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Don Lemon Tonight

Ukrainian Oil Depot Targeted By Russians; President Biden Explains His Statement; Shelling Heard Around Kyiv; Majority Of Mariupol Under Russian Control; President Zelenskyy Willing To Negotiate With The Kremlin; Kremlin Denies Even With Outright Proof; Wagner Group Now In Eastern Ukraine; Russia Ban All Zelenskyy Interviews. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 28, 2022 - 22:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much for watching us. Special invitation log on tomorrow night for the premier of the newscast Wolf Blitzer, only on our brand-new streaming network, CNN Plus. That debuts 7.30 p.m. Eastern, you sign up at

DON LEMON TONIGHT live from Ukraine right now. Don is joining us. Don, you know, I was watching on Saturday when all of this was unfolding, you were in Lviv, a relatively safe area, and all of a sudden, I see you there. And they just attacked oil depots, not far away from you were, and they show up. How scared were you?

DON LEMON CNN HOST: Well, I was careful. More careful than scared. I would say surprised that they actually came this far towards the border where the president was and where you were covering the president. So, I wasn't scared because as you see in that, I'm wearing tactical gear, I'm wearing the helmet and the flak jacket which is all protocol here.

Most citizens as you know don't have those in their homes. Many people were wondering why the citizens, most citizens don't have flak jackets and helmets for this kind of thing. But it was, once I got closer it was -- I wasn't scared but it was a bit of a stunning scene.

Because, Wolf, I've grown up around chemical plants and i've seen explosions at chemical plants similar to this where there were controlled burns and there would ashes and such raining down on neighborhoods and we have to paint our houses every year and our cars because it would rust the cars and mess up the houses.

So, I know what it can do to the environment. But you never know the city was a safe haven, and I think that some people, Wolf, may have had a false sense of security about Lviv. But now they don't. So, at any second people are concerned that another missile or another -- other missiles and might fall somewhere in Lviv as well.

BLITZER: Because it was surprising because supposedly the Russians say, well, we are only interested in eastern Ukraine and we're going to leave western Ukraine out of it.

LEMON: Right.

BLITZER: Then all of a sudden, the next day they're bombing this oil facility right near Lviv, which is in west -- which is in western Ukraine and supposedly a relatively safe area.

LEMON: Relatively safe area, Wolf, and really close to residential neighborhoods. There were actually two strikes here. One was in a military facility, the other one was in this oil or fuel depo. And I think the one in the fuel depot obviously and in the military facility I think it was strategic because I guess they were trying to send a message to the military and also cut off some oil supply possibly.

And also, the mayor here said maybe it was Vladimir Putin's way of saying hello to Joe Biden who was not far away in neighboring Poland. So we don't know, but we did watched the coverage and the president there meeting with folks, and I think it was important for him to be there on that night when they struck a city which had been a relatively safe haven, Wolf. So, --


BLITZER: Well, I just want to be --

LEMON: -- thank you, sir. I'll see you tomorrow.

BLITZER: I just want you to be safe over there. be careful. We will certainly stay in touch.

LEMON: Thank you, Wolf. I really appreciate that.

This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. I'm here in western Ukraine in Lviv where we are hearing air raid sirens tonight. It happened just moments ago. Explosions heard in Kyiv and cities across the country just hours before talks between Russia and Ukraine are supposed to resume in Istanbul.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is saying that Ukraine is ready to accept a neutral status as part of a peace deal which would mean they wouldn't be able to join NATO. But as Russia continues to attack from the air Vladimir Putin's forces have stalled and several parts of Ukraine. That is according to a senior U.S. defense official who says that Russia has made no progress in moving Kyiv or elsewhere in the north.

In Irpin', a suburb of Kyiv, the mayor telling CNN Ukraine has freed the area from Russia. But it is still getting shelled. Mariupol's mayor says that Russia controls the humanitarian corridor that's the only escape from the besieged city but he vows that Ukraine soldiers will stand till the end.

You see so much destruction here. You can get numb to it. But just remember, days ago somebody lived here, somebody lived in Mariupol in those bombed-up buildups. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is pushing back today on questions

about his speech in Poland this weekend when he said that -- this about Vladimir Putin, and I quote, "for God's sake, this man cannot remain in power.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I just -- it was expressing my outrage, he shouldn't remain in power. Just like, you know, bad people shouldn't continue to do bad things. But it doesn't mean that we'll have a fundamental policy to do anything to take Putin down in any way.


