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Erin Burnett Outfront

Airports In Eastern Ukraine Close As Ukrainian President Says "Trigger" For Russian Invasion Could Be "Any Minute;" U.S. Warns Invasion Imminent & "Body Bags Will Return To Moscow;" 2 Prosecutors Leading Trump Inquiry In NYC Abruptly Resign; Russia to Close Flight Paths Along Ukraine Border. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 23, 2022 - 19:00   ET


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On Friday, the jurors are going to be taken to Breonna Taylor's apartment so they can get a firsthand look at where it all happened. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. Jason, thank you very much.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll be back in two hours, 9 Eastern with the latest in the situation in Ukraine and other major news, until then, thanks very much for watching.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, a state of emergency tonight here in Ukraine; airports closing, troops and tanks closing in on the border. Ukraine's President calls Putin, Putin apparently refusing to take that call in the early hours of this morning.

Plus, new satellite images just coming in show more Russian forces deployed to the border, some less than 50 miles from the second largest city in this country.

And we're going to take you to part of Ukraine already under attack by Russian-backed rebels. We'll see firsthand the homes and lives destroyed. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett live from Ukraine.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. We do have big developments at this hour in the very early hours of the morning here in Ukraine. Ukraine just shutting down airports in the eastern part of this country moments ago as the country is now formally at this hour in a state of emergency.

I should note the state of emergency did not include the closing of the airports, that is a separate and new development. It is well past midnight here, two o'clock in the morning in fact and the President of Ukraine calling Vladimir Putin very late tonight. Putin did not take his call.

And this is what we know has happened in just the past few moments tonight as the U.S. issues its most dire assessment yet, warning that a full-scale Russian invasion of this country is imminent. These Russian troops and tanks earlier today approaching the Ukraine border near the City of Kharkiv.

Tonight, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby telling reporters troops are already on the move.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: ... believe that additional Russian military forces are moving into that region not beyond that region that we have seen.


BURNETT: And if you listen to Vladimir Putin, those forces have absolutely everything they need for any kind of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through interpreter): We have weapons that have no equal in the world put on combat standby duty.


BURNETT: "We have weapons no equal in the world put on combat standby." This comes as Putin received a standing ovation today from Russia's Parliament after it gave him the easy green light to his decision to recognize two republics in Ukraine as independent states.

It all comes, as I mentioned, a state of emergency is now formally in effect here in Ukraine. It started at midnight local time. That means tighter security outside government buildings and transportation hubs. And earlier, we heard the warnings coming from authorities here in Lviv.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Foreign language).


BURNETT: That was a test. It was a practice today. They're telling people that if the electrical grid is down to listen to police broadcasting emergency messages from police cars, because they wouldn't have access to the internet or anything else. The deputy mayor here told me they're preparing for an unthinkable event.

This hour, we will show you an emergency shelter they've now designated in a crypt. I showed him, meantime, what Russians were saying today on Russian state television ahead of tonight's growing crisis. They put up a map of Ukraine, I'll show it to you. The announcer showing that map and saying the only part of that country that is really Ukraine's and not Russia's is the tiny yellow part in the middle. Here is what the deputy mayor said when I showed him.


ANDRIY MOSKALENKO, FIRST DEPUTY MAYOR, LVIV: We know that we live in our country, independent country and we will fight for our independence.


BURNETT: And as these developments continue fighting is what this may come to. We have reporters across the country tonight. I begin with Matthew Chance, he is in Kyiv. And Matthew, Ukrainian President Zelensky addressing the country. I believe posting amid these growing warnings that an invasion is imminent. What did he have to say?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, that's right. Within the last hour, he's made that social media post, carrying a statement to the people of Ukraine, but also to the people of Russia as well.

He revealed in that that he actually tried to call Vladimir Putin, but that call had been met with silence. It seems that the Russians simply didn't respond. They didn't take the call of the Ukrainian president which is incredible, given the very tense sort of situation we're in right now with the possibility of an imminent Russian strike.


So what we heard from Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, is I think he described it as a last-ditch appeal, a very emotional one for Russia. He spoke in Russian, for instance, not in Ukrainian which is what he normally makes these sort of national addresses in. And he spoke directly to the Russian people saying that you have been told that Ukraine needs to be free, but the people of Ukraine are already free.

