "Z" Symbol Mean? Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 08, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. Our breaking news, the humanitarian crisis worsening across Ukraine as Russian forces shell civilian targets. Ukrainian officials saying a Russian airstrike earlier today in the northeastern city of Sumy killing at least 21 civilians, including two children.

And U.S. Intelligence now warning Vladimir Putin believes this is a war he cannot lose and he will likely escalate his attack. The United Nations saying at least 474 civilians have been killed since the Russian invasion began. The actual number feared to be higher. More than two million people fleeing Ukraine.

CNN's Michael Holmes is in Lviv tonight. He joins us once again. Michael, hello to you. Again, explosions in the southern city of Mykolaiv tonight. Horrific damage from Russian airstrike in the town of Sumy. Twenty-one people killed there today. That according to a Ukrainian official. Now, Russian is announcing a new ceasefire in several cities, but does anyone think they're going to abide by it?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's the thing, isn't, Don? Multiple attempts to get people out over multiple days and multiple failures to get it done, Ukraine says, because Russia keeps firing on the routes out.

Now, tomorrow, another ceasefire announced by Russia in a number of places to try again. Five cities, part of the problem, of course, as most of the routes that Russia has been proposing go through Russia or through its ally, Belarus, which is something Ukraine opposes. And frankly, most of those fleeing this country do not particularly want to go to Russia. And, you know, every time, they will end up in a propaganda video by the Russians showing their logic (ph).

As for the Ukraine, when it comes to whether these corridors will work, this time they said -- and I'll quote them now -- they said, "We find it difficult to trust the occupiers." Don?

LEMON: Yeah. We are hearing about negotiations coming up in Turkey with both Ukrainian and the Russian foreign ministers. These are high- level players. What can you tell us about it, Michael? HOLMES: Yeah, exactly, and that's the point. Yeah, Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers meeting in Turkey Thursday. It is a good sign at that level. We know Russia has said that, you know, in terms of what they could agree on, perhaps, what Russia wants, is it said that it wants Ukraine to recognize Crimea as Russian, recognize those breakaway republics in the Donbas as independent, wants Ukraine to give up any aspiration to join NATO.

The thing is that's a lot less than the initial Russian plan, which was to, you know, -- quote -- "de-Nazify" a country that is led by a Jewish president and essentially overthrow the Zelenskyy government.

But, you know, will those demands be politically palatable for Ukraine if it does become part of a compromise? You know, we just don't know. But it is, as you said, significant that this meeting is taking place at all and particularly on the foreign minister level, Don.

LEMON: Your live for us in Lviv where resources are running low because hundreds of thousands of people are heading there for safety. What is it like on the ground?

HOLMES: Yeah, it's interesting. We went out and we did a story on this yesterday, went around the city. The city, as we told you before, it's so far untouched by the missiles and artillery that is raining down on other parts of the country.

But that has made it a destination for people fleeing the shelling in other parts of the country. We are close to the Polish border. So, of course, we've seen hundreds of thousands passed through here on their way out of the country.

But, you know, the mayor here said yesterday, he said more than 200,000 people have chosen to stay here, and the city's resources are now stretched to breaking point. He said 400 city buildings, schools, offices, even a theater here, are now home to displaced people. And the mayor says, you know, the city is going to, of course, take care of people. But he's now pleading for outside help, things like tents, medical supplies, food and so on.

I can tell you how beautiful this city is, Don. It is a UNESCO-listed city. It is a friendly, welcoming place and so far, safe.


But now, it is pretty much bursting at the seams, Don.

LEMON (on camera): Michael Holmes in Lviv. Michael, thank you very much.

I want you to look at this new footage from Ukrainian forces. It shows Russian military vehicles completely destroyed in Ukraine. Another sign this war is not going as Putin planned.

CNN's Jim Sciutto is in Lviv tonight digging into what we know about the Russian military.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nearly two weeks into the invasion, the war in Ukraine has become a slow, grinding conflict, not the blitzkrieg advance the Russian military had planned and hoped for.