The last part of the speech was talking to the Russian people telling them what we thought. And I was communicating this to not only to the Russian people but the whole world. This is -- this is just stating a simple fact that this kind of behavior totally unacceptable.


LEMON: What we have been seeing in Ukraine for more than a month, the death, the destruction, homes, schools, hospitals obliterated, innocent people from babies two elderly people forced to run for their lives. All of that is unacceptable. The president is saying exactly what most of the world feels about Vladimir Putin.

So we're going to start our coverage tonight with our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen. He is live for us tonight in Kyiv. Fred, hello to you. A lot of shelling there in Kyiv today and reports that Russian forces trying to block supply routes into the capital. Give us the latest, please.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really been a fierce battle today. I would say even more intense over the past couple of days. We also had just like you guys just had air raid sirens throughout the better part of a day. But we also had these massive explosions that we've been hearing here from our position and seeing as well.

Massive plumes of smoke coming up especially over at the northwest of the city. And that's exactly what you were just talking about that area of Irpin' where the Ukrainian forces now say they have taken 100 percent control of that area, however, there is still big shelling going on and the Ukrainians are acknowledging that the Russians certainly are shooting back.

And it was the deputy defense minister that said the Russians are trying to create corridors around the city. Seeming to me that they're trying to cut off supply routes but the Ukrainians are saying they're holding them up. Now the Russians certainly are firing back in a big way.

And there's a lot of civilians who unfortunately are being harmed in that. We were able to go to the north or in the north of Kyiv towards the north of Kyiv, and what we saw there in a small village was also utter devastation brought on by that shelling. Here is what we saw.


PLEITGEN: We drove to the village Novi Petrivtsi, north of Kyiv only a few miles from the front line. Even the streets here are pockmarked with shrapnel and massive impact craters. Whole buildings laid to waste. I mean, just look at the utter destruction caused by this massive explosion, there is some really thick brick walls and even they were annihilated by the force of all that landed here. The people here tell us they only felt one really large explosion. And it wounded several people and killed a small child.

That child two-year-old Stefan (Ph), killed while in his bed when the house came under fire. These videos given to us by local authorities show the chaos and the aftermath. As the wounded appear in shock residents and rescuers trying to save those inside. Stefan (ph) pronounced dead on the scene.


LEMON: Certainly, it be an awful scene even days later to witness that as we were down there. And you know, the people that we spoke to they said they really didn't see any military in that area and many of them, we ask them if they understand why this happened to them and why the Russians came and shell their house. And they simply said they absolutely have no idea.

This is a district north of Kyiv where people sort of just trying to live their lives. But the front line only about, I say about three and a half miles away from where we were, Don.

LEMON: Fred, I mean, those images are just awful. I mean, seeing that, that child. It's just unbelievable. I want to talk now, Fred, about the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling PBS News Hour tonight that Russians are not shelling any civilian targets. Well, that defies what every journalist is witnessing on the ground and the very pictures that we are showing on television.

PLEITGEN: Yes, I mean, look, if you look at the numbers it certainly it does seem to defy a lot of the things that journalists are witnessing and the people on the ground are witnessing. I mean, if you look at the city of Mariupol where the local council there says that more than 90 percent of the buildings in that city have been severely damaged.

You know, then only if you believe that 90 percent of Mariupol is a military installation, then would what the Kremlin spokesman said seem valid. And the same thing also, obviously we see in the outskirts of Kyiv as well where we were, there were obviously homes that were badly damaged, there were homes that were completely destroyed.

We saw a tennis club that was essentially lay to waste here on the outskirts of Kyiv. You also have residential buildings that have been hit, apartment blocks that have been hit as well. Obviously not military areas. So, in some cases, maybe there was military infrastructure stationed

in those areas, but certainly not in all cases and certainly not 90 percent of Mariupol as that city is also being laid to waste. And there's so many other places in Ukraine, Don, where that's also the case.

You take the town of Chernihiv, for instance, which is completely surrounded by Russian forces and they're apparently shelling into that area as well. So, there is a large civilian toll that all this has taken, especially in cities that are surrounded by those Russian forces, Don.


