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Don Lemon Tonight

Dozens Of Ukrainian Troops Reportedly Killed In Russian Strike On Military Base In Mykolaiv; Putin Holds Massive War Rally; One-On- One With Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin; Speculation Is Not Necessary; Russian Troops Not As Tough As They Portrayed They Are; Families Separated By War; Don Saw The Human Side Of Secretary Austin. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired March 18, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I'm here in Eastern Europe in Bulgaria and the beautiful St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is behind me.

Here is our breaking news. Dozens of Ukrainian soldiers reportedly killed today at a military base in the southern city of Mykolaiv, which has been under heavy Russian bombardment for days now. Reports say two Russian fighter jets dropped what appeared to be five bombs on that base.

President Joe Biden holding a nearly two-hour long call today with China's President Xi Jinping. The White House officials say that he was direct in saying that there will be consequences if China provides material support to Russia.

Also ahead, more of my exclusive interview with the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, who says that Vladimir Putin can end the carnage in Ukraine at any moment.


LLOYD AUSTIN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're here because of his attention to launch his 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 to do something different. This is not going well for him on the battlefield and there are a number of things that are now coming into play that will make things more difficult for him as he goes forward.


LEMON (on camera): Let's get live right now to the region. I want to get to CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. He is in Lviv for us this evening. Frederik, hello to you. Dozens of Ukrainian troops have reportedly been killed in Mykolaiv. What do you know?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hi there, Don. Yes. So, this happened in the early morning hours of today. And those buildings on that base apparently were full of soldiers, some of them might have actually still been sleeping. And then, as you noted, the eyewitness accounts say that about two fighter jets came and dropped five bombs. There were some eyewitness accounts from -- to our -- partner publication called Express (ph) from Sweden and one of the people who spoke to them said he believed maybe 90% of the people who were inside his building might not have survived. Now, whether or not that's the case really is very hard to tell because, of course, of the extensive damage to those buildings.

But, of course, Don, this is a big military setback for the Ukrainians and certainly an awful loss of life. But on the whole, the Ukrainians believe that they might be turning the tide in all of that. They say they believe they have held up the Russians in Kyiv, possibly also in Kharkiv, as well. Have a look.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Another blow to Vladimir Putin's military. Ukrainian forces claiming they ambushed this convoy of Russian airborne troops. While CNN cannot independently verify the information, Russian state TV for the first time acknowledged that a senior airborne commander and several soldiers have been killed.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): While still outgunned, the Ukrainians feel they might slowly be turning the tide.


(voice-over): The armed forces of Ukraine continue to deliver devastating blows at groups of enemy troops who are trying to consolidate and hold the capture defensive lines, a Ukrainian army spokesman says.

The Ukrainians say they are launching counterattacks against Russian troops. This video allegedly showing an antitank-guided missile taking out a Russian-armored vehicle.

They also claim they've already killed more than 14,000 Russian troops and shot down more than 110 combat choppers. CNN can't confirm those numbers, but the Russians haven't updated their casualty figures in more than two weeks, instead claiming what they called their -- quote -- "military special operation" is going as planned.

Russia's defense ministry released this video of helicopter gunships allegedly attacking a Ukrainian airfield. Still, Vladimir Putin clearly feels the need to rally his nation, making a rare appearance at a massive rally at Moscow's main stadium where a strange technical glitch cut off his speech, but not before he praised Russian troops.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (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.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): But the Russians appear to be so angry at U.S. and allied weapon shipments to Ukraine they vowed to target any deliveries entering Ukrainian territory. And they're hitting strategic targets as well, firing several cruise missiles at an airplane repair plant near Lviv, while a Russian cruise missile dropped on a residential building the capital, Kyiv, after being shot down by Ukrainian air defenses.

Former world heavy weight boxings champ and brother of Kyiv's mayor, Wladimir Klitschko, pleading for more help.

WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO, FORMER HEAVY WEIGHT BOXING CHAMP, BROTHER OF KYIV MAYOR: This is genocide of the Ukrainian population. You have to act now. Stop (INAUDIBLE) and stop doing business with Russia. Do it now.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): The Biden administration has said more aid and weapons are on the way as Ukrainian forces continue to put up a fierce fight preventing Russia's troops from further significant gains.


PLEITGEN (on camera): Certainly, there have been a lot of military setbacks for the Russians not just in Kyiv but, of course, also in Kharkiv and even in Mariupol as well where that city is continuing to be held by Ukrainian forces, Don.

I think one of the things as we get to this end of the third week as this war has been going on and really important fact is that the Russians still have not been able to take even a single major population center in this entire country, and that just goes to show how tough the Ukrainians are fighting, Don.

LEMON: Yeah, it is really stunning. Thank you very much, Frederik. We appreciate that.

I want to bring in now journalist and author Sebastian Junger. His latest book is called "Freedom." Sebastian, thank you for joining us once again.

Here we are, you know, weeks into this. You and I have been talking, and then you have what Putin has been doing and did at the stadium, the rally celebrating the anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Tens of thousands of waving flags. Several attendees tell CNN that they felt pressure to attend that rally. They were told to wear a white Z on their clothing, which symbolizes this invasion.

How do you look at this? How do you see this?

SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: Well, you know, I'm seeing this from the United States. I'm not on the ground over there. But to me, it seems like a very classic sort of autocrat move where you force people in huge numbers to assemble and listen to what you have to say.

The optics look good. You look like you have a lot of support. And it makes me think that he's doing this because he thinks he needs to because it's not going that well. But, you know, of course, that's just me theorizing.

LEMON: Yeah. Look, it's really stunning, the level of the propaganda that's happening here. I mean, Putin spoke in front of a banner that read for a world without Nazism and yet -- does it feel like this huge rally amid this war in Ukraine had historical echoes of Naziism?

JUNGER: Yeah. I mean, look, Europe's history is pretty complicated. I mean, pick any country and there are things you can criticize and there is in Ukrainian history, as well. I mean, the fact is that Vladimir Putin violated international law and invaded a sovereign country and seems to be committing war crimes by targeting civilians. I mean, Nazis or no, he is the one doing that, and history will judge him for it.

You know, it's pretty clear that the invasion for him that it's not going as fast as he anticipated. I think he expected the kind of reception that George Bush expected when we got to Baghdad.


I think he sort of believed the stories he was telling and that's clearly not happening. Defenders always have some advantage even if they are fewer in number. Defending one's families, one's territory, one's communities always motivates soldiers more than attacking another country does. And one of the things he's up against is that reality.

LEMON: Sebastian, what about Putin's speech abruptly being cut off on state TV and that state TV broadcast? It's being described as a technical error. How -- that's pretty strange.

JUNGER: Well, look, it's either strange -- I mean, it is either some kind of sabotage which isn't great for them or incompetence which isn't great for them. Incompetence seems to characterize the entire invasion.

I mean, you don't have to be a military expert or a general to sort of like see a lot of blundering and floundering by Russian forces in Ukraine.

I mean, just -- I mean, look, if the casualty figures are correct or even close to correct, some thousands of troops, Russian troops reportedly have been killed, you know, in 10 years of war in Afghanistan where (INAUDIBLE) also had stinger missiles that we gave them had arms like that to take down aircraft, in 10 years, they lost, I think, 15,000 soldiers. In three weeks, they seem to have lost about 5,000.

So, I mean, you know, just as a sort of quick comparison, this looks absolutely catastrophic.

LEMON: You wrote a piece about one of the American journalists you knew who was killed while covering the war in Ukraine, Brent Renaud, and you say that his death reminds us of the high cost of pursuing the truth. Sebastian, talk to me about that.

JUNGER: Well, you know, without journalists reporting on world events, the people of every nation and even governments would have a very hard time or may not have any real information at all about, you know, the kind of information they need to make good decisions. And the journalists are the ones that are out there.

