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Don Lemon Tonight

Russians Intentionally Targeted Both Soldiers And Civilians; Rescuers Saved 130 People From Rubbles In Mariupol's Theater; No Coordination In Russian Military; One False Move For Putin Triggers Article 5; Vladimir Putin Touts False Stories; President Joe Biden Warns China Not To Help Russia; Mariupol Suffers 50-100 Attacks Daily; Rep. Don Young Dies At The Age Of 88. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 18, 2022 - 22:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Stay with CNN for the latest from Ukraine. The news continues. I want to turn things over now to Don, who is in Bulgaria tonight. Don?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Anderson, today, just after we -- you and I got off the air last night, Russian missiles came within 43 miles of the Polish border. That is very close to a NATO country, and you know, as I was speaking to the secretary of defense today, there is concern about that, and about, obviously, a direct confrontation with the NATO nation.

That does happen -- there is the possibility that this ratchets it up, and there might have to be some sort of confrontation. I mean, things are -- you know, Vladimir Putin doesn't seem to be backing off right now. Things could get worse, let's hope it does not.

COOPER: Yes, yes, certainly. I mean, we have seen, you know, Vladimir seems kind of immune at this point to the horror that many of his troops are going through, badly supplied, poorly supplied, bogged down, and massive losses in a very short period of time.

Of course, on the Ukrainian side, there are also very severe losses, both among civilians and among the soldiers. The numbers are not really clear, but that's what we have been hearing from battalion commanders and others who have spoken about it. But their resistance continues, and the determination is strong here, and this goes on, the grinding on, day after day.

LEMON: I thought it was interesting, as you were speaking to Director Clapper, and to Jim Sciutto, about this display. I mean, this really sort of nationalistic display and defiance today, whether that was orchestrated by Vladimir Putin.

As I spoke to the defense secretary today, I mean, he certainly talked about the morale of the Russian troops. Their hearts don't seem to be in it, and that they there are some losing momentum now. And therefore, having to revert to this sort of crude warfare that they're doing, just indiscriminately bombing places, especially leaving with children. But that rally that was held today was bizarre.

COOPER: Yes, it was certainly unlike what we have seen Vladimir Putin, the way we've seen him behave over the last several years. I mean, he's been according to, you know, all reports, he's been very isolated. You've seen those, you know, bizarre stage photos of him with French president sitting 20 feet away on a very, very long table.

You know, and you talk about the local morale of Russian troops. And to contrast that with what is a very high morale among Ukrainian forces but, and among the civilian population. Obviously, there is great fear, there's great concern. People's lives are being, you know, ripped from them.

And yet, people here are determined and furious, and there is a, you know, righteous indignation, and a righteous fury among just everybody here, about this invasion and determination to push through, and to push against it in whatever way they can.

LEMON: All right, Anderson, we'll continue on now. Thank you very much. Be safe. Have a good night, and we'll see you tomorrow.

This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. And I am here in Eastern Europe in Sofia, Bulgaria. The beautiful St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral behind me. And I just mentioned, as I just mentioned, I have this exclusive interview coming up with the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin. We're going to have more on that, in a moment.

But first, I want to give you the latest developments on what we are seeing here, what's happening in this region. Dozens of Ukrainian troops reportedly killed at the military base in Mykolaiv, following Russian strikes. Rescuers trying to free survivors from the rubble.

And it comes as one of the few relatively safe harbors in Ukraine, and safety is a relative term here. I was just talking about that with Anderson. It was hit by Russian missiles today. This is the first time Russia has hit a target inside Lviv.

Four cruise missiles fired from Russian warplanes over the Black Sea, smashing into an aircraft parts plant, that's near the airport. Ukraine says that two more were intercepted before they could hit their targets.

And in the besieged city of Mariupol, there's news to report, there's new images tonight of what used to be a shopping mall full of people. Now utterly destroyed.

And President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying that today 130 people have been rescued from that bomb theater, where they were sheltering. A theater with the word children, very clearly written in Russian on the pavement outside. But there are fears that hundreds more are still trapped under that rubble. We will update you on that. There are new satellite images tonight of the long line of cars fleeing the city.