AVRIL HAINES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Russia's failure to rapidly seize Kyiv and overwhelm Ukrainian forces has deprived Moscow of the quick military victory that probably had originally expected.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): U.S. and NATO military assistance to Ukrainian forces has flowed in quickly and in enormous quantities. Today, the U.S. and partners have provided some 17,000 anti-tank missiles, including the javelin and AT4 shoulder-fired systems.

And according to a senior U.S. official, some 3,700 antiaircraft missiles, including the stinger shoulder-fired missile, the vast majority since the start of the aviation. These missiles have had an immediate impact on the battlefield. This is a shoulder-fired missile shooting down a Russian attack helicopter.

STEVE ANDERSON, RETIRED U.S. ARMY BRIGADIER GENERAL: It's a race between our ability and NATO's ability to push forward supplies such as the 17,000 missiles that have been recently approved, to get those into the hands of the Ukrainian warfighters before the Russians can regroup and get their logistics, lines of communication, and their capabilities up to snuff.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): Military losses are harder to gauge. According to two senior U.S. officials briefed on the intelligence, the U.S. estimates Russia has lost somewhere between two and 4,000 soldiers, though this estimate comes with low confidence. The U.S. does not have reliable information on losses of Ukrainian military personnel.

On the battlefield, Russian forces had advanced more quickly in the south, from Russian-controlled territory in Crimea, more slowly in the east and the north, though they continue efforts to surround cities such as Kharkiv.

A senior U.S. official tells me the U.S. believes Russia is still several days from being able to surround the capital, Kyiv, and after that, faces a protracted battle to occupy the city itself.

HAINES: Our analysts assess that Putin is unlikely to be deterred by such setbacks and instead may escalate. We assess Putin feels aggrieved the West does not give him proper deference and perceives this is a war he cannot afford to lose.

SCIUTTO (voice-over): As Russia's advance has stalled, forces have increasingly targeted the civilian population with aerial bombardment and shelling, following a time war Russian strategy that pursued ruthlessly in Chechnya in the 1990s and more recently in Syria.

At least 470 civilians, including 29 children, have been killed since the invasion began. This, according to the U.N. Humans Rights Office. And a further 861 were injured. Though the U.N. believes the true figure is likely to be -- quote -- "considerably higher."

Jim Sciutto, CNN, Lviv.


LEMON (on camera): All right, Jim, thank you very much for that.

We are getting new video of massive fires breaking out at two oil depots after Russian airstrikes in Ukraine's Zhytomyr region. That's according to Ukrainian officials.


LEMON: And you can see crews extinguishing the fires. Luckily, though, residents living nearby had already evacuated.

I want to bring in now Fareed Zakaria, host of "Fareed Zakaria GPS," right here on CNN.


LEMON (on camera): Fareed, thank you for joining. Good evening to you. The U.S. is banning all imports of Russian energy, and along with NATO, giving the Ukrainians thousands of anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons. Two weeks in, this war has become really a grinding fight, not the crushing defeat Putin had anticipated. How can we make sense of how much has changed so quickly?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This, Don, is sort of one of those events that, I think, we will look back in history the way we look at the fall of the Berlin Wall, maybe 9/11. In some ways, it is really comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall and that it is beginning to alter the geopolitics not just of Europe but of the world.

You see how countries like Germany are changing 40, 50-year-old foreign policies and becoming much more aware of the danger they face, the need to project military power. Europe is coming together in a way that it never has. The Chinese are trying to figure out whether they need to reevaluate the way in which they have been pursuing an alliance or a quasi-alliance with Russia. India is having a debate about whether it is too over-reliant on Russian technology.


So, everywhere, you are seeing a kind of transformation. But, at the center of it is the grinding, merciless battle that is, you know, that the Ukrainian people are showing such extraordinary bravery. With regard to the Ukrainian army, it is showing such extraordinary bravery. So, you have things that operate at two levels. One, the level of the military conflict. The other, the level of geopolitics.