I know in countries at war, people in the U.S. embassies really can't venture beyond the walls. There is a symbiotic relationship between the press and embassies in troubled countries. And the journalists really are the eyes and ears of the nation both at home and abroad, and they get killed at a shocking rate.

Scores of journalists every year are killed, mostly local journalists, but also international journalists. And international journalists could not work without local press helping them.

I mean, I really want to emphasize that. Without local fixtures and journalists and translators and drivers, these amazing, smart, courageous people, without those people, we could not do our job, and America would effectively be blind in the world.

LEMON: Sebastian, we appreciate having you on. Thank you very much. We'll see you soon.

Up next --

JUNGER: Thank you.

LEMON: -- sanctions are hammering Russia's economy. But how critical is all of this in ending Vladimir Putin's war?

Plus, more from my exclusive interview with the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin. What he says about Russia's stalled offensive.


AUSTIN: They have not progressed as far as quickly as they would have liked 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.





LEMON: New video in from Kyiv today, and you can see the mass destruction after a down Russian cruise missile hit a residential building in the Ukrainian capital.

Joining me now is Ambassador Oleksii Makeiev, a Ukrainian special envoy on sanctions. Ambassador, we are happy to have you. We are so sorry that this happened. I want to get your reaction to my interview with the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, and he told me that if Putin decides to use chemical weapons there, there would be really a negative international reaction from -- the international community, I should say, and there would be specific consequences.

What would you expect the U.S. and NATO to do if that were to happen?

OLEKSII MAKEIEV, UKRAINIAN SPECIAL ENVOY ON SANCTIONS: You know, we appreciate the alliance support of Ukraine and we feel solidarity not only of the government but of people in the West.

What I would like to see is that the world sees this war through Ukrainian eyes, through my eyes, through eyes of my family and of my fellow citizens who are now being bombed by Russians.

And those sanctions that have been introduced, they hurt Russia more than they admit, but this is not enough. Sometimes, it looks like whatever we ask our partners to do, we get it, but the partners do one step to small and one step too late. So, we need more sanctions, more humanitarian aid, and we need the partners to step in and to help us in military terms.


LEMON: Ambassador, President Zelensky had a message for Russia tonight. I want you to listen and then we'll respond. Here it is.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): I want everyone to hear me now, especially I want them to hear me in Moscow. It's time to meet, time to talk, time to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine or else Russia will face such losses that several generations will not be enough for it to rise back up.


LEMON: We have seen some negotiations over the last three weeks with nothing significant and it all comes as Russia continues the reign of destruction. Do you think Putin is just buying time and time for what? What is that time for?

MAKEIEV: Well, I cannot even imagine what's in the head of Putin. But what I see is that he is not gaining anything on the ground, that our troops are fighting back. We see that Putin started shelling residential areas, trying to intimidate the whole Ukrainian population. The cruise missiles, 500 killed with bombs, are pouring down from the sky. And this is why we are calling on our partners to get the anti-air support. This is something we need right now.

LEMON: President Biden warning China today that helping Russia get around sanctions or giving the military aid would have consequences. Do you think China got the message or will be wait to see which way the conflict goes? MAKEIEV: Well, the message was loud and clear. We appreciate that our American allies are talking to the Chinese. So we got every time assurances from China that they respect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and this is an important message and this was an important effort from the U.S.

LEMON: Ambassador, thank you. I appreciate you joining us. Be safe.

MAKEIEV: Thank you for having me. Thank you. Goodbye.

LEMON: So, Russia wants China's help, and I asked the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin if he thinks they are going to get it. More in my exclusive interview right after this.


AUSTIN: Hard to say what they will do. But, you know, we've been clear that if they do that, you know, we think it is a bad choice.





LEMON (on camera): That is the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin being welcomed in Novo Selo Training Area in Bulgaria right before we sat down for an exclusive interview. Here is more of what Pentagon chief had to say about Putin's war in Ukraine.


