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Don Lemon Tonight
Vladimir Putin A War Criminal; Putin Is Hopeless To Change; Rescuers Saved 130 People From Mariupol's Theater; Young Ukrainian Boy Traveled 620 Miles; Elderly People Stuck In Mariupol; President Zelenskyy Comfort His People; Arnold Schwarzenegger Calling Out Russian Citizens To Wake Up. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired March 17, 2022 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We talked about that, how she does it and why those moments are so important in detailing the struggle of the people caught in this conflict.
I also have a conversation with Clarissa ward in another podcast and Nick Paton Walsh. Again, if you want to listen scan the camera on your phone over the QR code right now on your screen or you can just find it or you can just go and fin it on your favorite podcast. It's called tug of war.
Stay with CNN for the latest from Ukraine. The news continues right now. I want to turn things over to Don who is in Slovakia tonight. Don?
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Anderson, you know, as you know this is the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II and the NATO and U.S. are going to have to do a lot of assuring to the people here to make sure that they know that they're on their side.
You're in Ukraine, as you said I'm in Slovakia. One of the many countries really taking refugees. Also, where the defense secretary Lloyd Austin met today with his Slovakian counterpart. He's going to be traveling around Europe working with allies to shore up defenses against Putin's aggression and what kind of aid allies can provide the Europeans.
I'm going to be traveling with him, I'm going to be interviewing with him in just hours. But here on the ground, Anderson, I am struck by the people who are involved in this and who are escaping Ukraine. I met a little boy today who is 11 years old. He traveled 600 miles.
I'm going to talk about that in a minute, but they are really walking a tight rope as to, you know, you heard the secretary saying it is a direct conflict that they start giving fixed wing planes to the Ukrainians, and he doesn't want to get involved in that. That tight line, that tight rope that they're walking is possibly lead them to World War III, and that is quite a position to be in.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, look, it's certainly something that has been, you know, very contentious here. Obviously, the Ukrainians would like as much support from the U.S. and from NATO as possible. They would like the skies shutdown.
You know, part of the problem is it's not just aircraft, it's also artillery that the Russians have in order -- and as you know -- as the Defense Secretary Austin has pointed out repeatedly, you know, a no -- actually patrolling a no-fly zone takes hundred of -- hundreds of aircraft, and you're not just threatening to shoot down Russian planes. You're also have to then go after anti-aircraft guns on the ground --
COOPER -- and that is a direct confrontation, which is something clearly the U.S. and its NATO partners do not want at this point.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, I don't know if you -- I hope you don't mind me sharing this, but I've been watching you over the last couple of weeks and you have been really affected by this, and who wouldn't be but especially since now you have children.
And watching you, listening to you talk to that photographer today and the video of, you know, the son crying over his mother and, you know, and the photographer talking about being a mother and giving birth, and just -- I mean, this is just unbelievable to witness. And we cannot let -- let go of the humanity here. And we have to keep focus on it. It's just -- it's horrible.
COOPER: Yes. That was Heidi Levine from -- great photographer who's been doing this for some 40 years. Look, she works he Washington -- for The Washington Post. I think it's important not to -- you know, we broadcast this every night, and, you know, Don, you have and it's easy for these images after a while to just become wallpapers in people's minds.
They see it every day and they think OK, it's another building that's been bombed. But you know, I do think it's important to just step back as often as possible and just point out that it's not the same every day. It is people -- for each person who is killed on that day, for each loved one who suddenly now has a gaping hole in their heart and in their family that will always exist, it is the worst day imaginable.
It's not just another day, and what people are going through every single day, the horror of it repeats. And the least I think we can do is keep -- keep our eyes on it and keep seeing it with fresh eyes and keep seeing it with fresh outrage because it's not something we should ever get used to.
LEMON: Yes. And I can't wait for you to meet this little 11-year-old boy, Anderson. You and our audience and the world. So, thank you, Anderson. Be safe, get some rest. We'll see you tomorrow.