And now, as promised, my exclusive interview with defense secretary Lloyd Austin. He is a military man who generally keeps a very low profile. But this, this is a time that has thrust him really on center stage, traveling from city to city in Europe to rally opposition to Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine.

And we got some very special access throughout the secretary's day today. I was able to speak with him on the plane while on route to Bulgaria.


LEMON: How are you?


LEMON: So good to see you. How are you holding on?


LEMON: So, he is showing up morale, and defenses in Eastern Europe. And we wear there as he welcomed -- he was welcomed at Novo Selo Training Area in Bulgaria. Now here's our interview.


LEMON: Thank you for doing this. I appreciate it.

AUSTIN: Thank you.

LEMON: We just flew to Bulgaria from Slovakia where yesterday you reiterated your opposition to a no-fly zone. If that is a commitment of the United States, how do you help those guys over Ukraine?

AUSTIN: Well, Don, I -- the president has been very clear about the fact that we want have troops engaged in combat with Russia and Ukraine, in order to affect or put into place and no-fly zone, that we'd have to control the skies, and that would mean that we have to engage Russian aircraft.

We also have to take out Russian and anti-aircraft systems in Ukraine, in Belarus, and also in Russia. So that would mean we're in combat with Russia. And these are two nuclear powered countries that, you know, nobody wants to see them engaged in a conflict. It's not good for the region. It's not good for the world.

LEMON: Is the most important position right now for the U.S. is not to engage directly with Russia? Is that the most important position right now?

AUSTIN: Don, the most important thing is to make sure that we're doing everything we can to support Ukraine in its effort to defend its country, and protect its sovereignty. And they've been doing that, as we've all been inspired by the courage, the tenacity, their agility, and so, that's what we have been focused on.

Also, we're focused on making sure that we do everything to protect NATO. And so, you've seen us rapidly deploy forces to the eastern, the countries on the eastern edge there, the eastern flank. And you've seen us reassure our allies. The president has been very clear about -- about the fact that we will -- we are committed to article five, and we are going to do everything within our power to defend every inch of NATO territory.

LEMON: When you talk about, you, know not getting involved, Russian missiles hit Lviv, 43 miles from Poland's border. Do you continue to believe that it's possible to engage in this without direct involvement? NATO's direct involvement, which would mean U.S. involvement?

AUSTIN: Again, Don, you know, our focus is making sure that we do everything we can to support -- to support Ukraine. And I certainly don't want to get involved in hypotheticals. I don't think that's healthy, but I think we've been clear about, you know, what we're focused on here. So.

LEMON: The U.S. has made it very clear that they don't want to be involved in the process of giving jets to Ukraine. Now, do you support other countries doing it? Or either courage, or either encourage other countries to do it, as long as there is no U.S. involvement?

AUSTIN: Don, what other countries do, I, mean that's their choice. The United States certainly does not stand in the way of other countries providing assistance.

But again, we're going to remain focused on those things that we know are making a difference. And what's making a difference, in this fight, for the Ukrainians is the provision of anti-aircraft systems, the provision of armored and armored systems. And also, things, other things that have been effective, or, you know, the deployment of drones.

And so, you've heard the -- heard the president say most recently what we're doing, the kinds of things we are providing. He just -- we just signed, just provided authorization for us to provide an additional billion dollars --


LEMON: A billion dollars.

AUSTIN: -- worth of security force assistance. That's remarkable.

LEMON: What is your assessment of Russian forces now? Are they stalled? Are they regrouping? So that they can increase their assault or increase their violence in Ukraine? What's your assessment of the Russian military?

AUSTIN: Well, it's hard to tell, Don. I think, you know, they have not progressed as far as quickly as they would have like to.


They, I think they envisioned that they would move rapidly and very quickly seize the capital city. They've not been able to do that. They've struggled with logistics, so we've seen a number of missteps along the way. I don't see, you know, evidence of good employment of tactical intelligence. I don't see integration of, you know, air capability with the ground, ground maneuver.