LEMON: Yeah. You know, this is happening at a time, Fareed, when gas prices are already high and it's always a political issue. How long will this impact Americans who are already feeling these high prices? And we should say, gas prices are high everywhere. Joe Biden is not the president of the world. They're high in other countries and they were going up before this. But how long do you think that Americans can, you know, hold out on these high gas prices?

ZAKARIA: Well, first of all, I think Americans got to hold out a lot longer than people think. Americans are -- I mean, America is a very patient country when the stakes are high, when Americans understand what is at stake and I think they do in this case. And, you know, think about it, the United States engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union for 45 years. The United States has -- it has staying power.

But it is important to point out, the United States is now in a very different position than it was in the 1970s oil crisis. America is the largest producer of oil and gas in the world. So, if the Biden administration moves aggressively to increase supply, we can actually manage to do this in a way that is to the advantage of the United States and the western world, and the American consumer will not have to pay an overly high price.

Russia exports about five billion barrels of crude oil on the world markets. If you increase American supply, Canadian supply, Venezuelan supply, and supply coming out of the Persian Gulf, broadly speaking, that's Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAEA, Qatar for natural gas, you know, some of it will be symbolic, some of it will be real, but the point is there is a lot of supply in the world that could come forward and substitute for the Russian supply. Much of it, by the way, cleaner.

You know, one of the things I would say to all those environmentalists out there who worry, they are right to worry. The truth of the matter is for the last year or two, the world has been burning way too much coal. We have had a 10, 15, 20% increase in burning coal around the world because it's cheap.

So, if you don't drive the price of oil down by increasing supply, all that is going to happen is when oil is expensive, countries like India and China and Indonesia, they burn coal, which is the worst thing for the environment.

So, let's get our priorities straight. In order to defeat Putin, in order to help the American consumers, the number one priority should be increasing the supply of petrol, gasoline, crude oil around the world.

LEMON: Fareed, there are multiple sources telling CNN that the Biden administration was completely caught off guard today by the Polish offer to provide the U.S. with a fleet of used MiG29 fighter jets, which could then be given to Ukraine. I mean, this is something the Ukrainian president has been pleading for. Why is it so complicated?

ZAKARIA: You know, I think that part of it was that the Poles did not --did not consult with the U.S. This is all happening in real time, in a battlefield. You know, we are covering it minute to minute, as we should, but perhaps there could've been better coordination on this.

But I do think the most important thing we should all be trying to figure out, Washington should be trying to figure out is, how can you get the Ukrainians' airpower to break up these Russian convoys? If the Polish's MiG ideas is not a good one, let's come up with a better one, because what you do have is a golden opportunity here. The Russians have these long convoys. They do not seem to be, at this point, logistically skilled in moving them fast. That makes them sitting targets. So, you can use aircraft, you can use drones, you can also use anti-tank javelins.

A number of times, what is happening with these convoys is they've been broken by somebody on a motorcycle carrying a javelin. I may be wrong about this. We should check the exact range. But I think some of these anti-tank weapons have two, three-kilometer range. In other words, the person on the motorcycle can be very far back and can destroy a tank.

One of the things that we have to apply pressure on is the more pressure there is placed on the Russian army, the lower the morale gets.


You see what happens in these situations, when armies get bogged down, when they are losing people, you lose morale. If one out of every five Russian tank is getting blown up, the next convoy of tanks that the Russian soldiers -- they're not so enthusiastic. Right?

They are thinking to themselves -- they're just human beings -- they're thinking, if I got a one in five chance of getting destroyed, maybe I'm not as enthusiastic as I was. So, part of the effort here has to be to keep the pressure on to break the morale of the Russians and bust these convoys.

LEMON: I want to -- Fareed, I don't know if you got to listen to Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman. He is on my program just a short time ago.

ZAKARIA: I did, yeah.

LEMON: Did you hear what he said about -- about -- he believes that the U.S. is wrong when it comes to the airplanes and turning Poland down. He also believes that Putin has not been held accountable. He doesn't believe that he will escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. And he also believes that the no-fly zone -- and I'm paraphrasing it here -- but if heard -- if you heard him, what is your response to his response?