This is DON LEMON TONIGHT.
And as we've been discussing I am here in Eastern Europe, in Slovakia as a matter of fact, that's Ukraine's neighbor. And we spent the day today talking to the people here about the war raging right across their border including an 11-year-old boy who is becoming a folk hero, really.
He traveled more than 600 miles from Ukraine. He did it all alone all by himself with only a bag, a passport and a phone number that was just written on his hand. You're going to meet him tonight.
And as I've just been saying with Anderson, I'm also going to spend some time tomorrow traveling in this region with the defense secretary. His name is Lloyd Austin. He says that, today he said that the United States will not enforce closing the skies in Ukraine saying, quote, "there's no such thing as a no-fly zone lite."
And I'm going to have a full interview with the Secretary Lloyd Austin tomorrow night on this very show so make sure you tune in for that.
It comes as Russia's indiscriminate bombardment of Ukraine continues. President Biden today calling Vladimir Putin, and a quote here, "a murderous dictator and a pure thug who is waging an immoral war," just one day after accusing him of war crimes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Yesterday President Biden said that, in his opinion, war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. Personally, I agree. Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime.
LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: These attacks that we've seen most recently appear to be focused directly on civilians, and of course that -- you know, if you attack civilians, target civilians purposely, target civilians purposely, then that's -- that is a -- that is a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Secretary Austin, Secretary Blinken, President Biden all deploring what Vladimir Putin is doing to Ukraine. And look, the issue of whether Putin is a war criminal is a very important issue, but we know exactly what Russia is doing here. We see it day after day. Bombing a theater, sheltering hundreds of people many of them children -- the world children -- the word children, I should say, in Russia written on the pavement outside.
Look at your screen. And there are reports today of a 130 people have been rescued from that theater but no information yet on their condition or possible fatalities. We're going to update you on that.
In the north, in Chernihiv, the mayor telling CNN what he calls indiscriminate shelling has been getting worse. A U.S. citizen James Whitney Hill among several people killed today. Ukrainian police say the dead are victims of Russian artillery fire.
In Kharkiv, Russian shelling leaving the city's sprawling market on fire. Massive plumes of smoke filling the sky. And in Kyiv a senior U.S. defense official says that Russian forces, quote, "continue to want to conduct a siege." And I warn you that this next video is very difficult to watch.
It's a brokenhearted man sobbing over the body of his mother covered with a sheet on the street on the side of the road.
And the destruction continues. Rescuers today searching the wreckage of a building, once someone's home. Their hearth, their safe haven. I know it's tough to look at all those stories, but I think my colleague, Anderson, is right. We have to show it to you not because we're exploiting but this is the reality of war and the world needs to know what Vladimir Putin is doing to the people of Ukraine.
I want to bring in now retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General, thank you so much. I'm sure you agree with that assessment. What do you make of what's happening today, that some crying on the side of the road, the bombing of a theater and children? It is really just unbelievable.
MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Can I go back, if you don't mind, Don, to your conversation with Anderson just a minute ago.
HERTLING: You as reporters, journalists around the world you're in Slovakia right now, not in the middle of Ukraine, you're not seeing the combat, you're not seeing the dynamics of the inhumane treatment that Mr. Putin has executed with his war machine, the criminal activity.
What you're seeing is the other side of humanity, the humanness of people taking care of one another. You know, when military planners put an operation together in the U.S. army, there's always a consideration for humanitarian crisis and the potential for assuaging humanitarian relief, getting people help that are trying to exit from the war zone.
You're going to talk to my friend Lloyd Austin tomorrow, my friend in West Point class, Secretary Austin. And he is not the typical political appointee to a secretary of defense or a secretary of state position. He is a general, retired general. He knows the kind of pain that you're seeing right now not only on the battlefield but as they travel to other countries to these refugees.