And so, there are a number of things that we would expect to have seen that we haven't seen. And the Russians really have had some, have presented them some problems. So, many of their assumptions have not -- have not proven to be true as they entered this 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. And so, hard to say what they will do, but, you know, we have been clear that if they do that, you know, we think that's a bad choice.

LEMON: Putin has raised a specter of possible use of nuclear weapons. I want to first ask you about chemical weapons. We're getting intelligence or we're hearing from intelligence people saying that Russia may use chemical weapons and then blame Ukraine, falsely blame Ukraine. The president has said if that happens, they will pay a heavy price. What is a heavy price?

AUSTIN: Well, you know, again I don't want to speculate about whether or not, you know, what the price would be. I would just say that if he used chemical weapons, there would be, you know, a negative reaction from the international community, Don. And in terms of what kind of responses that would come about as a result of that from the international community, left to be seen.

But again, we certainly would hope that he would choose not to do that. You know, Putin could end this today. He has had a number of choices, a number of opportunities along the way to de-escalate and to off-ramp and he has not done that. And so, we are here today because of the choice of one man. And you know, he certainly has options right now. And one of those options is to de-escalate and to seek diplomatic solution to this.

LEMON: What about tactical? What about the use of tactical nuclear weapons? That is a concern that he may use so-called small nukes. Are you concerned about that?

AUSTIN: Well, you know, again, the use of nuclear weapon is a thing that nobody wants to see. I think, you know, any kind of excessive rhetoric about nuclear weapons and the employment of nuclear weapons is not helpful. But I will tell you that, you know, as far as we are concerned, we are confident in our current stance and in our capabilities and our ability to defend ourselves.

LEMON: Is the U.S. giving tactical advice or any kind of advice, or are there any U.S. forces helping the Ukrainian military? AUSTIN: Don, what you see us doing is providing a lot of security

force assistance in terms of equipment. We're talking to our counterparts every day, you know. And, hopefully, I will get a chance to talk to the Ukrainian minister of defense soon. But there is always -- there is a constant dialogue ongoing between us and their leadership, and also the leadership of other countries as well. I talked to my colleagues, other ministers of defense. They are engaging the Ukrainian minister of defense on a daily basis.

LEMON: What about special forces? Are they helping the Ukrainian military? Are they in Ukraine at all helping?

AUSTIN: We don't have any forces in Ukraine, Don.

LEMON: It has been noted in the book "Art of War" Sun Tzu says that what you should do you should build a bridge for your opponent, a golden bridge to retreat across. What is Putin's golden bridge? How do you see this ending?

AUSTIN: Well, we see this ending by he -- well, we're here because of his decision to launch this attack. He can make a decision today to end this and seek a diplomatic solution.


He's had a number of opportunities along the way. He has opportunities today to decide do something different. This is not going well for him on the battlefield. And there are number of things that are now coming into play that will make things more difficult for him as he goes for it.

LEMON: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.


He still has time, they believe, he still has time for an off-ramp, diplomatic resolution to this. We shall see if that happens. I have the opportunity to talk more with the secretary of defense while we flew over Eastern Europe. Coming up, what Secretary Lloyd Austin told me when I asked him this.


LEMON: I'm sitting here with the secretary of defense, and we're in a very tumultuous time. Are we going to be OK?



LEMON: Welcome back, everyone. Now, more from my exclusive interview with the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. We talked on the plane about Ukraine's fight to protect their democracy, and whether there is a lesson in this for Americans.

And keep in mind, we are on a plane traveling from country to country. And we were so happy that he gave us the opportunity to come up and speak with him on the plane. So, you'll have to listen closely. But here is more of my conversation.



LEMON: This is a time for you to -- I watched you yesterday. You were very good. This is a time for you to do your thing. You are very good yesterday. How did you feel about it?

AUSTIN: You know, I've been -- it's been 20 years since a secretary of defense has visited Slovakia. We are great partners. They are really, really anxious to continue to play a key role in the region, and in NATO as well. I have a great relationship, great conversations with the prime minister, and the president as well.