LEMON: All right, Fred. Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

The humanitarian situation is as dire as it gets in Mariupol. The city is in ruins after weeks of Russian shelling. And now Russian forces control the humanitarian corridor in and out of the city.

CNN's Phil Black now with the very latest.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Russia is so close to taking the prize of Mariupol. These soldiers are already celebrating. The flag going up on this local government building is from one of the Russian-backed separatist regions in Ukraine's east.

"The Ukrainians peeled off, praise the almighty, the soldier says. The guys are in a good mood and we are working according to the order of Putin."

We get a rare glimpse of Russia's efforts to take the city street by street. These soldiers are from the Russian republic of Chechnya. It's propaganda video from their leader which CNN has geolocated to Mariupol.

Mariupol's Mayor Vadym Boychenko tells me, the fight isn't over.

What happened or what has happened to the Ukrainian soldiers defending Mariupol, are there any left?

"They hold the line and they stay to the end," he says. "To the last drop of blood." It's not only Ukrainian soldiers trapped here. The city council estimates there are still around 170,000 civilians in this devastated city. And 90 percent of homes have been damaged or destroyed.

Valentina (Ph) enters what's left of the only home she's ever known. The place where she raised her family. She wasn't here when the shell hit, she's been hiding in the basement. She doesn't want to leave. She knows she can't stay. But many will never leave. The council says almost 5,000 people have been killed during the four-week siege including more than 200 children. Russia is so close to taking its prize. But it will be a blackened

shell of a city and it's unlikely that people there conquering will ever forgive them.

Phil Black, CNN, Lviv, western Ukraine.


LEMON: All right, Phil, thank you very much. We appreciate that.

And just hours the next round of talks between Russia and Ukraine will begin in Turkey. So, after weeks of brutal fighting what are both sides looking for at the negotiating table.

Joining me now to discuss is a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, and that is John Herbst, he is a senior director at the Atlantic Council's Eurasia Center.

Thank you, Ambassador. I appreciate you joining us to discuss this. Good evening to you.

The stakes for the next round of talks between Russia and Ukraine are incredibly high. Zelenskyy is saying that Ukraine would accept neutral and non-nuclear status. What would that mean in practice?

JOHN HERBST, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, it's pretty simple. One of -- one of the conditions that Putin has had for ending this war, his new war, his new invasion is to the Ukraine be established itself as a neutral nation not part a NATO and not part of the west. And Zelenskyy in his interesting finding an honorable out for his country is willing to consider this.

But Putin's objectives go far beyond Ukrainian neutrality. He wants Ukraine to dissolve so he can essentially dominate the country. He also wants land that is part of the Ukrainian territory which Zelenskyy is not prepared to give up. So, I have very low expectations for these negotiations because negotiators do not seem to reflect Putin's ideas which are still for essentially unconditional surrender by Zelenskyy.

LEMON: Ukraine says they will not accept territorial losses but there are concerns that Russia might try to split Ukraine into like North and South Korea even if that satisfied Putin. It seems like there would be major issues with that deal. What do you think about that?

HERBST: OK, you're right that if Putin were able to seize half the country there would still be the other half that he would want. But Putin is not able to seize half the country. Right now, Russian forces occupy maybe 20 percent of Ukraine. And occupy means that they control the roads in a few cities. But not even within those cities as we see in Kherson where people protest almost every day.

If Russia tries to hold on to those territories Ukraine will maintain military resistance. They will not be at peace. So, I don't think that, and of course, we don't -- I don't think this is what Putin really wants anyways. So, these are ideas which people in Russia who are not Putin are suggesting and people in the west are only too happy to grab the solution to peace. But Putin's objective is to dominate Ukraine. And Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people are not going to let that happen.


LEMON: You know, Putin will have the final say over anything decided in the negotiations. Can this war end without Zelenskyy and Putin at the table, Ambassador?

HERBST: This war can end with the two leaders of Ukraine and Russia making decisions. But right now, Putin still does not understand that his military has been stalled, that they are unable to establish the domination he wants. He refuses to understand that.

This idea of splitting the country comes from a Russian colonel general. It is not come from Putin or from anyone speaking on Putin's behalf. So, again, people are now gyrating around this concept but until Putin himself endorses it, it has no real status.

And again, Putin is still seeking to change the leadership in Ukraine and he's given no indication he's willing to let Ukraine pursue a truly neutral foreign policy as opposed to a new, quote, unquote, "neutral foreign policy," which he, Putin dictates.