So, he knows it deep down inside. He has experienced these emotions. And the kinds of things that you and Anderson and Sam and Nick Paton and Clarissa and everybody else who are reporting, it is the horrors of war, and that's why these kinds of things must be avoided.
And I'll go one step further. The kind of horror that Mr. Putin has been putting on the people of Ukraine is just horrific, inhumane and just disastrous. It speaks to pure evil. And that's why you're hearing a lot of people now say the potential for war crimes. Absolute -- do I believe war crime has committed? I believe it because I see it. I know what's happening there. But it's also the fact that you have to prove that, and I believe that certainly the people of Ukraine, the government officials in Ukraine will prove war crimes in this situation.
LEMON: General Hertling, let's -- I want to talk about what Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of this country is doing, I mean, standing strong here, and he's out with a new video message tonight warning mercenaries, mercenaries, General, who may try to join Russian forces in Ukraine. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): So now I warn everyone who will try to join the occupiers on our Ukrainian land, this will be the worst decision of your life. Long life is better than the money you are offered for short.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And we know Russia has put a call out for foreign fighters and mercenaries to help. Is Zelenskyy trying to get ahead of this?
HERTLING: He is, Don. And if you study history, you know that there's been no mercenary group that has significantly contributed to any war. These are paid for hire soldiers. They're doing it only for pay.
So, yes, they're tough guys, they may like war, may like killing, but they've never contributed the kind of will and resources that President Zelenskyy's Ukrainian army and his territorial forces are contributing now to -- the patriotism that they're contributing to the people of Ukraine.
So, yes, he's trying to get out in front of it, but he's also telling them don't come here because you're going to be slaughtered. There may be many of you, you may come in the thousands, but we have the will to defend our people and our homes.
LEMON: General Hertling, you say that the U.S. and NATO are doing a whole lot more than people realize under the radar to help Ukraine. I'm sure people are happy about that, but can you talk about like what?
HERTLING: No. I'm sorry, I can't, Don. But I know what has been done in the past in these kinds of operations. You know, a lot of the stuff they're doing right now is classified. They can't share -- you know, the United States can't and won't share it, and it shouldn't be shared because it's contributing to the success of the Ukrainian people but -- or the Ukrainian military.
But what I will say is the story that remains to be told, and I hope to be one of that -- one of the people telling it is the fact of how Ukraine's military changed from a Soviet era unprofessional force in the early 2000s into a transformed military with professional soldiers, with great NCO leaders, with generals that have eliminated corruption in their ranks, with a president and a parliament that understands the will of the people as opposed to just stealing and grifting.
So, what you're seeing now is a transformed force in Ukraine against the old Soviet model, corrupt, grifting, lack of leadership, conscript soldiers force of Russia. And that's why I think we're going to see Ukraine persevere in this -- in this campaign.
LEMON: General, thank you. And thank you for your words and your encouragement and your message. Thank you. I really appreciate it. We'll see you soon.
I want to bring in now Andrei Soldatov, he is a Russian investigative journalist currently in exile in London and the author of "The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators."
We're so happy to have you here. Thank you very much.
Listen, Putin thought his forces would be able to march right into Kyiv and the Ukrainian people would just submit to his military. And we're entering week four, none of that has happened, and you say something looks really wrong with Russia's intelligence in this war. What is going on here, Andrei?
ANDREI SOLDATOV, RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Absolutely, it looks like there's a big problem with intelligence. And this war started with Vladimir Putin attacking and humiliating his chief of the foreign intelligence agency, the SVR as a main successor of the KGB.
Two weeks later, last week actually while the FSB foreign intelligence bridge came under attack, and two top generals were placed under house arrest. And this department is primarily in charge of supervising the situation in Ukraine and providing political intelligence about the situation in Ukraine. And it looks like they failed completely.
LEMON: You know, in a scathing speech, it was yesterday, Vladimir Putin referred to pro-western Russians as scum and traitors who he said needed to be removed from society.
What did you take from that? Are we going to see a further crackdown -- a further crackdown on dissent inside of Russia?
