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French President Emmanuel Macron Speaks With Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Ahead Of Call With Russian President Vladimir Putin; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Warns Putin Of Strong Sanctions If Russia Invades Ukraine; Regional Tensions Threaten Ukrainian Economy; Russia Waging Information War Against Ukraine; U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris Pledges Support At Munich Security Conference; Lviv Mayor Says Residents Living A "Normal" Life; Olympic Winter Games Final Day; COVID-19 Restrictions Rolling Back Around The World; New Storm Emerging In Western U.S. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired February 20, 2022 - 05:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hello, everyone, I'm Michael Holmes live in Ukraine, where we'll get a firsthand look at how hundreds of Ukrainian citizens are learning to protect themselves ahead of a potential war with Russia.

KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And I'm Kim Brunhuber live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, where we're counting down the hours to Beijing's Winter Olympics closing ceremony. We're live in the region on the highs and lows from the games.


HOLMES: And we begin here in Ukraine, where the standoff with Russia shows no sign of easing. In fact, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, told the BBC today that Russia appears to be planning, his words now, "the biggest war in Europe since 1945."

He added that the U.S. and U.K. would stop Russian companies from trading in dollars and pounds if Moscow invades Ukraine.

Now in Washington, meanwhile, President Biden is set to discuss the crisis with his National Security Council in the coming hours. This as other Western leaders continue an 11th hour push for diplomacy.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, speaking with Ukraine's President Zelensky on Saturday. That was ahead of a phone call with Russia's Vladimir Putin later today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go faster. Go, go, go.

HOLMES (voice-over): In Eastern Ukraine, a vivid illustration of the potential dangers. A CNN team on tour with Ukraine's interior minister, coming under mortar fire on Saturday, just the latest example of the escalating cease-fire violations in the region.


HOLMES: The Kremlin also offering a reminder of where the conflict could lead, as Russia staged nuclear drills near NATO's borders on Saturday, the show of force overseen by Mr. Putin and Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko.

Now Belarus on Ukraine's northern border is a key ally for Russia, of course. Officials in the U.S. fear it could be a launch site if Russia decides to attack Ukraine. Moscow, of course, denies it has any plans to invade, even as Russian forces surround Ukraine on three sides.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's president met with the U.S. vice president, Kamala Harris, at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Ms. Harris telling him the U.S. stands with Ukraine.


KAMALA HARRIS (D), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States takes seriously the importance of the integrity and the territorial integrity of Ukraine and your sovereignty. And the United States stands with Ukraine.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: We do clearly understand what is going on. This is our land and the only thing we want is to have peace, bring the peace back to our country.


HOLMES: CNN has reporters fanned out across the globe covering the latest developments. CNN's chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour, is at the Munich Security Conference.

Susan Malveaux is at the U.S. Capitol. Erin Burnett is here with me in Lviv, Ukraine. Jill Dougherty is in Moscow. Let's begin with Susan Malveaux in Washington, on who is tracking the latest calls for sanctions against Russia if it invades Ukraine.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN U.S. CORRESPONDENT: It was a sense of urgency, there was a sense of unity, a clarity of purpose; about 40 Democrats and Republicans in Germany, coming out of the NATO security conference.

They are trying to find a way to avoid war here and demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, a great deal of support that the United States has for Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, for its allies, as well as for NATO.

And also, trying to make it clear here, delivering this message, meeting with key officials, Secretary of State Blinken as well as the mayor of Kyiv and the chancellor of Germany, saying that Russia does have an option here, still has a choice. Diplomacy could work to get out of this situation. Otherwise, it could face crushing sanctions. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We want to remove all doubt in anyone's mind, including the president of Russia, that the U.S. is here, fully committed in a unified way, to work with our European allies in the interest of diplomacy. We're not for any war. And diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy.


PELOSI: And that's why we're talking about sanctions in the event of an invasion. And these are sanctions, as if you've never seen before, in terms of the intensity and the timing.


MALVEAUX: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that it is the timing of those sanctions that are at issue here. They initially started off, Republicans and Democrats, calling it the mother of all sanctions that would be absolutely devastating to Putin, his allies, the banks, his friends and so forth.

But then, a big debate over the last couple of weeks about just the timing of this. Republicans agreeing with Ukrainian President Zelensky that this should happen before Russia invades, to give them a bit of a taste of more of what's to be expected.