ZAKARIA: Look, I think the United States should lean forward more, should be more aggressive. I think -- you know, they are debating in each of these cases in Washington. What is the most effective way to do? What needs to be done? Those planes are Russian planes by which I mean Russian manufactured. Maybe there are better ideas to do it.

I get the sense the administration is trying as hard as it can to supply the Ukrainian military with all the best weapons they can get. On the no- fly zone, I still do think that, you know, something that we developed during the Cold War, which was the idea of nuclear deterrence, that you are going to be very wary of engaging directly in a military contest with a country that has those many nuclear weapons. It remains a good idea.

If you have American planes shooting down Russian planes and one side feels they are losing and they start ratcheting up, there is a final ratcheting point at which you could imagine the use of nuclear weapons. And so far, we have always believed that that was a bridge too far.

The only person threatening the use of nuclear weapons right now has been Vladimir Putin. He has done it twice to my recollection. Some of the things that he has done in the last two weeks have not been the most rational and calculating.

So, I would at least be careful about this. At this point, I think that there are better ways to supply the Ukrainian military to break those convoys, to try to make sure that Ukraine has all the help it can get, and to ratchet up the cost for Russia. Remember, this is a petrol state. If we can more effectively get at Russian oil, we are getting at the revenues that are funding this military.

So, for all those reasons, I still remain respectfully wary of the idea of the direct military engagement between the United States and Russia. Remember, both countries have enough nuclear weapons to blow the entire world up several times. That should give us all some pause and some caution, I think.

LEMON: Well said. Fareed Zakaria, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

The Intelligence Committee believes Vladimir Putin sees the war in Ukraine as a war that he cannot afford to lose. But his forces aren't making as much headway as he expected. Why the CIA is predicting an ugly next few weeks.




LEMON: The Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv bracing after a night of shelling. The mayor asking citizens to bring spare tires to intersections as they await the full assault. In the city of Sumy, at least 21 civilians killed in a horrific strike. According to Ukrainian officials, two of them were just children.

And in the southeast, U.S. officials say that the Russian forces have isolated the city of Mariupol, where residents have already been cut off from water and electricity for days.

So, joining me now to discuss is CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel, Cedric Leighton. Thank you, colonel. I'm glad you're there at the map to help us through this.

You know, NATO officials say that they don't expect Russia to make any significant gains in the next several days. But Ukrainian cities are still getting hammered with rockets and artillery. What is the situation in the key Ukrainian cities?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST, RETIRED AIR FORCE COLONEL: Yes, Don, that is a really great question because as you pointed out already, there are so many different things happening here in this battle space. And I'll call it a battle space because it's really three dimensional. It's not just a battlefield. It's a whole bunch of everything here.

So, of course, the first thing that we have to worry about if you are Ukrainian is Kyiv, because that is still Russia's premiere objective. As you note here, there are a lot of different movements that the Russians have made in this direction. They are getting a lot closer to Kyiv, but they are not quite there yet.

And, of course, we have Kharkiv, the second city, the second largest city that is still holding out, doing what it needs to do in order to maintain its freedom from the Russians.

However, there is going to be a movement, it looks like here, from this way, and possibly from this way, where the Russians are also looking at encircling Kharkiv, the second Ukrainian city.


Now, you mentioned Mariupol, right here. This area is probably going to be highly contested. There's already, obviously, a lot of fighting. Everything has been cut off, as you mentioned. The water supplies, things of that nature. That is going to be indicator that Mariupol is just about to fall under Russian control, unfortunately.

You also have Kherson, which has already fallen to the Russians. And you have this basic idea that all of these things are happening at once. And then you mentioned earlier in the broadcast, right about here, the city of Zhytomyr, where they had the big fire that you just reported on. So, there are a lot of things going on here. This is still, however, the number one objective, Don.