LEMON: It's interesting we are flying over Eastern Europe, and over territory that was Russian controlled. And then all of a sudden, yes, for it to be free, I mean, all of a sudden, you've got Ukraine now, they're trying to take it back. It's going to be surreal for you?

AUSTIN: It is. It's fascinating, and very encouraging, is that the Ukrainians who are so focused on, you know, protecting their democracy, having the right to choose for themselves.

LEMON: Is that -- is there a lesson for Americans in that, you think? I mean, look at that resolve of the Ukrainian people, everybody thought, even Putin of course thought that he was just going to go in there, and they were going to surrender. And they said, no way, I'm not going to do it. It's amazing. Is there a lesson for us?

AUSTIN: There's a lot of lessons here. And in terms of things that we to help people, things that, you know, a way that we look at our own society and for things that we take for granted. I mean, democracy is what a lot of people around the globe really craving, they want us -- you believe you have a say in your government. That's what (Inaudible). So, this is very -- this is encouraging.

LEMON: I'm sitting here with the secretary of defense, and we are in a very tumultuous time. Are we going to be OK?

AUSTIN: We will be. We will be. War is always difficult, it's always -- and again, this is why we never want to do this and there is no easy war. And so, this is why we've really tried everything we can do to prevent this from happening. It's a choice made by one man. So here we are. We'll get through this. And hopefully, we'll get through this, and Ukraine will be a thriving country here to (Inaudible).


LEMON: And I want to thank Secretary Austin and his entire team for everything they did for the access they gave us today, and for being so accommodating. I know it was a very busy time for them. After all, there is a war going on. He's going from phone call to phone call, from meeting to meeting, and we managed to get a little time with him. And we are very grateful for that.

It's very important to not only to the American people, not only to the people here in Eastern Europe, and Ukraine, it is very important to the world. So, thank you, Secretary Austin.

And for reaction of what Secretary Austin said there, I want to bring in now, CNN military analyst and retired air force colonel, Cedric Leighton.

Colonel Leighton, thank you very much for joining us. Before I talk about what happened in that interview, your assessment of the interview, and anything that stood out to you with Secretary Austin, and said I found him to be very open, very accommodating, his candor, I thought, spoke volumes, especially considering the moment that we're in. I thought he spoke as a general and not just as secretary of defense.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Absolutely, Don. I thought it was an extraordinary interview, and you know, it took me back to some of my days in the Pentagon, where you got to interact with senior leaders like that.

He gave some very interesting points, and I thought, you know, as a former intelligence officer, I thought it was particularly interesting when he spoke about the lack of intelligence, of tactically usable intelligence for the Russian forces. I think he's absolutely right about that.

It seems to me that you know, in some ways, they're going into Ukraine, surprisingly blind. And that very fact makes it, you know, very difficult just from a military perspective, very difficult to operate. And I think, you know, he keyed on that point.

I also think it was very interesting how he spoke about what this fight was really all about, the fact that, you know, this is for the defense of democracy, and it all hinges on the actions of one man, namely Vladimir Putin. And I think he was, not only right, but extraordinary that he called Putin out very specifically in this case.


LEMON: Right on. You know, I asked the defense secretary about, you know, as you were talking, Putin, about his opportunity to get out of this, golden bridges, you know, to retreat across. Secretary Austin says that Putin, he can't do that right now, but from where we sit, and from where you sit, where are those off-ramps here? Are there any that Putin can take at this moment?

LEIGHTON: Well, it's interesting --


LEMON: Or would take?

LEIGHTON: Or would take. Yes, that's exactly a great way to look at this. You know, I'm thinking, you know, as I heard Secretary Austin, I was thinking about which golden bridges specifically would Putin potentially take. And you know, at this point, at the situation, I don't see Putin actually willingly taking any of them.

So, I think there is going to have to be pressure from within Russia to actually make a golden bridge appear for him. And I think what we have to do in this case is provide a mechanism where he finds it very difficult to move forward. And I think the Ukrainians of course are trying their best to do that, but yes, the golden bridge, I think, is going to have to appear. It's not going to be something that is magical. We're going to have to help create that.