Senator Lindsey Graham, who is also in Germany, tweeting out this message, saying, "I could not agree more with his assessment that we should put pre-invasion sanctions in place now so Putin can see for himself the consequences of his actions. Without clarity, Putin will assume weakness."

Well, it was the Democrats and Speaker Pelosi who essentially said, no, hold off on the sanctions. They are arguing to put it off until the invasion occurs, because there will be some hurt that some of the U.S. allies, Ukrainian allies will feel, when these sanctions come.

Pelosi acknowledging, as well as the Republicans here, they don't have a bill put forward for sanctions. They say they don't need one, that the president has, in his own executive authority, to go ahead and enact sanctions himself.

And so this is really symbolic gesture on their part to support the president and to support that effort. They believe he does not need a bill from Congress to do so.

And one final point, very important, coming out of this news conference, it was the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, who confirmed, he said that, yes, they have intelligence, too, that backs up President Biden's claim, that Putin has decided, in fact, to invade Ukraine -- Susan Malveaux, CNN, at the Capitol.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: All right. Anders Aslund is a Swedish economist and former senior fellow at The Atlantic Council. He's also the author of "Russia's Crony Capitalism." He joins me now from Washington, D.C.

Thanks so much for making the time.

How do you think, before we get to the economics of things, how do you think the West has handled this so far?

ANDERS ASLUND, SWEDISH ECONOMIST AND AUTHOR: Basically, quite well. But as we see, not well enough; well in the sense that the West has utilized its intelligence and given people real information immediately, when they get it.

And this has united the West. And there has been a lot of talk about serious sanctions. But as Senator Graham pointed out now, it's a big question, when you apply what, Russia has already done a lot. It has located (ph) the Black Sea. It has started cyber warfare.

It's (INAUDIBLE) heavily on Ukraine in the east, as we speak, when those sanctions start.

HOLMES: Yes, so to your area of expertise, what damage has this crisis already done to the Ukrainian economy?

ASLUND: A lot, you can say, but much of it is standing still. Ukraine has no access to international finance, because nobody is there to invest in Ukraine now. There's no foreign investment. There are no deals being made. This is even hurting ordinary trading, because people don't know, will war stop the deliveries?

And of course, the sea blockade by the Russian navy in the Black Sea has blocked all Ukrainian ports for more than a week now. And needless to say, you have new (ph) to restore business (INAUDIBLE) at this time. So this is a big loss for the Ukrainian economy.


And looking further ahead, what more could happen?

How much worse could the impacts be on Ukraine's economy in the event of an actual invasion by Russia?

ASLUND: Oh, it could be massive. During the last war, 2014-2015, Ukraine lost 17 percent of its GDP essentially by losing territory. It could be much more if we would actually see bombing of major industries.

HOLMES: How do you think the West could best help the Ukrainian economy in this environment?


ASLUND: What Ukraine will need in any case, it is a substantial financial support package. And last time around, 2014-2015, it was $17 billion. These are credits, so it's not grant money. And the IMF and the U.S. and the European Union would have to take the lead in this.

HOLMES: Yes, Ukraine has been working over the last few years, since 2014, to reduce the Kremlin's leverage over its economy and protect itself economically in a way.

How successful have those efforts been in shielding itself?

ASLUND: Very successful; traditionally, Ukraine used to have one- third of its trade with Russia. Now it's down to 8 percent of its foreign trade. And that is particularly in relatively unpolitical trade, such as oil trade, which is actually not politicized.

While Ukraine does not import any gas at all from Russia since November 2015, one-third of Ukraine's trade to Russia used to be machine-building products, essentially to the military industrial complex. But that has stopped altogether.

Instead, 45 percent of Ukraine's trade now goes to the European Union. And China is the biggest single trading partner, because of all of the sales of agriculture goods and iron ore to China.

HOLMES: Important aspect of all of this, the economic aspect. Anders Aslund, good to have you on and to get your thoughts on this. Appreciate it.

ASLUND: Thank you very much.


HOLMES: All right. CNN's Christiane Amanpour sat down with Mr. Zelensky for a lengthy interview during the Munich Security Conference. She asked him what he thought was behind Vladimir Putin's provocative actions.