LEMON: The U.S. has made it 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 even encouraging 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. And the United States certainly doesn't 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 -- anti- armored systems, and also things -- other things that have been effective for the deployment of drones.

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

LEMON: 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 on Ukraine? What's your assessment of the Russian military?

AUSTIN: It's hard to tell, Don. I think, you know, they have not progressed as far -- as quickly as they would have liked 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 maneuver. And so, there are a number of things we would expect to have seen.


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 -- 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 -- 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: I want to bring in now retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. General, thank you very much. I tried to tough it out, as you know, as you've been, here it is 20 degrees outside here. And it is freezing. So, I hope you guys don't mind the hat.

General, thank you very much. Listen, as I was about to do this interview, I spoke with you and got some guidance. So, thank you for that. I -- you know the secretary very well. You went to the academy with him, as I was saying.

And you heard him lay out the problems there with the Russian forces that they're facing here, or at least facing in Ukraine. The estimates -- the estimates with the number of Russian soldiers killed are in the thousands. How hobbled is the Russian military right now? MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It is very hobbled, Don. And

first of all, yes, I did go, I was -- Secretary Austin and I were classmates at West Point, and I worked for him in Iraq. And it was interesting listening to him evaluate the Russian military, because the comments he was using, or the kinds of comments that the United States army uses in our various training centers, what we look for and a competent force.

And with the secretary was saying was every area of combat effectiveness, in any kind of unit we have seen deficiencies in the Russian army. They have attempted to do a battle of annihilation here in Ukraine. That is, they've attempted to surround the Russians, or excuse me, surround the Ukrainian forces, head to their capitol, take over their government, and declare victory.

What they have transferred now to, as part of a culmination of offense, which means they can no longer continue on the offense, because they are so beaten. They are culminated, and they are transitioning from an annihilation type of combat to an attrition type of combat.

Unfortunately, what they're doing is they're attempting to a trip Ukrainian people, kill off as many as they can destroy facilities. The Ukrainian army has been attempting attrition warfare from the very beginning, where they knew they had to fight as hard as they could against the Russians, from a defensive posture.

So, what you are seeing is some very interesting dynamics, and I think the secretary addressed that, where Russia has proven themselves very dysfunctional on the battlefield. And the Ukrainian army and territorial forces have proven themselves to be very good. It was a surprise to many. Many thought, Russia would fight a lot better than they have, but they have had very poor leadership in the general level.

They haven't trained very well at the tactical level. And their logistics, and close air support has been absolutely abysmal. Other than that, they're doing great, Don.

LEMON: You know as I men -- yes, you know, Secretary Austin, you know him very well, as we've established here. And he has spoken very highly of you today when I brought your name up, and mentions your service together. What can you tell us about how he is likely approaching this, and making these decisions? Does this deliberate but firm approach come from directly from him?

HERTLING: I believe part of it is. Certainly, he is one of the president's advisories on the primary committee within the White House. So, what you have though in the secretary of defense, not being -- well certainly, he is a political key point now, but he spent over 40 years of his life in uniform. So, he has a very good feel for wartime requirements. He was my commander in Iraq. He was in combat for over seven years as a general officer.

[23:34:57] He is very good in terms of not only the requirements of the military, but in Iraq, he was -- he was experiencing the military civil relationship with not just the U.S. government, but also with the Iraqi government as they stood up. And he just did an excellent job.

So having a guy like Lloyd Austin in the secretary of defense position, in my view, is absolutely critical right now. He understands Russia. He has served in Europe. But he also understands the military requirements.

So, when you ask him the question as an example on the no-fly zone, or a transfer of the MiGs, I thought his answer was very articulate, coming from the standpoint of an individual that knows what a no-fly zone entails, and knows what the current actions are in Ukraine that don't require those aircraft.

It requires a whole lot of air defense equipment, and jamming and intelligence. But it doesn't necessarily just need aircraft. And I think that's what makes a guy like Secretary Austin different from a lot of other political appointees and politicians.