LEMON: Ambassador, Putin spokesperson telling CBS tonight -- excuse me, PBS tonight that Russia would only use nuclear weapons if the existence of Russia was at stake. Listen to this and then we'll discuss it.


DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESPERSON: Any outcome of their operation of course is not a reason for usage of a nuclear weapons. We have a security concept that very clearly states that only when there is a threat for existence of the state in our country we can use and we will actually use nuclear weapons to eliminate the threat for the existence of our country.


LEMON: So, he had an interview with our Christiane Amanpour last week, I think he went a bit past what he said to Christiane although it was the same thing in tone. So, is he saying that they'd only use weapons if there is an existential threat to Russia but the outcome of the war in Ukraine doesn't necessarily pose the kind of a threat? How do you interpret that?

HERBST: In no way Russia losing its current war of aggression in Ukraine, it is not an existential threat to Russia. In fact, it would lead to improvement of Russia's international position because it would no longer be isolated once they gave up this aggressive war and barbaric war on Ukraine.

But Putin has threatened the use of nuclear weapons as a way to intimidate the west from taking strong steps to prevent the murder of Ukrainian civilians, women and children, and also to protect major, major western interests. And that's very unfortunate. There's a long history during the Cold War of nuclear weapons used as a deterrent as United States defended its vital interests.

If Jack Kennedy every three seconds said, gee, I can't do x to deal with Soviet missiles in Cuba because of the escalation factor as opposed to merely thinking about it quietly. We would never have gotten those Russian missiles out of Cuba. This administration has been to intimidate by Putin's nuclear threats. We can manage those threats and still protect our interests.

LEMON: I'm interested in what you have to say about this because President Biden says that he is now walking back anything that Putin can't remain in power this weekend. And you are one of the people who have said that those remarks were a mistake.

Today, the president said that he was expressing his outrage and it wasn't about policy. Do you think that settles the matter? What are your thoughts on that?

HERBST: Well, this was an unfortunate statement by the president. He and his team realized there was a mistake. But for the president who does not want to admit to be made a mistake which presidents have a right to do. The problem is that Russians will remember this and Putin will weaponize it.

And the odd and the sad thing is that this is something which does in fact provoke the Russians, provoke Putin more us than sending those MiGs from eastern Ukraine -- from Eastern Europe into Ukraine. Or us making sure that Ukraine has serious high-altitude anti-aircraft missiles.

Those are the things we should be doing quietly and not talking about, you know, sending Putin off into the dustbin of history. Our interests are in making sure Ukraine has the weapons it needs to defeat this Russian aggression. So that Putin does not try this against this our Baltic allies.

LEMON: Ambassador, thank you. I appreciate it.

HERBST: Thank you. My pleasure.

LEMON: Russian forces stalled across the country, Ukrainians fighting fiercely. Are Vladimir Putin's forces sitting ducks? And what does it say about this war that things -- these kinds of things are going on? That things are going so badly for Russia just one month in.



LEMON: We're back now live in Ukraine. Shelling happening in and around Kyiv tonight. Following a Russian strike in the west of Ukraine on a fuel depot earlier today.

Let's get the latest military development with CNN military analyst Colonel Cedric Leighton. Colonel, I appreciate you joining us once again to give us your perspective on this and to take us through the map there and the strategy.

Ukrainians are fighting ferociously. Russian forces are largely stalled in parts of Ukraine. Over one month into this war, just over a month at this war what options does Putin have right now?

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, that's a great question, Don. What we are looking at here is, of course, the area around Kyiv which is right here of course. And then you've got Kharkiv and you've got Mariupol. All of these areas are centers of fighting. And that is one of the biggest issues that they have. Where do they divide their forces and what they do, next.

It seems as if the Kyiv battle is basically stalled out for Putin. We'll talk about that in just a second. But when you look at Kharkiv and Mariupol you have two very different scenarios fairly close to each another. In Kharkiv the Russians have not been able to move forward even though Kharkiv is within 30 miles of the Russian border.


Mariupol on the other hand appears to be in essence a Russian victory at this point. And that's because the city is a complete wasteland. Completely destroyed by the Russians. Over 90 percent of the buildings there are completely gone. This area right here in the south around Kherson that's another area where the Russians had thought they could move in a different direction such as to the west or to the north of this. None of that is happening.