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: On the so-called false flag issues, you have just talked about two Ukrainian soldiers being killed. The Russians say mines have exploded, Ukrainian mines on their side of the border. We have seen this rhetoric before. We understand the concept of false flags but how tense is that?

How do you think you can stop it?

Have you considered the levels of the current provocations?

ZELENSKY (through translator): Provocations are indeed very dangerous if you have this number of troops. One shelling, one fire, cannon fire can lead to war. And we perfectly understand.

As I said, I do think so and this is what our partners believe, I mean the partners who are around us who have joined borders of us, who know the history of the Soviet Union and they do understand the kind of risks we are facing.

When someone in mass media says now this is the most horrific situation, that is not true. It is horrible, it's a tragedy for our nation, for our people. It is a tragedy and in the future, you will see that this is the tragedy for Russians as well, who used to have good relationship with the Ukraine.

How do we stay neighbors and live with each other from now on?

But we are at a different point in our lives. We are not talking about neighborhood. We are talking about the war and that it shouldn't start. This is why the risk is high.

What was shown yesterday on the temporary occupied territory there, shown some shelling allegedly flying from our side and they have shown something flying all the way to Rostov region of Russia. This is just plain provocation. These are pure lies.

All we care about is peace. And I've mentioned this many times to the president of the Russian Federations and Angela Merkel and Macron in 2019 and we have sent a massive amount of signals, all on a monthly basis. We have been passing on to different world leaders and directly to Russian federations that we are ready to sit down and speak.

Pick the platform that you like. Pick the partners that will be there around the table with us. We are ready for that, prepared for that.

What is the point of us shooting and proposing diplomacy at the same time?


HOLMES: Moscow denies an invasion will happen, of course. But one major war is well underway, an information war. Former CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty with that part of the story.



JILL DOUGHERTY, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY AND WILSON CENTER: Just as there is a military standoff, there is also an information war raging. And you could think of it as kind of a split screen with three different images.

The first image would have to be Vladimir Putin, in the situation room in the Kremlin; next to him, the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, as they watch these strategic forces exercises, including some of the most sophisticated weapons that Russia has, including hypersonic missiles. So that's image number one.

Image number two would be the president of Ukraine at the Munich Security Conference, a big show of force with his Western allies but also urging them not to wait until Russia, if Russia attacks. He says, reveal right now publicly what those sanctions would be against Russia; later, it would too late. And then, finally, the third image would have to be pictures from the

ground in that breakaway Russian-speaking region of the Donbas, on the eastern part of Ukraine. Images, certainly of people being bused out of that region but also a narrative from Russia, which is Russia is not the one that intends to attack.

It is Ukraine that intends to attack the Donbas region. And that is something that Ukraine vehemently denies.

You know, there was one comment by President Zelensky today, in which he said, you can't have security and stability in a country if war -- if you are being told that war is about to break out. And that predicament may be precisely what Vladimir Putin is trying to create -- Jill Dougherty, Moscow.


HOLMES: That'll do it from Lviv, Ukraine, for now. We will have more later. But let's go back to Kim Brunhuber in Atlanta -- Kim.

BRUNHUBER: All right, thanks so much, Michael.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, it's the final day of the Beijing Winter Olympics and the closing ceremony is just hours away. So will, what can we?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In less than two hours, we'll see a reason to celebrate from the United States side and certainly from the Chinese side. Why this Winter Olympics is different than any other in China's history.




BRUNHUBER: All right. We want to take you to the Munich Security Conference and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who's making some comments following her speech yesterday. So let's listen in.


HARRIS: -- on one of the bases for the Munich Security Conference and certainly one of the founding reasons for NATO, which is European security and the connection and alliance between Europe and the United States.

This was a productive trip, in terms of the extensive bilateral meetings that we had that were in furtherance of the ongoing collaboration and partnership with our allies.

It was important in that, as you all know, this is a moment that is very dynamic. If not every hour, certainly every day, there seem to be new moments of interest and also of intelligence.


HARRIS: And so we have affirmed, however -- all of that being said -- through these last couple of days, that this alliance is strong -- probably stronger than it was before and that this alliance has purpose and meaning founded on shared principles that are very much at play right now.