He said that you're told that we hate Russian culture, but he said that how can anyone hate any culture. He went on to say that we are different, but that does not mean that we need to be - that's no reason to be enemies. And so it was, again, a very emotional appeal at this sort of 59th minute, 11th hour as the United States warns that a full-scale Russian invasion could be upon us.

And so we'll see what the coming hours in this city and in this country bring, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes, indeed, an incredibly tense moment that we are witnessing right now. Matthew, thank you very much. We'll be checking back in with Matthew this hour.

I want to go now to Evelyn Farkas, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia under President Obama and retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, former U.S. Army Commanding General for Europe and the 7th Army.

All right. There are a lot of moving developments here this hour and it is, of course, two o'clock in the morning here. It's not stopping things from happening as they develop. So Gen. Hertling, let me start with what we found out here after midnight tonight.

We found out Ukraine is shutting some of its airports in the East, including that of the city of Kharkiv, second biggest in this country. A city of more than a million people. What does this mean?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It means they're getting ready for what could be both surprise attacks and artillery barrages, additional cyber warfare more than just cyber reconnaissance. It could be much more devastating than that.

Across the board, there have been warnings of these so called false flag operations. There were two, today were both the Russian-backed separatists and both of the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk stated they're under Ukrainian shelling, which has been repeatedly proven to be false. They are the ones doing those shelling.

There's a rumor that chemical plant in Armiansk, Crimea, one of the largest chemical manufacturers in Eastern Europe that - and by the way, it belongs to Ukrainian oligarch, Dmitry Firtash, which we've known about for a while and his dealings with Manafort. It's been completely emptied of employees and there's an indicator that that might be used as a false flag.

So you're looking for Mr. Putin to find new excuses to attack. He doesn't want to talk to the President of Ukraine. He doesn't want to listen to all the world leaders across the board, not just in Europe, but in other nations saying, don't do this. You'll suffer for this. So I'm sure that the citizens of Eastern Ukraine are very concerned about what might happen next.

BURNETT: I mean, look, these developments are happening and they're not taken lightly and they're happening in the very early hours of this morning here

Evelyn, let me ask you, President Zelensky yesterday said there wouldn't be a war, there wouldn't be abroad war. Tonight, he has obviously approved closing of airspace. We're in a state of emergency which he did announce prior and he called Vladimir Putin, who did not take his phone call. What do you make of that?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: Well, I mean, Erin, it's clear that there's going to be a massive offensive. I had hoped previously that it would be restricted to just maybe the areas of Donbas that the separatists control already. But I think if he talks, if Vladimir Putin - he's talking about his forces and how big they are and what they can achieve. It's hard for me to imagine that they're just going to take the part where the separatists are.

So they will take all of Donbas and maybe press on further and maybe they'll stop at the Dnieper River, but short of Kyiv. But everything we've heard, including from our president, from President Biden, indicates that he's not going to. So I'm very concerned this is going to look like the Balkan Wars in the 1990s with refugee flows, thousands of people killed and made refugees and injured. And the world is going to be in a really difficult position, because

we are not going to be able to stand by and watch this, so I don't know, again, what the answer is, but it's not going to look good.

BURNETT: And Gen. Hertling, I just want to put an exclamation point on that. We don't know what will happen, of course, but what Evelyn's talking about, east of the Dnieper River. I mean, that is the entire eastern part of this country.


One of the largest countries in Europe. I mean this is something that we have not seen in terms of a land grab since World War II, if that's what happens.

HERTLING: Yes. And I'll put an exclamation point on what Evelyn just said, because it is going to be worse than the Balkan. Excuse me, it has the potential to be exponentially worse than the Balkans conflict. The kinds of weaponry, that kinetic activity, the potential for destruction that is in the army that - navy and air force that Mr. Putin has surrounded Ukraine with is significantly more challenging than anything we saw in the Balkans having been to that area of the world.

And it could be not only thousands of deaths, but I would suggest 10s of thousands of deaths on both sides, on both Ukrainian side and the Russian side. And unfortunately, what I'm concerned about is, Erin, we've been looking at those little circles on the map. Those represents represent an awful lot of people and that's the really devastating effect of war.