LEMON: So, colonel, the U.S. estimates that the Russian military has lost as much as 8% to 10% of their military assets. There's a new push east of Kyiv. But they still haven't been able to encircle the capital. What problem does a military face trying to isolate a city this size?

LEIGHTON: So, this is going to be a very important piece right here, Don, because right now, you see this movement right here around Kyiv. This is Kyiv right here, and you see how close the Russians are in the northeast part.

In the western part, we know of Antonov Airport. That was the place where the Russian special forces landed at the very beginning of this offensive. That area is still contested. But the Russians have moved around it. And they're also using this area right here, there's kind of a pincer coming out this way toward these northwestern suburbs of Kyiv. And, of course, you have this movement right in this area.

So, as far as all of the things that have to come into place for the Russians to actually do this, they need to bring all of their logistical supplies to bear in order to make this work. What they want to do is they want to go from here and here, join up here so that they can actually surround the city.

They have not done that yet, and that's going to be, I think, the big area where they will have to work through this. If the Ukrainians can challenge them here, that's going to prevent a quick encirclement of Kyiv.

LEMON: And Ukrainians know that, right?

LEIGHTON: They do. And it's pretty evident that they are trying to work in this way but they're also trying to concentrate on what to do within the urban center of Kyiv itself. So, this is where the possibility of house-to-house fighting comes in, and this could be, of course, a very dangerous situation for both sides really.

LEMON: Colonel, the Russians have been trying to seize all the cities along the coast to cut off access to the Black Sea. But what is the bigger picture strategy, do you think?

LEIGHTON: So, that's absolutely right, Don. One of the key things to note about this, we'd already talked about Kherson, which has fallen to the Russians for all practical purposes. You mentioned earlier Mykolaiv right here. This is a contested space. But the big objective is still this city right here. This is Odesa. This is the main port of Ukraine on the Black Sea.

The Black Sea is basically Ukraine's gateway to the world's oceans. Through there, you can get to the Mediterranean and then to the Atlantic and also to the Suez Canal. So, this is the kind of objective that they have. They want to basically control the coastline here. And they've already controlled this part. And they're controlling this part. This is already the land bridge that they're developing.

So, they have two main objectives. Create the land bridge, which they've just about done, and then control the western part of the coastline over here by Odesa.

LEMON: Colonel, a huge new step. Poland today says that they are ready to deploy all their MiG29 fighter jets to U.S. air base in Germany -- to a U.S. air base in Germany to be transported on to the Ukrainians. But the Pentagon is dismissing that tonight as too risky. They're saying it's not tenable. How much could those planes help the Ukrainians, though?

LEIGHTON: They could help them quite a bit. The MiG29s that we're talking about are not the newest generation of aircraft, but they are a very capable aircraft. They're basically a multirole fighter and they're designed to provide both air to air combat capability as well as an air to ground combat capability.

So, these aircrafts could be very useful against that infamous 40- mile-long convoy that is northwest of Kyiv. It could also serve to go after all kinds of other targets that would present themselves to the Ukrainians as the Russians advance. So, those aircrafts would be worthwhile, but they're not the only thing the Ukrainians could use. So, they're not the end-all and be- all, but they would definitely help.

LEMON: Colonel, thank you so much. I appreciate it. I learned a lot tonight as well.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Don. Any time.

LEMON: More than two million refugees fleeing Ukraine. Many spending days trying to get out of the country. Next, I'm going to talk to a young woman who says her escape took more than 50 hours by car and she doesn't know when she'll see her family again.



LEMON: Tonight, the U.N. reporting that more than two million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia began its invasion nearly two weeks ago. More than one million have already crossed the border into Poland alone with thousands more seeking safety in Romania, Moldova, and other surrounding countries.

I want to bring in now Sofia Kolesnyk.


She is a student who fled Ukraine through Poland and she now joins me from Chicago. Sophia, thank you very much. How are you doing?

SOFIA KOLESNYK, UKRAINIAN STUDENT WHO FLED UKRAINE: Hello. Thank you so much for inviting me to tell my story. And I want to thank the Americans for accepting me. And now, I'm in a safe place. So, thank you.