And as I mentioned yesterday, if we think about those principles, one of the most important is about a mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, which at its essence is what is at play in terms of Russia's posture as it relates to Ukraine.

At stake is the NATO alliance, in terms of our unity, joining together -- through, sometimes, compromise; certainly always through collaboration -- to be a unified voice, especially when these very founding principles of our relationship are being compromised, if not attacked.

So, with that, I'll take any questions you have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'll call on folks. So, Nandita from Reuters.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Vice President. During your meeting with President Zelensky, he spoke a little bit about asking the U.S. for specific defense aid.

Could you talk a little bit about what he asked the United States for and what the U.S. has agreed to offer?

HARRIS: Sure. Well, I'll tell you what I think you already know: So far, we have offered -- not even offered, we have -- we have transferred and given $650 million in aid. We have also made certain loan guarantees around, in particular, $1 billion.

And that is on top of all of the work that we have done collectively through the NATO Alliance to provide support for Ukraine.

QUESTION: Is there anything new that you are planning to offer Ukraine?

HARRIS: Well, what I made clear in our meeting and -- is that -- again, this is a dynamic situation. And depending on what happens in the coming days, we will reevaluate the need that Ukraine has and our ability to support. And we have been doing that through the course of these many months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go to Molly from ABC.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Vice President. I wanted to ask you, first, are you going to take part in that NSC meeting --


QUESTION: -- today?

HARRIS: Yes. QUESTION: You are going to take part in that?


QUESTION: And then I wanted to follow up on your meeting with President Zelensky yesterday.


QUESTION: When he spoke after your meeting, he shared his frustration with countries like the U.S. who say that an attack is likely to happen in Ukraine but that you won't put sanctions in place until that happens.

You -- the administration has continually said that retaining those sanctions holds on to some leverage.

But if you believe Putin has made up his mind, what leverage do you really have?

Why not put those sanctions in place now?

HARRIS: The purpose of the sanctions has always been and continues to be deterrence. But let's also recognize the unique nature of the sanctions that we have outlined.

These are some of the greatest sanctions, if not the strongest, that we've ever issued. As I articulated yesterday, it is directed at institutions -- in particular, financial institutions -- and individuals and it will exact absolute harm for the Russian economy and their government.

QUESTION: But if Putin has made up his mind, do you feel that this threat that has been looming is really going to deter him?

HARRIS: We strongly believe -- and remember also that the sanctions are a product not only of our perspective as the United States but a shared perspective among our allies. And the allied relationship is such that we have agreed that the deterrence effect of these sanctions is still a meaningful one, especially because -- remember, also -- we still sincerely hope that there is a diplomatic path out of this moment.

And within the context then of the fact that that window is still opening, although -- open, although it is absolutely narrowing -- but within the context of a diplomatic path still being open, the deterrence effect, we believe, has merit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go to Jennifer Jacobs from Bloomberg.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Would you be willing to talk a little bit about how the U.S. would get out of this potential conflict with Russia?

What is the end game? How does the U.S. -- after imposing some of these sanctions and

possible military action, how does the U.S. disentangle from this?

HARRIS: I would characterize it differently. I don't -- we don't consider ourselves to be entangled. But we're very clear of our principles and our purpose, which is to be aligned with our allies, understanding that -- I mean, listen, guys, we're talking about the potential for war in Europe.

I mean, let's really take a moment to understand the significance of what we're talking about. It's been over 70 years. And through those 70 years, as I mentioned yesterday, there has been peace and security.


HARRIS: We are talking about the real possibility of war in Europe.

So our position is, for us, very clear, which is as a leader -- which we have been, bringing together the allies, working together around our collective and unified position -- that we would all not just prefer, we desire.

We believe it is in the best interest of all that there is a diplomatic end to this moment.

And so where do we want this to end?

That is where we want it to end.

QUESTION: What should Americans be braced for?

What could they possibly be facing?

The President has already said Americans will be facing some economic fallout or some hardships.

Can you explain to Americans what exactly will they face if this happened?

HARRIS: Sure. As the President talked about in his speech, we are aware that, again, when America stands for her principles and all of the things that we hold dear, it requires sometimes for us to put ourselves out there in a way that maybe we will incur some cost.