BURNETT: It is truly incredible to comprehend that we appear to be at this moment. Evelyn, I do just want to let you know, we have some breaking news now, the U.N. Security Council has convened an emergency meeting for 9:30 pm Eastern Standard Time. So you have another piece coming into play here, airports closing in the east and now the U.N. Security Council. In what situation would that be happening in this setting that wasn't an urgent and imminent invasion?

FARKAS: Yes. I mean, that tells us that it's going to happen tonight and we have the intelligence and we called for it. Erin, I actually want to agree with Gen. Hertling, because I should say it would be worse than the Balkans as well. I also spend time in the Balkans and I know about the Russian armaments, so it's going to be worse.

U.N. Security Council meeting will help even though the council itself won't take any action, because Russia is on a council and China will at best abstain. But the general assembly can make some statements. They can take a vote. And we need the global community to stand up to Russia.

Russia is lying about why they're going into Ukraine, but they're very blatantly threatening use of military force in the face of the West, led by the United States saying we're ready for diplomacy. So it's outrageous that they are running over an innocent sovereign country right now or about to. BURNETT: Gen. Hertling, Kharkiv, the second largest city in this

country where they have closed the airport tonight. Yesterday, President Zelensky, the U.S. had intelligence that Kharkiv could probably be a target. That's been said before. President Zelensky chose to not evacuate the city.

Probably a lot of people wouldn't have evacuated, probably it could have caused panic across this country had he done that right, so all of those are reasons he did not do it. But nonetheless, you now have a city of more than a million people, literally in the crosshairs of a possible mass invasion at this hour.

HERTLING: Yes. A million and a half people, Erin, and it is an absolutely gorgeous city. It is a cultural icon, both for Russia and for Ukraine. It was once the capital of Ukraine. And it has been a phenomenal, industrial, technological, cultural city and it's just amazing because it is so close to not only Belarus but the Russian border that it could potentially be along the axis of advance for a pincer movement if you would, if the Russian Donbas or the Russian-led leaders in the Donbas continue to push in that area.

From a military perspective, Kharkiv will be in the mix for sure, one way or another. It will have overflight. And one of the reason I just comment too about the closure of airports that you mentioned, the reason they're closing all the airports in the East, geez, we have a reason for that, it happened in 2014 when an MH17 airliner was shot down by a BUK military system.

So when you have that much military hardware in the eastern part of Ukraine, certainly you want to try and protect the civilians. But the Russians have not put a lot of emphasis on protecting civilian combatants - non-combatants, rather, in the last several wars they participated in.

BURNETT: No. And we should say I believe Flightradar had tracked a flight that was supposed to land at Kharkiv, it got turned around ended up landing in Kyiv and I should emphasize, of course, the airport there are open, even though Kyiv would possibly be very much part of any major Russian offensive if that is indeed what occurs.

Evelyn, let me play for you what the Secretary of State Blinken just said about what he expects to happen with Russia.



LESTER HOLT, NBC HOST: Do you have reason to believe that before this night is over Russian forces will be engaged in something akin to a full invasion of Ukraine?

ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: I do. Unfortunately, Russia has positioned its forces at the final point of readiness across Ukraine's borders to the north, to the east, to the south, everything seems to be in place for Russia to engage in a major aggression against Ukraine. HOLT: To be clear, you think tonight that could happen or will


BLINKEN: Look, I can't put a date or an exact time on it, but everything is in place for Russia to move forward.


BURNETT: Obviously, he was he was careful there and that response, Evelyn, but at the very beginning, when Lester asked, "Do you think that will happen tonight?" Secretary Blinken was very direct. "I do." Do you think he's right? I should know, of course, it's just after 2 am here.

FARKAS: Well, I know Secretary Blinken, I worked with him. I sat with him in The Situation Room when he was leading all of us on the response, recommendations to President Obama in 2014. He is not a risk taker when it comes to public statements. So I'm thinking that he has pretty good solid intelligence, the intelligence community must have told him they are ready to go and that means at any moment.

BURNETT: Thank you both very much. I appreciate your being with us as we cover this breaking and incredibly sobering story.