LEMON: General, thank you. I appreciate you joining us, and I appreciate your consulting on that interview, it was very helpful. Thanks so much.

HERTLING: My pleasure, Don. Thank you. Stay warm.

LEMON: I'll try, thank you very much.

Two former commanders in chief, the former President George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, joining together today to visit Ukrainian Catholic Church in Chicago. Each carrying a bright, yellow sunflower symbolizing solidarity with the Ukrainian people. And both posting this video message to their Twitter feeds for people all over the world to see.


UNKNOWN: These flowers are in solidarity for the Ukrainian (Inaudible). They represent the struggle for freedom, which today are the colors of blue and yellow. Blue for sky, yellow for wheat as Ukraine as a bread basket of Europe. And now, Ukraine is the citadel of fighting for freedom.


LEMON: The former presidents chose Chicago to make their public show of support for the people of Ukraine, because Chicago has a large Ukrainian American population. It's also the sister city to Ukraine's capital, Kyiv.

Up next, his wife and baby fled the war, but he cannot. I'm going to speak with a Kharkiv resident who has home, whose home is now gone, right after this.


LEMON: The city of Kharkiv in the northeast of Ukraine reeling from incessant shelling. The bombed market in Kharkiv, one of the largest in the world, still on fire today.

Joining me now is Alex Sadov (Ph), who is -- who fled from Kharkiv two Lviv. Alex, thank you so much. Your wife and son are two of the two million people who have fled Ukraine through the Polish border. I mean, this is a photo of the three of you together before you separated. They are in Germany now. Why did you decide to get them out?

UNKNOWN: You know, my wife was against it. She said that we should stick together, but Lviv has also air raids, there's also bombs. So it wasn't safe for the kid here. We decided that the kid will -- kid need less stress, so it was an argument for her to leave. This is why.

LEMON: How did you all get out of Kharkiv?

UNKNOWN: We left with our car, so in the first hours, after the bombs fell, we kind of had a backup plan so in case something starts. We just jumped into the car and go west, and then see what happens. It's -- you know, you want to have a small kid, it's the most important thing, so there wasn't any thinking or anything, just take him, go, and then see what's next.

LEMON: You know, I'm sure it was very difficult to get out of the country. You know, the country has banned men ages 18 to 60 from leaving, so as they can stay and fight. But my team tells me that you could have snuck out, and you decided to stay. This is really important to you. This means a lot.

UNKNOWN: Yes, I mean, you have options right now. I think you can find the right people, but you know, when this is over, I want to look at my son and see, and say to him that I decided to stay. Because when you are a man, you have to do like things that a man should do. And this is a real thing to protect your country, to stay behind and help. So yes, this was a no-brainer for me. Like, stay here and do something, yes.

LEMON: Three generations of your family are from Kharkiv. You left. You are in Lviv now. Which was it like to leave your home, and what does the city look like when you left, Alex?

UNKNOWN: When we left, it was, you know, zombie movie style of a creation, with lots of vehicles, lots of panic, gas cues, and everything. But the whole city was still intact during the first days, and it was just fighting on the outskirts, nothing being like seriously bombed.


And it was still OK. It was super hard because we left everything. We left the house. We left all of our stuff, we just took a little bit of -- a bit of clothing and the most important things and just got off. So, when we left it was still a whole intact city, and everything was almost standing. Now it hurts to see it's like due to the reported to get the most bombs and it's very, very seriously damage.

LEMON: Your, you know, as I said, you are now in Lviv.


LEMON: And my team tells me that you're volunteering there to help get refugees across the border. How are you doing that, Alex?

UNKNOWN: So, we have -- we have a small volunteer group. About five guys. Three cars. You know, we just found a way to make it faster and easier for people to get to the border and cross it. It's very much faster than the biggest, like, border crosses.

So, we just pick up people from Lviv drive them to the border, help them get across. We tell them about what to do next that the Polish volunteers will greet them and will help them on the other side. So, I mean, in the first days it was just horrible here. Lots of people in the border. Long cue. So, we found a smaller border which had less cues and we just bring people over there with our cars, so it's super easy.