And in this situation, that may relate to energy costs, for example. But we are taking very specific and appropriate, I believe, steps to mitigate what that cost might be if it happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go to Eli at the Los Angeles Times.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Vice President. A question about something else that President Zelensky said yesterday relating to NATO: he seemed to question the sincerity of allies, including the U.S., I think, in terms of a desire to admit Ukraine to NATO.

Is there any -- is there any reaction to those pretty pointed comments from the President?

And was that something that was discussed with Chancellor Scholz and other leaders?

HARRIS: Let me start by saying I appreciate and admire President Zelensky's desire to join NATO.

And one of, again, the founding principles of NATO is that each country must have the ability -- unimpaired, unimpeded -- to determine their own future, both in terms of their form of government and, in this case, whether they desire to be a member of NATO.

And I'll put that in context, because the obvious is also the point; which is that and therefore no other country can tell anyone whether they should or should not join NATO. That should be their independent choice. That is the point of sovereignty. So I respect President Zelensky's desire to be a member of NATO.

NATO is a membership. It is about nations coming together as a group, making decisions collectively around, again, principles and what will be, then, the conditions and the standards of membership. And so that is the process.

It doesn't happen overnight. No one country can say, "I want to be and therefore I will be."

And no one country can say, "You can't be."

And isn't that at the heart of the very issue we're presented with in terms of Russia's aggression or stated aggression, toward Ukraine?

QUESTION: Was it surprising to you, though, that he planted that flag so firmly on that issue -- given that that's obviously Putin's main demand, is that he gets some sort of guarantee, swearing that Ukraine won't be admitted -- that Zelensky wants to make it clear that they do want to enter the organization?

Was that a surprise that he would come and say that at this point in this crisis?

And does that make it less likely that there'll be some sort of diplomatic resolution?

HARRIS: I'm not going to second guess President Zelensky's desires for his own country.

But I will say this, let us recognize the position he is in right now. His country is virtually surrounded by Russian troops. I believe he came here -- this is my belief, based on just my own assessment and speculation -- he came here to make a very clear point that he does not stand alone.

In fact, I told him in our meeting, "The United States stands with you," because we do, as do this community of allies and partners.

So I understand where he -- why he came here. And I would not second guess -- I will not second guess why he spoke the words he speaks.

He's in a position, again, where his country is virtually surrounded by what -- by, I think most reasonable people would believe, hostile troops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go to Aamer at the AP, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Vice President.


QUESTION: So Dalit Singh said late last week that SWIFT sanctions probably won't be part of the opening gambit if sanctions go forward.

Considering the administration saying early and often that you're going to stay high -- start high and stay high, how does that square?

How can you start high and stay high without SWIFT sanctions in the package?

HARRIS: We're going to take this one moment at a time in terms of what might need to happen in the future in terms of escalation. But right now, we've made our position clear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And last question, let's go to Natasha at CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Vice President.

I'm wondering whether the U.S. has evidence that Putin has actually given the order to his subordinates to launch an attack and whether that intelligence and that evidence is shared and agreed upon by the allies here -- and that includes Zelensky, who has been skeptical of this kind of intelligence in the past.

HARRIS: As the President has said, we believe that Putin has made his decision, period. And -- but I will also say that, as part of our relationship and partnership, in -- in the context of the alliance, we do share information, certainly, because we want to make sure that we are all working with the same information when we make these very critical and meaningful decisions.

The last question about sanctions. And I said it yesterday on the stage, everybody didn't agree at the beginning about what the consequences should be if Russia re-invades Ukraine. We had to meet. We had to discuss it because each of these nations -- I mean, I spent time -- a considerable amount of time with the chancellor of Germany yesterday.

I spent time with the president of the E.U. yesterday. When we look at the significance of these sanctions, they are immense.

And so, all nations who are a part of this understand that we cannot take lightly or speak lightly about what we are prepared to do, because we do understand the cost we are exacting and it is severe.

So we have had these discussions, again, through a process. We have arrived at this place. And back to the last question, we will, obviously, reassess depending on how the days, weeks and months ahead roll out.

QUESTION: And do you believe --


HARRIS: But -- just go on. You can do the follow-up.

QUESTION: I was just going to ask, do you believe that the U.S. and Ukraine are now more on the same page about what the intelligence suggests than they have been in the past?

HARRIS: I can tell you that there has been direct communication about the intelligence, so nothing is being held back.