Next, we are going to take you to the City of Kharkiv. As I said, the second largest city in Ukraine, about a million and a half people, Russian forces less than 50 miles away. The airport now closed.

Plus, new insight into Putin's mindset tonight. Everything comes down now to that. CNN learning the French President Macron told reporters that Putin recently seemed much more isolated, much stiffer.

And see how churches in this City of Lviv are now preparing for the unthinkable to take in people should Putin invade.


BURNETT: It's a church. It's going to be ready to serve as a shelter if it's needed here in the center of Lviv. In a moment we're going to show you some more of what it looks like down here.




BURNETT: Breaking news, the State Department telling CNN "body bags will return to Moscow if Putin invades Ukraine". It comes as U.S. officials warned a full-scale invasion is imminent. Airports have been closed in the east of this country tonight. But for Ukrainians who live near Russian-backed rebel territories, well, they're in the middle of this right now. It already feels to them as if a war is underway. Sam Kiley is OUTFRONT with this report from eastern Ukraine.


wasn't much but it was home. And now it's as torn as the title deeds Irena holds in her hands. Her house was blown up by a shell fired from Russian-backed rebel territory on the day Vladimir Putin recognize the enclave is independent from Ukraine.


IRENA, RESIDENT OF NOVOLUHANSKE, UKRAINE: Yes, this is the living room. There is the bathroom. The washing machine is gone. And that's all that's left of the toilet.

KILEY (on camera): When something like this happens and you have the threat that you've now facing from Russia just down the road, do you think you're going to see more of this kind of thing?

IRENA: No, we are home now. We are not afraid. I don't want to blame Ukraine or Russia. We just want peace for everyone. There are people there too, and they also suffer.


KILEY (voice over): Irena has a daughter, Veronica, who's nine.


KILEY (on camera): This is the bedroom of Veronica. Luckily, she was in the kitchen lying on the floor when the shells landed. But it could have been so much worse.


KILEY (voice over): This shell killed Irena's neighbor, Roman, when it exploded about 100 yards from her front door.


KILEY (on camera): If you're living 500 meters from a front line, this is as bad a place as you could possibly be. That tower there serves as an ideal aiming point for any kind of artillery.


KILEY (voice over): Roman was killed outside his garage.

Nadia, another neighbor says that full shells landed the day Roman died. She and her son who's 50 and a former Ukrainian marine fear that a Kremlin-driven escalation could result in an unthinkable tragedy. He lives in rebel territory and he may be conscripted into the secessionist army any time.


NADIA, RESIDENT OF NOVOLUHANSKE, UKRAINE: I'm very worried. Imagine if he is forced to shoot his mother. He is very worried.


KILEY (voice over): This is the fifth day of heavy shelling in the area. The threat of a full-scale Russian invasion hangs over Roman's funeral. But disaster is what this frontline town has learned to live with. And is this what the rest of Ukraine may soon also learn to ignore.


KILEY (on camera): Now, Erin, since we were there, the leaders of the breakaway secessionist Russian-backed rebel groups have now appealed for Vladimir Putin to send military help to them and that is because not only do they lay claim to the area that they're already occupying behind that frontline, but they lay claim to the whole of the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblast, the provinces.

And at the same time because we've now had the declaration of a national emergency coming from the Ukrainian government, new American intelligence suggesting that Vladimir Putin's troops may very soon be on the move. And for the first time we've been also seeing on the roads in the east of the country, significant movements, particularly of multiple rocket launching systems. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. Sam, thank you very much in Kharkiv, a city under great stress and anxiety tonight.

OUTFRONT now Paul Kolbe. He is former Chief of the CIA Central Eurasia division.

Paul, let's just talk about what we understand tonight at this hour. We know that President Zelensky here in Ukraine called President Putin in the wee hours of this morning, okay. I should emphasize that all this that we're finding out is - with the airport's closing, it's all happening past midnight.

So Zelensky calls Putin, Putin is not available and refuses to take that phone call. Zelensky goes on Facebook, appeals in Russian, uses the Russian language not the Ukrainian language in what seems to be an emotional last moment appeal as our Matthew Chance reports. What do you read into Putin's action?