SOLDATOV: Unfortunately, I think that's what's going to happen. And we've been living in a climate of selective repression for almost seven years, and we have the political opposition under attack. We have the Russian elites under attack. We have government ministers in jail.
But I fear that now it's time for something bigger because what Putin is talking about is not only liberals. He's also talking about his oligarchs. He's talking about actually the thinking part of the Russian society encouraging them to leave the country, otherwise they would just end up in jail.
LEMON: Thousands of Russian troops have been killed. It's astonishing. You talk about the Russian army, but thousands of Russian troops have been killed. The estimates range from 3,000 to more than 10,000. Do you think these mounting casualties, is that going to change Putin's strategy, Andrei? SOLDATOV: Well, to be honest, I don't think so. It looks like Putin
sticks to the strategy he chose for the very first day, and it's still the same with some -- well, some changes when he started bombing the cities more -- more heavily. But in general, it's the same thing.
And I think the problem here is we have -- I mean Russian army has a big problem in their chain of command. In every previous Putin's war there was a so-called joint group of forces, and there was a commander who was ultimately in charge of the situation on the battlefield. We do not have this guy now, and I don't quite understand why.
It looks like everybody is guarded from Moscow, which doesn't make any sense militarily speaking, and maybe it explains why there's so much confusion and lack of communication between the units and all these heavy casualties.
LEMON: Andrei Soldatov, thank you so much. I really appreciate you joining us. Be well.
SOLDATOV: Thank you.
LEMON: The city of Mariupol being battered by Russian attacks, up to 100 a day. Next, I'm going to talk to an American and his Ukrainian wife. Her family is sheltering in a basement in Mariupol.
LEMON: Rescue efforts underway at the bombed-out theater in Mariupol that was being used as a shelter. Sources saying there were about 1,200 people sheltering in the theater. There are reports of 130 that have been rescued so far.
And in Mariupol the city council saying about 80 percent of the city's homes have been hit. Mariupol is about the size of Minneapolis or Tampa. So, imagine if 80 percent of the homes in either of those cities were hit by artillery shells.
Joining me now is Joe and Dasha Reimers. Dasha's parents and grandparents are sheltering in Mariupol. We've spoken to them before and here they are again. We're so happy that you're back. And we want to know how your family is doing. Thank you so much.
They're now, they've been sheltering in a church basement in Mariupol for quite some time now, for 14 days, for the last 14 days and I understand they're still there. The second story of that church was recently hit by a Russian attack. Do you know how they're doing?
JOE REIMERS, AMERICAN LIVING IN UKRAINE: Yes. We were able to talk to Dasha's dad yesterday, so we know how he's doing as of yesterday. That's how it's gone for the last two weeks is it's hard to get communication into or out of Mariupol. And so, we know that they're fine the moment we talk to them, and then after that we wait until we hear from them again.
But when we talked to him yesterday, he said it was a miracle that God was protecting them, but it's a miracle that they're also alive.
LEMON: Well, Joe, you said that Dasha's parents haven't tried evacuating because they are caring for other people in the shelter and around the city. And so, how are -- are they giving you stories about how they're doing and other people are doing?
REIMERS: They say that they have enough food, that they have access to water. But we know basically that her dad is caring for people mostly elderly women, some of them bedridden in basically two different parts of the city.
And so, he's been going around sometimes in his car, sometimes because the roads are so damaged and they're trying to preserve gas. He's gone on his bike, and he's taking these people what they need and caring for them. It's -- he's a hero, but like Dasha's been saying you always want someone to be a hero, but in this situation, you don't want it to be someone who you love.
LEMON: Dasha, it's your parents. How are you doing? How are you holding up?
DASHA REIMERS, FAMILY TRAPPED IN MARIUPOL, UKRAINE: I worry all the time. It's always on the back of my mind, but of course we are always hopeful. So, yes, just waiting for good news.