It is at least at this present time. Wo what we're dealing with here is Putin has to figure out what he wants to do next. And one of the possible things that he can do which is to divide the country as you've been speaking about earlier. And that would mean something like this. I would go over to Russia and that would be a possible solution to what the Russians are thinking, at least a temporary solution.

But that is in a really short form how the Russians are looking at this. They are stalled out and they don't know which way they are going to go next. But their goal still remains the same which is the top of the government in Kyiv. They are just going to take a longer time to get there.

LEMON: Colonel, U.K. defense officials say the notorious Russian private military groups Wagner has deployed to eastern Ukraine for combat operations. It's interesting. Because what does -- what does that mean that Putin is replacing dead generals and commanders with mercenaries?

LEIGHTON: Well, mercenaries are of course soldiers for hire. You know, we had them in the American Revolution with Hessians and they've been around throughout history. These guys are really notorious though. And they don't really replace the generals or the colonels. But what they do is they provide terror for the groups that are here.

They are soldiers that are not really once you follow the rules of war. They are primarily deployed in this area right here in the eastern part of the country as you mentioned. Their possible mission is to mop up what's going on in Mariupol and finish off the rest of the resistance there.

They could potentially be used in other areas like Kharkiv and potentially in Melitopol and some of the other areas around -- around here in the south. So, they are going to be the group that would e used to do those kinds of mopping up operations. And they are known for their brutality and that's what makes them particularly gruesome and not ones to mess with if you are standing there alone fighting these guys.

LEMON: Just awful. The Pentagon is deploying six U.S. navy electronic warfare jets to Germany accompanied by more than 200 aircrew pilots and maintenance staff. The planes could be used for radar jamming. So, tell us about these jets. Could they be used to help Ukraine from NATO airspace?

LEIGHTON: Absolutely they could be. Because they have the range that would allow them to do what's called suppression of enemy air defenses or SEAD in the military acronym. What they have is pods on the aircraft that provide jamming capabilities. They also have missiles that can be used to fire at targets if there are targets that are active that painting as we call it this particular jet or other jets in a package.

This maybe jets are based on the FA-18 which is the basic air frame that we have here but the jamming pods here are very important because what they do is they go after enemy radar and they make it hard for the enemy to figure out where Ukrainian assets would be or NATO assets would be at.

So, they are a critically important asset we use them all the time for our combat operations and they could very well could be used for Ukraine in this case.

LEMON: Well, that's some serious stuff there. That is -- we learned a lot as we do every night from you. Thank you very much, Colonel. I appreciate it.

LEIGHTON: You bet, Don.

LEMON: Banned in Russia. Russian journalists interviewing Ukraine's President Zelenskyy. And now those journalists are being investigated. Stay with us.



LEMON: Tonight, Vladimir Putin's government banning an interview with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy from being broadcast in Russia. The interview was conducted by some of Russia's most prominent independent journalists who now face investigation for possibly violating strict new censorship laws.

Zelenskyy is taunting the Kremlin accusing it of being afraid to let Russians know the truth about the invasion of Ukraine.

More from CNN's Matthew Chance now.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This was a groundbreaking interview with what the Kremlin sees as an enemy head of state. The first four Russian journalists covering this war. But for many Russians the words of President Zelenskyy including his offers of compromise for peace will never be heard.

Russian authorities banning the interview before I was even broadcasts and now vowing to investigate the journalists who carried it out. Journalists like Tikhon Dzyadko, the editor in chief of TV Rain. An independent Russian channel forced off the air earlier this month.

"No to war his editorial staff" said as they walked off their Moscow set.

TIKHON DZYADKO, RUSSIAN JOURNALIST: There is a digital iron curtain on the Ukrainian topic in Russia. And we see that there is a, I would see military censorship in Russia.


And all the information which is not going from Russian ministry of defense or from the Kremlin is forbidden. So, it is really important to tell the people the truth. Or at least to tell them what's the other side of the conflict of the war thinks.

CHANCE: Why do you think it is so important for the Kremlin to keep such a tight grip on that -- on that flow of information and on the message, they want Russian people to hear?

DZYADKO: Almost the whole story of Russian war in Ukraine is a big lie. Just from the beginning. Even the word war is not being used by the Russian government. We understand that this is not true. We understand that there is a war. We understand that a lot of civilians die there every day. And we understand that a lot of Russian soldiers as well die there every day.

And Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he is the person who has a lot of information on what is going on there, and of course he gives this information during this interview. And of course, Russian government doesn't want this information to be spread in Russia.

CHANCE: This is what the Kremlin does want Russians to see. Blanket coverage on state media of its special military operation that Russian forces cast as liberators and heroes.

There have been displays of dissent like this one of a journalist holding up an anti-war placard during Russia's main daily newscast but program was quickly cut away. But for millions of Russians the idea their country is a force for good fighting neo-Nazis in Ukraine. Be welcomed by the people there is much more appealing than the hard truth. Why is it such a successful strategy? Why are people so ready to

believe that propaganda?

DZYADKO: There is a huge part of the Russian society of people who are in denial, people who just do not want to admit that their country, our country, my country is bombing civilian objects and schools and hospitals and, et cetera, et cetera. It's hard to admit that maybe there is something very wrong with your -- with your homeland. And that somehow, we, as a citizen of Russia, is somehow responsible for it.

Hard to admit perhaps, but with tough new information laws increasingly illegal too. Russia's criminalizing of the truth is this war's latest casualty.


CHANCE: Well, Russia's most proclaimed critical newspaper Novaya Gazeta whose reporter was one of the journalists who interviewed President Zelenskyy, and of course whose editor won the Nobel Peace Prize this year has now announced they will suspend publication until the conflict in Ukraine is over. Following warnings, it said it received from the Russian authorities.

It's not entirely unexpected given the increasingly hostile atmosphere in Russia right now to the independent media. But it is still a shocking sign of how bad the situation in Russia has become. Don.

LEMON: Matthew Chance, thank you very much. So, Puck Washington correspondent Julia Ioffe is here. Just how many Russians are still in denial as to the reality of what's going on in Ukraine and how long can that last? We'll talk about that next.



LEMON: Moscow's media watchdog furthering its censorship of journalists and media in Russia. The agency warning Russian news outlets against publishing Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's interview with a Russian journalist over the weekend.

Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta whose editor-in-chief won the Nobel Peace Prize last year announcing it is suspending publication until the end of the war after receiving another warning from the agency.

So, let's bring in now Puck founding partner and Washington correspondent, Julia Ioffe. We always love having you on, Julia. Thank you so much for joining us.

So, listen, President Zelenskyy is accusing Moscow of being frightened by journalists after banning his interview from being published. The Kremlin says Russia isn't afraid. Would there be any reason to block it? JULIA IOFFE, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, PUCK: Well, the reason to

block it is to make sure that Russians don't a, learn the truth about the war that their country is waging in Ukraine. They have gotten a very sanitized and cleaned-up version so far through the tightly controlled Kremlin owned media. And to not see Zelenskyy in any kind of humanized approachable way to that -- so that he can still be seen as (Inaudible) puppet of the Nazis and of the U.S.

LEMON: So, Russia is shutting down the independent media outlets, they're blocking social media apps, they're banning what Putin considers fake news about the country's military. Are Russians aware of all of this censorship and their ways for people to get access to real information or do they not even know it's out there and just ignorance is bliss.

IOFFE: I think it depends who you are talking about, if you are talking about younger people, if you are talking about educated people in cities, they know it's out there. And a lot of them do pursue it and look for it through VPN's through other channels, for example, at Telegram which is a Russian developed messaging app also now has kind of information channels.

But those are people who has a role want to know what's going on because they don't already believe the government. They already know the government is lying to them.


There are other people in Russia who know the government is lying to them but don't really care. And feel that if it's in the interests of the state then it's OK. There have been several polls that show this and (Inaudible) vast majority will say that it's OK for the government to lie to them from the television if it serves the states interests. So, some people (Inaudible) --

LEMON: Julia, we lost your last words. Repeat your last sentence you said some people what?

IOFFE: I said some of them know they are being lied to and polls have shown in recent years that a large and just concerning majority of Russians know that state TV lies to them but they are OK with it if they feel it is in the interest of the state.

LEMON: So, Julia Russia is expected they -- Russia expected that this war would be over quickly but its military has faced a lot of setbacks. I mean, you are tuned into what is happening in Russia, are you seeing any cracks in state media over how this war is going?