QUESTION: Vice President, the Prime Minister of Italy does not agree with all of the sanctions plans. He said yesterday that he does not feel that energy should be sanctioned.

Does that not undercut U.S. efforts to impose tough, painful, severe financial sanctions?

HARRIS: As I've said, this is an alliance of nations that each have their priorities and their individual concerns about how anything we do going forward will impact their specific country, their economy and their security.

So, again, I would not deny Italy from having its perspective or its list of concerns; we all do, actually. That has been part of this process.

And so Italy is very much at the table in terms of these conversations about how we can do this in a way that achieves its intended purpose, which, back to the earlier point, is about deterring Russia from invading a sovereign nation.

And we all understand, including every country in Europe, what war in Europe looks like and what it can mean for the citizens of each of those countries.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, ma'am.

BRUNHUBER: And we were listening to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, making some comments at the Munich Security Conference. We heard her reiterate that the NATO alliance is, quote, "stronger than ever."

She said she respects Ukraine's desire to join NATO and said that no country had the right to tell another country that they couldn't join NATO, which obviously has been a red line for Russia. We heard her defending the Biden administration's decision to only

impose what she said would be, quote, "severe sanctions" after an invasion -- after an invasion and not before, as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had asked for.

And she said the threat of sanctions is a meaningful one but they're still committed to diplomacy.

And she said, quote, "It's in the best interest of all that there's a diplomatic end."

And she said she will be attending the National Security Council meeting on Ukraine later today, convened by President Biden.


BRUNHUBER: We have my colleague, Michael Holmes, standing by in Ukraine.

You were listening in there.

What stood out for you?

HOLMES: Yes, that same sort of support that, you know, we're standing by Ukraine. But it is interesting, the differences, as you say, on sanctions and when they should be imposed and then disbelief.

Certainly, Ukraine wants them imposed now or certainly outlined in more detail. A lot of people think that those sanctions should really hit the oligarchs who surround Putin and are in his ear, hit him hard. And the word will get back to him. So yes, fascinating stuff from the vice president. Kim Brunhuber, really appreciate it.

We are live here in Lviv, Ukraine. Let's bring you up to date on some other developments.

For one, the British prime minister Boris Johnson warning that Russia is -- and here are his words, is "planning the biggest war in Europe since 1945." He made those remarks during an interview with British media. Mr. Johnson urging Moscow to de-escalate tensions before it's too late. But in Ukraine, the tensions keep on rising.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Faster. Go, go, go.

HOLMES (voice-over): That's Ukraine's interior minister, along with a CNN news crew and other journalists, facing mortar fire in Eastern Ukraine on Saturday. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the incident.

But it's part of an escalation that appears to have convinced Mr. Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is likely to happen very soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HOLMES: While the world watches and waits for Russia and Vladimir Putin's next move, civilians in Ukraine are bracing and, in some cases, training for possible war. CNN's Erin Burnett spoke with residents, who say they are ready to fight.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST (voice-over): This weekend in Lviv, Ukraine, a few hundred civilians gathering to prepare defense training sessions. People of all ages but most of them young. The youngest, for us, the most jarring to see.

Natalya was here with her daughters, Kalina (ph) and Hafia (ph). She tells me she talks to them all the time about possible war with Russia.

NATALYA, UKRAINIAN SURGEON: Yes, we always talk about this about, about war and we have a plan. That's why we're here.

BURNETT (voice-over): The training organized by a far right political party and overseen by the Ukrainian government's Territorial Defense Forces.

People today learning hand to hand knife fighting with sticks using wooden guns to practice shooting around corners, shooting rifles in group tactical target practice and listening to how to handle bazookas, detonators and mines.

Four-year-old Kalina, paying close attention. Her mother tells me she is most worried they won't leave in time if there is a full Russian invasion but Natalya says she stays because she's a surgeon.

BURNETT (on camera): And I know you want to stay here. Why?

NATALYA: Because I'm a doctor and I think I can help people when war will come to our home.

BURNETT (voice-over): Natalya's patriotism, a powerful symbol to Putin, up here on a windy hill above the city of Lviv, she and other Ukrainians taking this literally, "Don't panic. Prepare."