LEMON: You know, Dasha, more than 2,000 people made it out of Mariupol today and hundreds of private cars that they had. Are you encouraging your family to get out?
D. REIMERS: Yes. But now it's a little bit hard to do because they have all these people and they don't have enough cars to go out. So we're waiting to maybe open the corridor or something official are volunteers would be able to come and get them.
LEMON: Look, I know that you've been saying, Dasha, that you always want someone to be a hero but you just don't want it to be someone you love. I mean, even if you're afraid for your family how do you feel about the courage and resilience that your parents and the rest of the Ukrainian people are showing in this moment?
D. REIMERS: Of course, first I'm impress. Now I'm so proud to be Ukrainian and proud for all these people for giving their lives, their resources, everything they have. Well, I think, yes. It's a good sign.
LEMON: Yes. Well, Joe, you know, you sent me these pictures we're going to put up. You sent my team these photos of your family, and then now the destroyed theater in Mariupol. And some of these were taken just a little more than three months ago. There's a Christmas tree in front of the theater. Now it is rubble. How are you making sense of all of this violence?
REIMERS: I'm -- I'm not making sense of it yet. I feel like it'll be one of the projects of the rest of my life to try to make sense of what's going on here. You know, I -- it's a city I've visited three or four times starting when Dasha and I started dating. We've been there before and after we were married.
You know, Dasha can tell you more stories about the theater there. And every time we see pictures of the destruction, it's a place that she knows. But I mean, that's really the heart of the city. We watched a musical there on my birthday last year. It's where we would meet if we were going to go for a walk around the city. There's a beautiful park there. We walked around there on New Year's Eve and looked at the lights and saw the Christmas tree. And I don't think I've been able to process yet that that is just rubble now.
LEMON: Yes. Well, Joe and Dasha, you guys take care. And while I'm in the region if I have the opportunity somehow, I would love to be able to speak to your parents or to get to see them or interview them. So, take care, and if that could happen, please reach out to, you know, my folks and my team and let us know. And also, to meet you guys as well. Thank you so much, OK?
REIMERS: Thank you, Don.
D. REIMERS: Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you and be safe. So, this next story you are not going to believe. He traveled more than 600 miles to flee that war all on his own and he's only 11 years old. We met up today in a park hundreds of miles from home but safe, and we're going to have that for you right after this.
LEMON: This is truly a story that you need to see. As Russia's brutal assault on Ukraine enters its fourth week the U.N. says more than three million people have been forced to flee the violence and the destruction.
One of those refugees is a boy. I met him today here in Bratislava. His name is Hassan. He's just 11 years old and he traveled more than 600 miles from his home in Ukraine all alone without his mother. A child who should be quite frankly kicking around a soccer ball or playing video games with his friends, forced to flee to a foreign country for safety.
LEMON: It was difficult to leave your mother?
HASSAN AL-KHALAF, TRAVELED 620 MILES ALONE (on screen text): I told her everything was going to be alright and I am sure of it.
LEMON: Eleven-year-old Hassan al-Khalaf fled the destruction all alone and traveled more 600 miles alone with only a bag, his passport and a telephone number written on his hand. A harrowing story of survival amid Putin's war in Ukraine.
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): All people were nervous because of war and it was difficult to travel across Ukraine.
LEMON: It's one story of many in this devastating conflict that the United Nations says has caused more than three million Ukrainians to flee their country. The invasion creating a Ukrainian child refugee almost every single second resulting in heart breaking scenes like this, a young boy crosses the border in Poland crying as he walks ahead of a group of adults.
Hassan's journey to safety in Slovakia began more than two weeks ago and 620 miles away in the town of Zaporizhia. His mother Pisecka Yulia Volodymyrivna stuck in a war zone with a little boy and an elderly mother to protect and care for makes an impossible choice to stay behind with her mother and send Hassan on a train out of Zaporizhia which is near the nuclear power plant that came under attack by Russian forces.
How long did it take you to get here?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Three or four days.