IOFFE: We've seen a lot of prominent anchors from these Kremlin owned channels resign, a lot of them have fled the country. And for them the war was a kind of, the point where they've crack and they couldn't, they said they couldn't do this work anymore. They couldn't push this propaganda anymore, whereas before, for whatever reason they were able to.

And there have been reports trickling out in Russia that there is a lot of discontent in these newsrooms. In part because they all know what's going on. They have access to Reuters, to the A.P. the New York Times, to all the information that we are seeing in the west but their viewers are not seeing.

And they, it's apparently according to some of these reports is getting harder and harder for these so-called journalists to square what they are telling Russian viewers and what they know to be the truth.

LEMON: Julia, you had a recent piece in Puck and you spoke with a Russian sociologist at an independent pollster that has been designated as foreign agent, a foreign agent but Putin prosecutor, by Putin prosecutors, I should say. And you discuss how many in the U.S. think that Russians protest in the streets Putin will stop -- Putin will the war.

So, Russia -- protests in the streets and that Putin will stop the war if they do that. He told you that he wouldn't count on it. Is the west wrong to expect a big outcry from Russia with people protesting in the streets and if they actually do find information. It sounds like that's what you are saying because you are saying it doesn't matter if it is good for the state and he is cracking down on protests.

IOFFE: What's interesting that sociologist told me an interesting story about one of the focus groups he did. Where an older woman told him, you know, I know that if I watch the BBC, for example, I would have a totally different understanding not just of the war but of the world. I just don't want to know. I don't want to change my understanding. Because everything she knows and believes to be true and has believed to be true for the last few decades would come tumbling down. And that's very scary for people.

I think because people are scared because the censorship isn't new, because Putin has built this authoritarian regime not overnight but over the last 22 years, because he has built it on a memory and historical reflexes developed over 70 years of brutal Soviet rule of political terror.

I think Russians are too scared even if they are against the war to come out en masse. It's interesting by the way, you know, the riot police that traditionally beat up protesters you see these crazy images of them dragging them to the vans, they are now being set -- sent to fight to Ukraine.

And apparently, hundreds of them are quitting and asking not to be sent which is interesting. They don't want to kill Ukrainians because they have arms but being at peaceful protesters in Moscow or in St. Petersburg is apparently totally fine for them.

LEMON: It's interesting. It sounds like an interesting sociology lesson for America, you know, to learn as well what happens if things escalate. Thank you, Julia. I appreciate it.

IOFFE: Thank you.

LEMON: Nearly four million Ukrainians fleeing into neighboring countries, thousands of them being housed in a convention center in Warsaw, Poland. It is the largest refugee center in Europe right now. And we're going to take you inside right after this.



LEMON: The refugee crisis spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine is staggering. Nearly four million people have fled the country, more than half of them to Poland.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in Warsaw in the largest refugee center in Europe.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are looking at the largest refugee hub in all of Europe. All of these are cots places where people have basically taken everything they can carry and turned into their home. You can see that there are these little pods of blankets, children laying on some of these cots. There are cribs here.

Ninety-five percent of the people in this place in Warsaw are women, children, and the elderly. They are the ones who have left safely out of Ukraine. But the emphasis here is that this is a hub.


If you look at other parts of this expo center there are places for you to get paperwork sorted, to get a bus ticket to travel to other parts of Europe to stop, have a place to sleep, to eat consistent means, to get health care.

It is something that this expo center which is privately -- jointly run by the city but privately owned says it will do as long as it can.

TOMASZ SZYPULA, PRESIDENT, PTAK WARSAW EXPO: How long? I don't know. We should call Putin. I don't know. We will be helping them as long as possible. But it's not the accommodations for the human beings, you know, so that's why we must replace them very -- very fast. Because this is temporary place. It's not good for children and for those women, you know, it's not good to live in such accommodation for a long time.

LAH: The city of Warsaw itself has taken in some 300,000 refugees. The country of Poland more than two million refugees. We spoke to the mayor of Warsaw who says the generosity of the Polish people is endless but the reality is that there's only so much that the city can do sustainably without this type of care starting to drop.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Warsaw, Poland.

LEMON: All right, Kyung, thank you very much for that. Russia targeting Ukraine's fuel supply, territory changing hands daily on the front lines. We've got much more coverage from here in Ukraine straight ahead.