PAUL KOLBE, FORMER CHIEF, CIA'S CENTRAL EURASIA DIVISION: Well, look, Putin's made a decision to go and it was really clear in his meeting, a security council meeting where he had his ministers line up and like schoolchildren, given the answer they wanted to get. It's clear in his speech where he laid out not only that Ukraine doesn't have a right to exist, but that it never did exist.

And in writings over the last year, it's been clear that he's been laying the case for an invasion of Ukraine, for Russia taking it over. It's also been clear that he's built the military capability to do that. So all we've been waiting for now is for the intent to manifest and I believe it's manifesting. BURNETT: Yes. As you point out, last summer, every single soldier in

the Russian Army received a letter written by Putin as to why Ukraine should be part of Russia. As we see what happens here, in these next hours and days, you look back at that timeline and it is it is quite painful to see.

Paul, the thing is here is Putin had a lot of off ramps and he had a lot of choices. And he's invading a country that doesn't want to be invaded and doesn't want to be part of Russia. So he's doing things that don't make sense in a lot of ways, if he does this. And in that context, people who've seen him recently say that sort of how he's acting and how he's behaving has changed.

The French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that Putin was stiffer and more isolated after they met this month then Putin had been when he saw him before COVID. French officials telling the Wall Street Journal that Putin 'tended to talk in circles' and had a paranoid nature.

What do you read into this in the context of Macron saying it was different than it was before?

KOLBE: Well, Putin is taking an enormous gamble. This is an invasion, which is not going to go well. It's an invasion that the Russian people don't support aren't prepared for. There's no one in Russia clamoring to invade Ukraine, where their friends live, where their relatives live. No one's looking for the body bags to come home, which are - Putin is going to try to swallow a porcupine here, and that's going to be really hard for the Russian bear to digest it.

This is a conflict that's going to not take place over the next days or the next weeks. This is a conflict that is going to extend over months and years. Whether the invasion goes well for Putin or not, he's going to change the shape of Europe and is going to set enduring lines of conflict within Ukraine and on the borders of Ukraine with the West.

Putin is trying and the folks around him, his small circle of former KGB officers, really on a mission that's about more than Ukraine. It's about trying to kick a west that they see as in inexorable decline. They're putting a mantle, a messianic mantle on of building great Russian statehood and they're looking to do it at the expense of liberal democratic values at the expense of the people and sovereignty of Ukraine.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Paul.

And next, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee is my guest. So what are U.S. lawmakers being told as we - I should just let you know, of course, now we are just two hours away from an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting that has just been convened urgently tonight in New York.

Plus, the prosecutors working on the investigation into Trump's organization have just resigned. What does this say about the criminal case against Trump? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BURNETT: All right. We have breaking news as this story is moving moment by moment. It appears some sort of a cyber attack on some crucial government website infrastructure. The foreign minister, security services, cabinet minister, infrastructure and education. All those government websites in Ukraine are down. There had been a cyber attack earlier today on some of the sites as well as banks.

Now some of those were back up and now we have seeing what appears to be some sort of a cyber attack on foreign ministry security services, education and infrastructure. So, we're going to keep monitoring that as the story continues to move this hour.

One other story to cover tonight, I do want to update you on and that is a major development in the criminal investigation into Donald Trump's business practices. Two prosecutors leading that have abruptly resigned. And this is a significant development in that story. The resignations coming after the Manhattan district attorney told the prosecutors he had doubts about moving toward with the case against Trump.

This someone of three ongoing probes surrounding the former president. And the uncertainty around the case has meant to witnesses have been questions before the grand jury in more than a month. This is according to "The New York Times". The grand jury term expires in April. So, you're right up near tend of it.

Paula Reid is OUTFRONT.

And, Paula, this is significant development. We want to break in with it. What more are you learning tonight?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. CNN learned the two top prosecutors on this case, Kerry Dunn and Mark Pomerantz, have submitted their resignation to the district attorney's office but it's unclear exactly why they have stepped down. But "The New York Times" reports that this comes as the newly installed Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has expressed doubts about his ability to bring a case against former president.

And as you noted in the introduction, this has resulted in prosecutors not questioning a witness before the grand jury in approximately a month. We know from our reporting that investigators have been using that grand jury to build their cases in this investigation.

When he was elected, Bragg pledged to personally oversee and pay attention to this investigation. He called it consequential and said it was one that merited his personal attention.