LEMON: Colonel, I need to put up these images. This is what Putin did today. I spoke about it a little ago with Anderson, in a very good conversation earlier. In Moscow, celebrating the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea. Tens of thousands of Russians waving flags, some of them, CNN has learned, were pressure to go by government officials. But this is what Putin told that crowd. Here it is.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): The best proof is the way our boys are fighting in this operation, shoulder to shoulder, supporting each other, and if need be, protecting each other like brothers. Shielding one another with their bodies on the battlefield. We haven't had this unity for a long time.


LEMON: What is the point of this propaganda display, Colonel?

LEIGHTON: I think it was trying to respond to the adulation that Zelenskyy, President Zelenskyy of Ukraine is getting around the world for his leadership in this effort. And Putin doesn't want to seem to be in a weaker position, vis-a-vis, Zelenskyy.

So, there was, I think, a bit of an attempt, at least, at some degree of one upmanship in the P.R. department. But, you know, I've looked at this kind of propaganda going back to, you know, World War I and other wars, and it really reminds me of some of the things that the Germans would employ for your domestic audiences in both World Wars. And also, what the Soviet Union employed during World War II.

This effort of national unity, in essence, forcing a degree of national unity where perhaps there isn't that real strong bond that he would like to have, that Putin would like to have. And I think it was an attempt to forge that bond.

LEMON: Colonel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said today that any weapons, shipments entering Ukraine are, quote, "legitimate targets for Russia." What's the potential there, the potential there for danger?

LEIGHTON: It is a pretty high potential, Don. You know, the idea that they would perhaps cut off the supply lines from NATO countries into Ukraine is certainly, you know, it's obviously crossed their minds, you know, based not only in Lavrov's statements, but also on the actions of the Russian military.

So, I think the danger of something happening to some of those shipments is very high. We can expect to lose some of these shipments or have them destroyed in air attacks, missile attacks, you know, things like that. But I do believe that, you know, there's still an effort that needs to be fostered and it's something that we have to do in spite of Russia's threats. But yes, they will absolutely try to include this in their war campaign, and we have to be prepared that they're going to be some losses in this area.

LEMON: I think one of the most important questions I asked today was about China, right? And the secretary said that he hopes China, you know, the president spoke with Xi Jinping, that he hopes China doesn't get involved. And you know, our president laying out the consequences, if China does get involved providing material support to Russia.

How does the state of play shift if that does happen? Because what the secretary said, as he said, we hope that China stays out of this. And overall, his overall response to that and chemical weapons and nuclear weapons and everything that happens. He says that they're hoping not to have a direct involvement with Russia.

So, if China gets involved with their chemical weapons, with their nuclear weapons of what have you. He said that they are there to enforce article 5.


LEMON: I thought that was really important that he said that. What exactly does that mean? That is the question, right?

LEIGHTON: Yeah, absolutely, Don. And, you know, so, Article 5, of course, that is the provision in the NATO treaty that is basically if I'm attacked, I am going to expect you to help me, and if you're attacked, I will help you. And that's, you know, something that has been sacrosanct from the founding of NATO until the present day.

So, if China does get involved, you know, they don't have a treaty as iron clad as that with Russia, but it would certainly show that China was picking sides. And in this case, you know, from our point of view, the wrong side.

So, if the Chinese do that, if they provide material aid that is beyond, you know, meals ready to eat or, you know, something of a relatively benign logistical nature, if that is beyond that and goes into lethal weaponry, then they have to be considered to be a cobelligerent, and that will change the dynamic not only between the United States and China, but between China and the rest of the world.

It would also serve to solidify the differences between the authoritarian side of the world, which includes Russia and China, and the more democratic side of the world, which, of course, is us and the NATO countries.

And that is something that, you know, we would perhaps see. If it goes really badly, we would see the advent of a new cold war. Of course, we hope to manage that better, and I think that that would be the idea that Secretary Austin was talking about, that it's managed in a way that it doesn't go down that path.