LEMON: Were you scared, Hassan?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes, I was very scared. I felt horrible. I really wanted to cry because I have always been with my mom and this is the first time I had to go away from her.
LEMON: What did she say to you when she, when you left?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): She wished me lots of luck and that I wouldn't be crying and sad.
LEMON: Were you worried, though?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Of course. Always worried.
LEMON: Hassan alone traveled all the way to Bratislava in Slovakia where he found his older brothers and sisters. They had journeyed ahead earlier to meet up with their older brother who was studying in Slovakia.
And that's where I met them today.
So, you had a bag?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes, I had one bag.
LEMON: And then you had a number written on your hand?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): On my right hand.
LEMON: It was written, what, in ink?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): It was written with a pen.
LEMON: And then you had your phone.
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes.
LEMON: Yes. Do you have your phone with you?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes.
LEMON: Can I see it?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes.
LEMON: Yes. Did you ever call your mom?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes, I called her.
LEMON: You did?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes.
LEMON: Did you let her know where you were along the way?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes, I did tell her.
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes.
LEMON: And did you ever call your brothers or sisters to let them know where you were?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes, I called then and told them where I was.
LEMON: And so, they knew -- they were checking on where you were throughout your time?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes, I was reporting to them, they knew where I was.
LEMON: And then -- and then they gave you directions?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): Yes.
LEMON: Yes. Did you have -- did you have money with you?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): No, no money at all.
LEMON: Hassan says he got his hope from his mother who desperately wanted him to get to safety, and now she, too, is safe. She was able to reach Slovakia today and reunite with Hassan.
PISECKA YULIA VOLODYMYRIVNA, HASSAN AL-KHALAF'S MOTHER (through translator): I cannot leave my mother. She's 84 and she is not mobile. Thus, I put my son on the train to go to the Slovakian border where he was met by the people with big hearts. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the Slovakian border guards and all the border of Slovakia who sheltered my child, who helped him to cross the border on his own.
LEMON: Hassan's rescue was a family affair. Some of his siblings gave their mom advice on the best way to get Hassan out of the war-torn country. But there were times they were scared and he would get lost.
Did you think he wasn't going to make or that he would get lost or that you would not never see him again?
KINANA, HASSAN AL-KHALAF'S SISTER: I believe he would be with us because he's very clever, and he could also phone call us.
KINANA: And we were helping him. But when I saw him, I thought now I can relax.
LEMON: How do you feel now that you're all together?
UNKNOWN: We're already relax.
KINANA; I think, yes, relax because we spend our whole lives together, and it was nervous to us that we fell apart.
LEMON: So, when you all saw your mother and you were all back together what was that like?
UNKNOWN: I like was relaxed, and I was happy to see my mom because every day I missed her rice, her meat. And I think mom, she cooks me a lot of food.
LEMON: For Hassan it's not the first time he's had to escape out of a war zone. He and his family had to flee the war in Syria about a decade ago when Hassan was just a baby. But no matter the struggles he has faced his bravery was never in doubt.
Did you cry?
AL-KHALAF (on screen text): No, but I wanted to.
LEMON: He didn't cry. He wanted to but he didn't cry. Listen, the stories that are coming out of this region really puts into perspective the problems that we think that we have and just how fortunate we are especially in the United States.
And quite frankly, how much we need to pay attention to what's going on here. Not only just the bombing and the shelling but the humanitarian effort, the humanity, the inhumanity of what is going on. Hassan is just one example of that. Imagine, 11 years old.
I was a pretty savvy 11-year-old but I never had to travel 600 miles by myself. What I had to do was go across town on a school bus or on a city bus by myself to get to class at a young age, but nothing -- nothing quite like that. And the second time he was a year old when he had to flee, he and his family had to flee Syria. So, keep your thoughts and your eyes on what is happening in this region.