LEMON: So, welcome to the United States. You are now with family and friends in Chicago after a very long journey. So again, are you okay? What's up?

KOLESNYK: Yes, I am okay. Thank you. So, I have a safe place and I have food and water and good relax and sleep. So, yeah, I'm fine.

LEMON: Yeah. You were at a university in Lviv. Then you saw a phone call from your father at 6:00 a.m. and knew that that wasn't good. So, tell me what happened after that.

KOLESNYK: Yeah. So, I'm from Kyiv, like my whole family from Kyiv, but I study in Lviv in Ukraine, a Catholic university. And I remember that morning and I remember seeing my dad called me, but I couldn't answer him because I understood why he called me. So, that's not why he called me, to say hi, honey, good morning. So, after that call, he wrote me a message and he texted me, Sofia, war has begun and you need to leave Ukraine as soon as possible.

So, after that -- after that, I tried to go to the border. And so, on the 24th of February, I could not leave from the border to Poland. I couldn't. But I tried to go on the 25th of February. And actually, thank God, it worked out.

So, it was dangerous and so scared for me, but I drove 50 hours to the Polish border and another five hours to the Warsaw. And after that, I took a plane ticket and arrived in America in Chicago.

LEMON: So, let us talk a little bit more about that. You were with all women. One of the women who was driving you was pregnant. You went from Lviv to the border of Poland to the United States. And it was 55 hours. An incredible journey for you. Were you worried that you weren't going to make it?

KOLESNYK: Yeah. I was scared. And we drove two cars to the border, all of them women because men are not allowed out of the country. And I was in the same car with three other women and two small children. So, in another car was a pregnant woman with a child, and this woman drove the car for herself.

So, I want to tell you about my last night of this journey because it was the hardest night and more difficult to me because during all this time, I slept probably, I think, six hours, and our female drivers did not sleep at all.

So, we decided that last night I would not have to sleep because I need to help these beautiful women. So, my job was to bring them coffee, talk and wake up them when needed. So, I couldn't sleep all night and help as much as I could.

So, there is -- out of this was that in the morning, when we borrowed the -- when we cross the border, I feel very bad. I turned pale and the pressure, I think, probably dropped. I did not eat all day because I was very nervous about this situation and about all that is happening.

And so, when we arrived at the hotel, I think I slept for an hour and maybe two hours. And after that, I go to Warsaw.

LEMON: I want to ask you your family. You had to leave your family and friends behind.

KOLESNYK: Yeah. So, my family in Kyiv -- part of my family in Kyiv, part of my family in Chernihiv, and part of my family now crossed the border to Poland. And after that, go to Berlin. And after that, go to Paris, France.

LEMON: Have you heard from them?

KOLESNYK: Yeah, I have message and I have call from my family. So, everything is good. Thank God. But I am still worry about their health and about their lives.

LEMON: I'm sure. Sofia, thank you.


We're glad that you're safe and we hope that your family continues to be safe as well. Thanks so much.

KOLESNYK: Thank you.

LEMON: Fighting to survive. Traveling days in the cold. Russia's invasion severely impacting Ukraine's most vulnerable, both the young and the elderly.



LEMON: Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska, is speaking out about the horrific plight facing the civilians of Ukraine, calling out distressing conditions where women and children are spending days at a time underground sheltering from Russian bombs.

Other children forced to flee their homes. Many of them might never come back. And it's not just the young. As CNN's Clarissa Ward reports, many of Ukraine's oldest citizens are isolated and in increasing danger.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Incredibly, they emerge, some still standing, some too weak to walk, after more than a week under heavy bombardment in the Kyiv suburb of Irpin.

Volunteers help them carry their bags, the final few feet to relative safety. There are tearful reunions as relatives feared dead finally appear after days of no contact with the outside world.

Many are still looking for their loved ones. Soldiers help where they can. For Larisa (ph) and Andriy, it is an agonizing weight. Their son has been pinned down in the hotel he owns. We wait, we hope, we pray, they tell me.