I think we have the possibility of doing that from an economic standpoint. China cannot afford to lose a lot of the business revenue that it gets from its relationships in Eastern Europe, and that is something that they should keep in mind.

LEMON: Colonel, I just want to go a little bit longer with you and I want to ask you what you think about this. This is revealed, this conflict has revealed a weakness in the Russian military. The defense secretary spoke of that today. But do you believe it has also revealed a weakness on the part of Vladimir Putin? Because he has not accomplished what he had hoped to accomplish. And that is to further divide the United States, to further divide NATO, to take over Ukraine and basically what they believe is have a victory parade soon after just going in and invading Ukraine. That has not happened.

Do you see the possibility of a future, maybe in the near future, without a Vladimir Putin? And, if so, what does that mean for NATO? What does that mean for the world?

LEIGHTON: Yeah, I do see that possibility. It may not happen tomorrow, it may not happen next year, but it can certainly happen. At some point, it will happen. You know, everybody is mortal, even Putin.

But the issue that I think faces us when we look at Putin is the question, what comes after Putin? We have to be cognizant of the fact that it is the Russian people that will have to decide, you know, whether or not they want to continue with the kind of society and the kind of government that Putin has created, or if they want to change.

And they are going to have to figure out whether they want to join the family of nations. They had a chance to do that in the '90s. They almost achieved it and then, of course, it descended into the mess that then resulted in Putin becoming the president.

But if they want to change, if they want to join the family of nations and be respected again as a nation, the Russians will have to make a change in leadership, and I think most people in the West would welcome that.

LEMON: Colonel, I always learn so much from you. Thank you. We love speaking to you and we love having you at the wall showing us the strategic possibilities and what is happening on the ground here as it relates to this conflict. So, thank you very much. We appreciate you joining us. We will see you soon.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Don. Any time. Thank you so much.

LEMON: His city pummeled, no food, no water, no electricity, bodies in the street, and he had to get his five-year-old son out. I'm going to speak with the head of a university in Mariupol who escaped right after this.



LEMON: We have been reporting on the horrors happening in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Much of it has been destroyed by constant Russian shelling. The latest target is a giant shopping mall, now sitting completely in ruins, and an apartment complex really completely destroyed. Hundreds and hundreds of residents forced to run for their lives. City officials say Mariupol suffering 50 to 100 Russian attacks every single day.

I want to bring in now Mykola Trofymenko, the leader of the Mariupol State University. Mykola, thank you for joining us. You described Mariupol as hell on earth. Your house was right at the front lines, no water, no food, no electricity. Please tell us about your last -- your last days there.

MYKOLA TROFYMENKO, RECTOR, MARIUPOL STATE UNIVERSITY: Yeah. As you have mentioned, it was really a tale, because to face the attacks from different kinds of weapons --

LEMON: Do we have Mykola?


TROFYMENKO: Actually, we spent the last two -- more than --

LEMON: I can't -- I can't hear Mykola.

TROFYMENKO: Yeah. Hello? It's okay now.

LEMON: Okay. Mykola, I can't hear you. So --

TROFYMENKO: Can you hear me now?

LEMON: Mykola, I can't hear you, so we are going to take a break. We are having technical difficulties, which happens. We are going to take a break and come back and, hopefully, we will have Mykola on the other side.


LEMON: Before the break, we are talking about the assault on Mariupol, and I want to bring in now Mykola back in, Mykola Trofymenko, the leader of a university there, in Mariupol university there. So, thank you for joining us again. Sorry that we had the technical problem.


LEMON: You described Mariupol as hell on earth. As I said, your house is right on the front lines. There is no food, there is no water, there is no electricity. Your last days there, please describe to us again, Mykola. TROFYMENKO: Yeah. So, we faced the Russian attacks without any breaks

from different kinds of weapons. And the last (INAUDIBLE) air attacks with the planes with huge bombs. (INAUDIBLE). Actually, really, it was hell because it was impossible to go out without any connection, impossible to contact people.

And I am now trying to find out (INAUDIBLE) people from my (INAUDIBLE) there were -- about 600 people were alive. I don't know actually because in Mariupol, it was impossible to find out this information.