BURNETT: Natalya says, if she leaves with her children, her husband would stay behind to fight. And spending time at that practice was eye-opening, because, on the one hand, we saw there what we have seen from anyone we've spoken to over this past week.

They're deeply patriotic and they are passionate. But in the other, when you see that training, you also realize what a full invasion could look like, how deeply painful it would be and what incredible civilian suffering we would see -- back to you.


HOLMES: All right. Our thanks there to Erin Burnett.

Now a short time ago, I spoke with Lviv's mayor about the looming military threat from Russia. Andriy Sadovyi had a lot to say about how his city is preparing for a potential invasion.


HOLMES: What are you having to do to the city?

What sorts of changes have you had to make in case there is an invasion?

MAYOR ANDRIY SADOVYI, LVIV, UKRAINE (through translator): Six months ago, we started to prepare the city for an emergency situation; for example, how to provide water without electricity. And we are capable of doing that today.

We tripled our reserves of medical supplies. We increased the blood reserves. We rearranged the work of all our strategic enterprises.


SADOVYI (through translator): We are ready today to live life under extreme conditions.

HOLMES: What would the people of Lviv do if the Russians invaded?

How would they react?

SADOVYI (through translator): Firstly, people are ready to defend. The territorial defense is being actively developed, not only in Lviv but in all cities of Ukraine. In total, there are approximately 2 million people. They are learning how to use weapons and provide medical aid. This is our country and we must protect ourselves.

HOLMES: How has this tension, this threat, impacted your city and the mood of the city?

SADOVYI (through translator): If you see the life in Lviv or in other cities, you will see no tension. Only a person who watches the news would be worried. Everyone here lives a normal life. Yet everyone is getting ready. This energy for preparation gives strength and certainty. Lviv is a safe city and we have welcomed all of them.

HOLMES: Did you ever think as mayor you would be running a city under the threat of Russian invasion?

SADOVYI (through translator): It has been happening for eight years already. And today, we have understood that the threat coming from Russia is stronger than ever. It can happen tomorrow. It can happen in a month. It can happen in a year because Russia wants to destroy Ukraine. And it wants to destroy the whole democratic world.

That is why we have to be like a lion, to push the bear back to its den.

HOLMES: If Russian officials were listening to this interview right now, what would you say to them?

SADOVYI (through translator): If they attack us, then they will suffer from big losses in both military personnel and equipment. This is our free land. And we will never give it to anyone.

SADOVYI: (Speaking Ukrainian). Never give up.


HOLMES: All right, fascinating insight there from the mayor of this city, Lviv, in Ukraine.

And that'll do it for me. I'm Michael Holmes. CNN has more on the rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine at the top of the hour. Kim Brunhuber will have more news from around the world after a short break. See you then.





BRUNHUBER: After 16 days, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are now in the books. So here's a look at where the medal count stands: Norway, 16 gold medals are the most ever won in a single Winter Games. Germany followed in second.

China just edging out the U.S. for third. And we're now about 90 minutes away from the closing ceremony, to what's turned out to be an historic Winter Olympics.


BRUNHUBER: We're learning more about a COVID subvariant that scientists have nicknamed stealth Omicron. The BA.2 variant has been detected in 74 countries and 47 U.S. states.

The World Health Organization estimates it to be 30 percent more contagious than Omicron and new research suggests it may have features enabling it to cause serious illness. But real-world data on its severity is mixed.

Meanwhile, U.S. health experts say a second booster dose of the COVID vaccine might be in the cards. An FDA official says it might be needed as the U.S. gets closer to cold weather. It would have to be authorized by the FDA and reviewed by the CDC.

After nearly two years of strict pandemic rules, Australia is ready to welcome tourists from abroad.


BRUNHUBER: Fully vaccinated international travelers will be able to fly into the country beginning Monday. Prime minister Scott Morrison says, pack your bags, come and have one of the greatest experiences you could ever imagine. And British prime minister Boris Johnson is set to introduce plans to

scrap England's self-isolation rules for people infected with COVID next week. Downing Street says all regulations that restrict public freedoms will be repealed.

All right. We'll be right back. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: There's a new winter storm gearing up in the Western U.S. It's expected to spread snow from the Cascades through the Northern Rockies today. And it could lead to a severe storm threat in the days ahead.



BRUNHUBER: That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. "NEW DAY" is next.