Up next, the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, warning that Vladimir Putin is setting the stage to use chemical weapons, to bring in mercenaries, kidnap local officials. I'm going to speak with one of the president's, President Zelenskyy's former top aides live from Kyiv. That's next.
LEMON: Russian forces continue to want to conduct a siege of Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv. That's according to U.S. defense official -- a U.S. defense official. In the city today Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited civilians injured by shelling in the city.
And my next guest in Kyiv and he's an advisor to President Zelenskyy, Igor Novikov and he joins me now. Thank you -- former advisor, I should say. Igor, thank you so much. I appreciate that. Can you give us the latest in Kyiv? Have you heard any air raid sirens tonight or any explosions?
IGOR NOVIKOV, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: Well, we've had if I remember correctly, we've had two air raids, no explosions so far so, you know, so far so good. I don't want to jinx it because usually the way -- the way it happens to say there are no explosions tonight and literally you just hang up the phone and in 10 minutes we have a mess of explosions. So hopefully tonight is different, but quiet so far.
LEMON: So, Igor, today, President Zelenskyy visited civilians injured by that shelling in Kyiv. What is he thinking as he sees his people being hurt and killed by these Russian attacks?
NOVIKOV: Well, look, I usually describe President Zelenskyy as, you know, a human being amongst politicians. And you know, for him the human life and the well-being of humans in general and Ukrainian citizens is of paramount importance.
So, every single time he has to come face-to-face with human suffering it's incredibly difficult for him. But you know, it's his mission as a president, as our leader to kind of, to comfort the people, to protect the people and to do everything in his powers to try and stop the war, to put it simply.
LEMON: Listen, there's been one atrocity after the other in the region in Ukraine. The mayor in Kharkiv, in the Kharkiv region has been captured by Russian forces. This is at least the third mayor, Igor, to have been taken.
NOVIKOV: Yes. LEMON: Today Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that Russia is likely systemically kidnap local officials and replace them with puppets. Is the president, President Zelenskyy is he worried that Russia may try the same with him?
NOVIKOV: Well, I'd say it might be close to impossible to do anything like that to him because well, first of all, you know, he's surrounded by nearly few million really angry Ukrainians in Kyiv, so it would take a huge force to go through that defense.
And I think like that's exactly the defense that Putin is actually looking for at the moment. Because I mean, if you closely pay attention to what, you know, he's doing domestically, he's trying to change his narrative to the Russian people. So, you know, he's gone all in. He's doubled down on propaganda, and now he's trying to kind of close Russia off and turn it into North Korea.
And I think until he's completely successful in doing that, until he achieves his end result, you know, we're going to be safer than when he actually does that.
LEMON: You know, Igor, President Zelenskyy also spoke to German lawmakers today. And in his speech, he invoke the post-Holocaust phrase never again, saying that those words are worthless now, that his people are being destroyed. I mean, he's doing everything that he can to get the world's help here. Has the west met the moment here that Zelenskyy is talking about?
NOVIKOV: Well, look, to kind of, to understand what's happening you need to understand what happened first, you know, when this war started. So basically, you know, President Putin has been preparing for it for quite some time, and this is not your typical war. So, it's very reminiscent in terms of like, you know, ground warfare and what we saw during World War II. But don't be mistaken.
This is a hybrid war, which means that President Putin is taking everything that makes you weaker and weaponizes it. You know, he try to -- when he took Crimea, you know, it worked, so he weaponized that corporate greed against the west. He weaponizes, you know, your political divisions and your partisan kind of struggles against you.
So, at the moment I wouldn't say that the west is as united as it should be to counter this threat. And make no mistake, I mean, it's not only a threat to Ukraine, it's a global threat. And it's going to get worse. And, you know, negotiations that Putin is proposing at the moment, that's just a delay tactic. And everyone realizes that because I mean we've been through two agreements already. We've been through Minsk 1 and Minsk 2.