This is the grief of all mothers, of all people, Larisa (ph) says. This is a tragedy.

Every time the phone rings, there's a scramble, anticipation that it could be their son's voice on the line. This time, it is not. Excuse me, I can't talk, Andriy says. I'm waiting for my son.

They are not the only ones waiting. These residents of a nursing home were among the last to be evacuated from Irpin. They have been sitting here now for hours. Confused and disorientated, many don't know where they are going. A volunteer gently guides these women back to wait for the next bus.

Valentina (ph) tells us she is frightened and freezing after days of endless shelling and no heat. I want to lie down, she says. Please, help me. But for now, there is no place to lie down. The women are shepherded on to a bus. Their arduous journey not over yet.

For Larisa (ph) and Andriy, the wait is finally over. Their son is alive.

ANDRIY KOLESNIK, IRPIN RESIDENT: The only words you can tell to the phone, like mom, I'm alive, mom, I'm alive, and that's it.

WARD (voice-over): I'm the happiest mother in the world right now, she says. My son is with me. But not every mother here is so lucky. And for many, the wait continues.

(On camera): Russian media is reporting, Don, that the Russian military is offering another ceasefire tomorrow to start at 10:00 a.m. Moscow time. That is 9:00 a.m. here in Kyiv. It would be for the same five cities that were supposed to be part of today's ceasefire.

The Ukrainian military has replied to that offer saying -- quote -- Don, "It is difficult to trust the occupier." Don?


LEMON (on camera): Clarissa, thank you very much.

It has become a rallying symbol for the Russians, the letter "Z," emblazoned on everything from Russian tanks to athletes' uniforms. But what does it mean?




LEMON (on camera): The letter "Z" is now a symbol for Russian forces that have invaded Ukraine and it is a key part of Putin's propaganda campaign to get Russians to support his bloody military assault.

More tonight from CNN's Phil Black.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's impossible not to notice. Many of the Russian vehicles invading Ukraine carry a distinctive mark. Trucks, tanks, fighting, engineering and logistical vehicles, they are advancing through Ukraine with the letter "Z" painted conspicuously in white.

The people being invaded have noticed. Here in the eastern Ukrainian town of (INAUDIBLE), an angry crowd swarms after and attacks a single vehicle. It's only obvious connection to the war, the letter "Z."

ARIC TOLER, DIRECTOR, RESEARCH AND TRAINING BELINGCAT: It's almost certainly some kind of tactical grouping (ph). There are a million different theories about this "Z" means, but I think it is just a marking. Just an easy thing to do, easy thing to mark, like a square or a tringle.

BLACK (voice-over): In a war where the wannabe conquerors are not flying the national flag, that single character has taken on a special significance.

At a recent gymnastics World Cup event, 20-year-old Russian competitor Ivan Kuliak accepted his bronze medal wearing a "Z" prominently on his chest. He was standing next to a Ukrainian athlete. The sport's governing body described it as shocking behavior.

But how do you describe this? Terminally-ill children and their carers formed a giant "Z" outside a hospice in the Russian city of Kazan.

BRIAN KLAAS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON: It's disgusting that the state is co-opting young children to be propaganda mechanisms for their war.


It is dangerous when small little symbols become proxies for being a loyal citizen in an authoritarian regime during the time of war because those who don't wear it, those who don't show the "Z," could be targeted by the state.

BLACK (voice-over): And in this highly produced propaganda video, Russian men wearing that letter declared their support for the invasion, chanting, for Russia, for the president, for Russia, for Putin.

An aerial shot shows a giant "Z" made from the orange and black (INAUDIBLE), a traditional symbol of Russian military glory usually associated with victory over Nazi, Germany.

By accident or design, a character that doesn't feature in Russia's alphabet has become an iconic symbol of Putin's invasion and the propaganda campaign to win support among his people.

Phil Black, CNN, London.


LEMON (on camera): Phil, thank you. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our live coverage continues.