Now last summer, the Manhattan district attorney's office before he got there brought criminal charges against the Trump Organization accusing it of tax fraud and brought charges against one of its top executives. [19:35:00]

Now, CNN reported that the investigation is reaching a critical phase and prosecutors were nearing in on the accuracy of financial statements for the Trump Organization had submitted. Erin, at this point, it's not clear what these high profile resignations mean for the rest of this investigation.

But even if the Manhattan district attorney does not bring criminal charges against the former president, he still faces legal jeopardy in the state of New York. Just about a week ago, a judge ordered that former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump can be deposed by the state attorney general in her civil I investigation into a very similar issues.

BURNETT: Paula, thank you very much.

I want to bring in reaction to Paula's reporting, Shan Wu, former federal prosecutor and counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno.

Shan, so, I just want to cut to the bottom line here. Does this mean the criminal case here against Trump is dead?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: No. We don't know that yet, Erin. If the rumors that we're hearing are true and they resigned because they were not happy with the direction that the DA Bragg was leaning in, that's extremely significant. That would signal very bad news for criminal prosecution.

And I can't emphasis enough just how unusual that would be for a brand new district attorney to turn his back on an investigation this far down the track to overturn the recommendations of the prosecutors who have been working on it, closest to it. That would be highly unusual. Prosecutor and U.S. attorney's office under two different U.S. attorneys, one Republican, one Democrat, never saw that happen. Great deference is given to that.

And certainly, White House counsel to Attorney General Reno, there's enormous deference given to the career prosecutors.

BURNETT: So, there's a lot we don't know. Obviously, it could be incredibly damming but there's so much we don't know. And, obviously, Alvin Bragg is a controversial figure right now in terms of how he's come in many other cases as well.

The New York attorney general on the civil side of this case, Shan, just scored a victory. She was granted the right to depose Trump and two of his children in her civil investigation that's been running parallel to the criminal investigation into the Trump Organization. So, if the criminal aspect of this case is over, if it's done, does -- what does that mean for the civil? Does the civil investigation carry teeth anymore in that case?

WU: Oh, it does, Erin. Legally, it won't affect the civil investigation. It can move forward. Obviously, there are political, atmospheric, PR type issues that may come in play there. But legally, it won't effect it and there's a lower standard of proof for the civil case.

And people may remember it like the best example is O.J. Simpson who was acquitted criminally but then he was found liable civilly. So, the civil case can march on.

BURNETT: All right. Shan, one final question here and that is about Ivanka Trump. I know she's in discussions with the January 6th committee to appear, voluntarily, for an interview. Totally unclear whether it's stalling tactic or real. So, the bottom line on this is how likely is it that Ivanka Trump will reveal anything substantial about what her father knew, was preparing for or did that day?

WU: Well, I think it's hard to know what she'll reveal. She might see this as an opportunity to do some messaging for her dad. But she's clearly taken the more common approach towards this type of appearance, the invitation to speak.

She's not going be flame throwing here and say I defy any jurisdiction. Probably her lawyers will do some negotiating, identify areas that she's comfortable talking about and she has a couple of privileges that they be asserted such as Fifth Amendment, even executive privilege.

So, substance a little hard to say. But I don't see -- I don't think we'll see a lot of fireworks just to get her into that conservation.

BURNETT: Shan, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

WU: You're welcome.

BURNETT: All right. And OUTFRONT next, our breaking news continues here from Ukraine. We have some developments on flight paths and air space along the Russian-Ukraine border, significant. We're going to have that for you in just a couple of moments, as we break it down here.

And Putin tonight saying when you attack, you'll see our spaces and not our spines. I'm sorry, that's President Zelensky after he was refused a call with Putin.

And tonight, I'm going to take you to a crypt that I just saw here in Lviv, a crypt that is now intended and ready to be used as a shelter if the unthinkable occurs. It's small but it may end up mattering.



BURNETT: Breaking news. Russia, just moments ago, issuing a notice banning civil aircraft from flight routes bordering northeastern Ukraine -- obviously, a very significant development tonight. Russia is putting out a notice banning civil aircrafts. And those flight routes bordering on northeastern Ukraine, obviously, there are Russian troops all along that border.