And even if we get Minsk 3 at the moment, I mean, that would probably cause, you know, the hostilities to come down a bit, but it's not going to be the end of the war and kind of everyone realizes that. And the main target is you know, us. I mean, Putin doesn't even consider Ukrainians to be, you know, worthy people worthy of living. I mean, he's showing it with his actions. But, you know, the real enemy is the collective west, I mean, he says
it explicitly. And you're the enemy, you're in mortal danger, but at the same time, you know, European politicians are kind of -- cannot agree on the fact that, you know, killing Ukrainian civilians is wrong.
You know, the western business has to agree on the simple fact that paying taxes to an aggressor who's going to use those taxes to make bombs that will fall on your heads is wrong. And you know, people are even afraid to kind of voice their opinion against this war. Why? Because it would lose them some audience or you know, they will cause some backlash, you know, from people who disagree with that.
And you have Tucker Carlson. I mean, like, look, do you feel safe in the hybrid war like that? I mean, I wouldn't if I were you because, you know, we can -- the only reason we are successful at the moment in defending our country is because Putin's information war failed in Ukraine. You know, he literally he was expecting to go in --
NOVIKOV: -- meet little to no resistance and have his victory day parade in like three days. And it's been 23 days now and he's still fighting.
LEMON: That did not happen.
NOVIKOV: Why? Yes, why because he lost the information war. We turned it into a meme. And we're turning it into a meme at the moment. You can actually watch what should happen. So, you know, he's -- he's expecting Ukrainian people to either support him or be afraid of him.
But instead, you know, we have jokes going around like saying who are those four gentlemen on horses?
NOVIKOV: You know, these are the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Who's the fifth guy on the podium? Well, that's Putin the apprentice. I mean, that's how Ukrainian people see him, right?
NOVIKOV: And they're not afraid of him. He's an enemy but not an enemy to be mortally afraid of. He is the enemy to be fault.
LEMON: And what's to say --
NOVIKOV: So, you know, that's important.
LEMON: What's to say that he's -- if he hasn't abided by any of the Minsk agreements? That he's going to do it another time if it's presented or that there is going to be some sort of negotiations? It doesn't look like it at this point.
Thank you, Igor. We appreciate you joining us. We'll see you soon. We'll have you back. Thanks so much, OK? Be safe.
NOVIKOV: Thank you. Thank you.
LEMON: Thank you.
Russia's propaganda machine is fueling Vladimir Putin's false narrative and lies about the war, keeping the Russian people from knowing the atrocities he is committing. Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to get a message to those people.
LEMON: Did you see this today? We're going to show it to you. It's Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's posting -- he posted a powerful video message on Twitter today speaking directly to the people of Russia about the horrors of their government's invasion of Ukraine.
As a native of Austria, Schwarzenegger says that he's always admired the strength of the Russian people but says that they're being tricked by Putin's propaganda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR. GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R-CA): As a long-time friend of the Russian people, I hope you will hear what I have to say. I know that your government has told you that this is a war to de-Nazify Ukraine. De-Nazify Ukraine. This is not true. Ukraine is a country with a Jewish president, a Jewish president, I might add, whose father, three brothers, were all murdered by the Nazis.
You see, Ukraine did not start this war. Neither did nationalists or Nazis. Those in power in the Kremlin started this war. This is not the Russian people's war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Schwarzenegger making a direct appeal to Russian troops.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHWARZENEGGER: To the soldiers who listen to this, remember that the 11 million Russians have family connections to Ukraine. So, every bullet you shoot, you shoot a brother or a sister. Every bomb or every shell that falls is falling not an enemy but, on a school, or a hospital, or a home.
I know that the Russian people are not aware of such things happening, so I urge the Russian people and the Russian soldiers in Ukraine to understand the propaganda and the disinformation that you are being told. I ask you to help me spread the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Schwarzenegger ends his message by hailing Russians who are protesting the war, calling them heroic.
Up next, millions fleeing war as Russia steps up -- steps up its attack on civilians. But hundreds and thousands are returning to fight. We're live on the ground in Ukraine, after this.