LEMON: Alex, we appreciate you joining us. Thank you for what you're doing. And stay safe.

UNKNOWN: Yes. Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. You know, I didn't just talk tanks with the defense secretary. If you want to know how someone even gets to be defense secretary, stick around.



LEMON: So, before we go, there is another part of my interview with the Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin that I really wanted to share with you. A moment when he turned the tables on me and he asked me some questions and I ended up learning a little bit more about him. Here it is.


AUSTIN: Let me just ask you a question too, if you don't mind --

LEMON: Yes. Yes.

AUSTIN: -- about you, Don.

LEMON: Absolutely.

AUSTIN: So, you're -- you're from -- raised in Louisiana?

LEMON: Raised in Baton, a little town called Port Allen.

AUSTIN: And move to Atlanta?

LEMON: I moved to -- I was raised in Port Allen, and then Baton Rouge. My entire family went to Southern University, or Graham Lee. I ended going to LSU, so I'm the outcast. Then I move to New York City. Because my journalism teacher told me I would never make it as a journalist, I moved to New York City. I started working for Channel 5e, a Fox station. And the rest is history. I have $200 in my pocket in 1987 Jeep Wrangler.

AUSTIN: yes. Yes. I can relate to that.

LEMON: And you grew up where?

AUSTIN: South Georgia. Born in Mobile.


AUSTIN: When I was about nine years old, we moved to Georgia.

LEMON: I worked in Birmingham.

AUSTIN: You do?

LEMON: Yes. Top Red Mountain.

AUSTIN: Yes. So, we have those interesting (Inaudible). In Georgia my family was Catholic. So, we would -- there's a big Catholic community in Mobile, an the African-American Catholic community. My mother was very devout. She wanted to make sure that she kept the family together. And so that discipline, that family love I think would have (Inaudible). And I know that you --

LEMON: Yes. I got to witness that even here yesterday, I interviewed this little boy. I don't know if you heard the story. He's 11 years old. He traveled 600 miles from Ukraine to Bratislava by himself with a phone number written on his hand, a plastic bag and a cell phone. And he met up with his brother who is 20 years old who was studying here. His brother and his other siblings. Because the mom did not want to send, him they thought he was too young to get across the border.

So, he traveled 600 miles on the train by himself. And his mom was -- when they -- when they saw each other again that mom loves, you know, is crazy. And they had -- they had escape Syria a decade ago. And now there are escaping Ukraine. So, I couldn't imagine how it is for us who has a mother who (Inaudible) that train.


St. Alexander Nevsky Square at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

So, listen, in all honesty, I am -- I rarely get nervous about anything. I've done so much live television. I do 10 hours at least a week of live, and I've met just about everyone. Presidents of the United States. So, I'm not starstruck by anyone. And I never get nervous. Except, I was nervous meeting the secretary because he is such, he

commands respect. He as an imposing figure. The only other person that I've ever been nervous about spending time with was with Oprah. And for obvious reasons.


But him in Oprah, the only two people that have made me nervous upon contact with them or interviewing them. And he quickly put me at ease and, you know, invited us up and started talking to me and asking me questions.

I have to say, it is quite honestly an honor to be in this position to be able to interview people like him. Like Secretary Austin and like our Ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield who grew up in the same town that I went to high school with. And to have people of color be in those positions and leading the world through this crisis, it really means a lot to me. And a lot to people who look like me.

Listen, we're here in Bulgaria in front of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. It's a beautiful setting in the square here. But it is -- it has been beautiful to spend the time with the people here in Bulgaria and also the people in Slovakia. We are going to make our way into Poland and then make our way into Ukraine.

And so, we'll get to get closer to the conflict and meet more of the people in the region, and hopefully bring those stories to you. So, I thank you for watching. Go along with us on the journey. And I'll see you next time. Our live coverage continues here on CNN.