That's the border obviously near Kharkiv and Donbas, all of those regions of eastern Ukraine. Part of that now subject to a ban on civil aircraft.

It comes as President Zelensky has told Ukrainians that an invasion could happen at any moment, adding, quote, we will defend ourselves. Yesterday, he said there would with no war.

So, obviously, there's a big shift there. In just a moment, we're going to be joined by the Democratic Congressman David Cicilline, member of the foreign affairs committee. We're just working on his sound.

I want to go to our Fred Pleitgen, though, who has been along the Russian side of the border monitoring troop movements. We have gotten eyes on them through you, Fred, of what you have seen.

Obviously, this is a significant development here. We are just able to confirm that Russia has banned civil aircraft from flight routes bordering Northeastern Ukraine. That's very significant.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you're absolutely right. It's certainly very significant. And actually that northeastern Ukraine is where I'm standing now.

And I can tell you, Erin, that this is also the part of Russia where we have seen a lot of very ominous movement over the past hours we have been traveling here.


What I've done today is traveled almost the entire way from the south of those separatists republics that Vladimir Putin has recognized, to all the way up here to the border with northeastern Ukraine. In fact, not very far from where I am right now is the city of Kharkiv, which is, of course, one that the U.S. is concerned about that could be hit is Russia launches that invasion as the U.S. said, that Vladimir Putin might order.

The signs we're seeing here is we have seen a lot of military on the ground here but the other thing we have also seen is military trucks who have actually had their license plates on backwards. They turned the plate around which trying to mask some sort of movement or something.

We have seen a lot of those trucks on the road. We have seen a lot of those trucks with their license plates backwards seemingly trying to move in way you might not be able to track their movement.

But in general what we're seeing is the Russian military really in a position where it seems as they could strike at any point in time. Down south, you see a lot of Russian convoys there, unclear whether or not they have gone over the border yet.

The way that all of this could happen is, you might have two areas where the Russians might fry to try to go across the border. We saw a lot of military build up. We drove up to north. There's a lot of places along the border where there's no military at all. Now that we're getting to this region you really do feel not only a

lot more military on the road, a lot more military on the sides of the road, but you also feel that the situation in general is a lot more tense. We're seeing a lot more check points along the road.

We ourselves were checked twice by both police officers and then also by the military as well, saying we shouldn't film in certain places. You really feel how things are getting more tense by the minute and you also see that the Russian military is on the ground here and certainly seems to be in a position to strike at any point and time if Vladimir Putin chooses to order that, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much.

We're going to be checking back in with Fred. Obviously, hugely significant all that context, the check points he's had to go through today.

All of those things have changed. You've been hearing imminent for weeks.

But now, in these past few hours, certainly there has been a logistical change. There has been a change on the ground, that airspace now closing, airports closing. There's a palpable shift. There's no other way to put it, there's a palpable shift here.

OUTFRONT next, the breaking news. We do have Congressman David Cicilline. He will be with us to talk about the major developments tonight with those airports closed, Russia banning flight paths along the border and we're going to show you an emergency shelter in a crypt.


BURNETT: I'm under ground in the crypt of a 400-year-old church. Now this is serving as an emergency shelter. Anyone stuck in the city center when the police say there's an emergency of any sort, the deputy mayor says this is place people are supposed to come and take shelter.



BURNETT: Breaking news. The U.N. Security Council is getting ready to hold an emergency meeting in less than two hours. They just announced this at the very beginning of this program. So, just after 7:00 Eastern Standard Time.

Ukraine shutting down multiple airports in the east of this country. The president of Ukraine calling Vladimir Putin late tonight. Putin did not take the call and, of course, Russia closing that airspace along the northeast Ukraine border to civilian aircraft.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic Congressman David Cicilline, member of the foreign affairs committee. He traveled to Kyiv just a few weeks ago. I appreciate your time, Congressman. As I said, look, we've been

hearing imminent now for several weeks. I have been here for almost two weeks, and the fatigue, the anxiety has risen.

Tonight, something has changed. Palpably something has changed. We are seeing things we've not seen before. Airspaces are closed, airports are closed.