And I know that we have thousands of people, thousands in Mariupol. And without food, we will have people that will be dead from hunger, that will be killed from hunger. Actually (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: You make a distinction. You said we will be dead from hunger and killed from hunger. You believe, obviously, that this is intentional. You think this is a killing --

TROFYMENKO: I don't know.

LEMON: -- of the people of Mariupol?

TROFYMENKO: As I mentioned in the previous part of your program, that Putin did it. Putin -- what Putin did in Ukraine. But these bombs from the planes, they were thrown by Russian soldiers. I don't know how they will sleep at the night when they will -- and they understand that they are throwing bombs on the civilians, on the shelters with the thousands of people, children inside. This is more than genocide, actually.

LEMON: You have a five-year-old son yourself. How is he handling this? What do you tell him, Mykola?

TROFYMENKO: I don't know. But my son, when he hears the airplanes or other bombings, he was trying to tell to these people, please stop, stop shooting, because he knows that if he will hear this noise, he should run to the shelter or somewhere, a safe place in the corridors, the flat.

And he was -- I don't know if he understands what is happening, but I think he has -- he will have psychological problems. Actually, I believe that I have psychological problems because for the last two days, sleeping without noises of bombs, it's -- I don't know. It's a real shock for us.

And I want to mention that Mariupol, it's almost more than half a million people city that was very dynamically developed for the last six years with a brand-new transport system, with great infrastructure programs. And it's totally destroyed now.

My university, the buildings of my university were totally destroyed. Totally. I don't know what Mariupol State University have done to the neighbor, the neighbor country, but it was destroyed. We don't have buildings now. It was bombed with huge, huge bombs.

LEMON: Well, Mykola -- [22:49:57]

TROFYMENKO: And I have (INAUDIBLE) political science, have participated in several programs in the United States. Actually, the last one in Seattle. It was about the propaganda and disinformation.

And now, really, we are hearing that Russians are trying to tell us -- I don't know if I can tell these words on air but it is bullshit, actually. But they are -- they are doing genocide now, genocide of Ukrainian people, of Mariupol citizens, because now, our citizens, after these three weeks siege, they have to find a way how to go out of the city.

And it's more than half of a million people that will be IDPs in Europe. I don't believe this, actually. I still don't --

LEMON: There is a Russian --


LEMON: There is a Russian disinformation campaign, you're absolutely right about that. Many in Russia do believe that what Vladimir Putin is doing to the people of Ukraine --

TROFYMENKO: Supporting what he's doing.

LEMON: They are believing that, yeah. Listen, we want you to be safe. Thank you, Mykola. You and your son and everyone there, we are sorry for what is happening. We know there has been an assault on Mariupol, and we will continue to cover it for you and get the information out, but it is everyone's --

TROFYMENKO: I think that it's highly, highly important for the out world, our partners, the United States to find a way how to close the sky, the sky, because the last week, with these bombings, with the jets and the warplanes that were flying every 10 minutes and throwing bombs on peaceful Mariupol, it was really disaster. We should find a way how to close the sky.

I don't know how many victims we have. It's tens, thousands of people, and we can't even bury them. They are lying on the streets in the center of Europe and we can't stop this. How it's possible? We should find a way to close the sky.

LEMON: We hear you. We hear you, Mykola. And we have asked -- we have asked officials that, and we'll continue to ask. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

TROFYMENKO: Thank you.

LEMON: Please be safe.

TROFYMENKO: Thank you.

LEMON: We'll be right back, everyone. Thank you. Thank you.




WALLACE: We have some breaking news that we have to report to you right now. Republican Don Young of Alaska, Republican Representative Don Young of Alaska, the longest serving member of the current Congress, has died at the age of 88. That is according to a statement from his office.

He was first sworn in in Congress -- to Congress after winning a special election that was back on March 6th of 1973. We will continue to update you.

And now, Vladimir Putin trying to hide the truth from his own people, making Russia school teachers and students attend a rally straight out of the 1930s. More on our live coverage from Eastern Europe right after this.