The U.N. Security Council has called an emergency meeting tonight. Based on what you're seeing and hearing, where do you think we are?

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Well, Erin, I think we're in a very dangerous situation. As you know, the Ukrainian people are committed to fighting for their country, but they're significantly outgunned by the power of the Russian military, but all indications are that attack actually already began when Russian troops went in Donetsk and Luhansk, and they're going to continue with their cyber attacks, and Vladimir Putin will ultimately decide whether to send additional troops into Ukraine.

But it's important to acknowledge this is aggression by Russia to take over a part of or an entire neighboring country. The world cannot allow this to happen. The world has been united. The European union, NATO, the United States, in quickly acting to impose severe sanctions that will escalate if he continues in this military engagement.

And we have to continue to make it clear there will be crushing economic consequences that will devastate the economy of Russia if Vladimir Putin goes forward with this. And at any moment he has the ability to withdraw, it doesn't look like that's the plan, but as long as we remain united and he begins to feel the economic consequences of this, and the grit and will of the Ukrainian people to fight for their own country and their own freedom, then we have some hope it will actually dissuade him from doing it.

But obviously things tonight appears as if he's made a decision to put troops in a position to actually proceed with a further invasion.

BURNETT: Yes. Our Fred Pleitgen, I don't know if you heard him, but he's right over the border on the Russian side not far from Kharkiv, a city which, of course, is right near the Russian border and the airport there is closed now tonight by Ukrainians.


But he's talking about extra checkpoints he went though today and an incredible increase in the number of convoys he saw of Russian troops heading to that border. So I know when you were here, you met with President Zelensky, I don't know if you've had a chance tonight, congressman, to see his appeal on Facebook.

Just give everyone the time line here because it's moving so quickly tonight. President Zelensky, the state of emergency began tonight as had been expected, he announced that yesterday. Then those airports closed in eastern Ukraine. President Zelensky then called President Putin who refused to take his

phone call. After that moment, Congressman, President Zelensky went on Facebook, gave an address to his nation. He did that address in Russian, perfect Russian. Of course he speaks it fluently.

And it was incredibly emotional. You don't have to be a Russian speaker to be able to tell that. One of the things he said, though, Congressman, was when you attack, you'll see our faces and not our spines, our faces. He says that knowing full well his military is no match for Russia's, but knowing full well his people have an incredible will to fight.

Do you think he's right?

CICILLINE: Yeah, look, the thing that really struck me when I was in Kyiv, you know, I have been in Ukraine in 2014, right at the -- right after the uprising of the Maidan. It's a different country. I mean, they are united in their commitment to fight for their own freedom. As so many people told us, we have tasted freedom, we are not going back to be part of the Soviet Union. We're prepared to fight in the streets.

You know, we met so many people who said I'm not in the military but I will fight for my country and I will die if I have to protect my freedoms. I think President Zelensky's address was a message to the Russian people. Sadly, they won't see it because of Russian television is basically an armed of the government. But hoping some will see, and he was making clear -- we're your neighbor, we're different, but we're not your enemy, and we seek peace.

BURNETT: Yeah. Well, obviously, all of that under such great stress tonight. Thank you very much, Congressman. I appreciate your time.

And next I'm going to take you to a crypt here. A crypt now designated to be used as a shelter should Putin launch a full-scale invasion.


BURNETT: As we follow the fast breaking news here in the early hours of Ukraine, I want to show you something that we did today. We visited a church that's designated to serve as a shelter in case of an unthinkable emergency. In fact, the city here in Lviv as now designating many church basements as shelters.

One of them is in this church in the center of the old city here in Lviv. The deputy mayor tells me it's a place people can come if they're away from home and there's a bomb he said or street provocations as part of some sort of Russian onslaught.

Today, we went to the crypt. That's what's going to serve as the shelter. And I mean, the word crypt obviously conveys a lot, right?

This particular crypt is 400 years old. We had to crawl to get into parts of it. The interior spaces were small. They were claustrophobic. There was actually a coffin in one of the largest spaces. And I kept thinking, you know, if you're in here as a shelter, you wouldn't even have the lights either. It was another sobering reminder of what the people here are living with every day, and tonight, this hour in these early hours as this breaking story develops.

And our breaking coverage continues now with "AC360."