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Erin Burnett Outfront

Russia Closes In On Kyiv; Officials: Putin Could Intensify Attack; U.S. Officials Fear The Worst Is Yet To Come In Ukraine: "Russia Has The Manpower And Firepower To Take Kyiv, No Question;" Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) Discusses About The Situation Of Ukraine; Massive Russian Convoy Nearing Kyiv Is 40 Plus Miles Long; U.N.: 520,000 Ukrainian Refugees, Number Rising "Hour After Hour;" Some Russian Oligarchs Call For "End" For War And "Bloodshed." Aired 7-8p ET

Aired February 28, 2022 - 19:00   ET


KIRA RUDIK, UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT: This is where the resistance comes in. And, of course, we will be trying to get into the negotiations.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're going to continue this conversation, Kira, and be careful over there. We will stay in touch. Thanks very much for joining us. Kira Rudik is a member of the Ukrainian Parliament. That's it for me.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the worst is yet to come. The Pentagon warning Putin has a lot of firepower left. U.S. lawmakers just coming out of what we understand was an alarming timeline for when the Ukrainian capital and other cities may fall.

And Putin increasingly isolated, completely cut off from advisors. World leaders calling him an irrational changed man. This very serious question tonight with everything on the line about has the Russian leader lost any capacity intellectually.

Plus, my 21 hour journey out of Ukraine. A firsthand account of exactly what happens. We talk about these Ukrainians and the great suffering they are going through. We're going to show you what it takes to get over that border. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, the worst is yet to come. That is the chilling warning tonight from U.S. officials who fear a frustrated Putin may soon up the ante. And we're just learning House members were given what's been called an alarming timeline for when key Ukrainian cities could fall during a classified briefing. I'm going to speak to a lawmaker who just came out of that room.

It comes as Putin is launching a shockingly more aggressive attack on the capital. It is a frightening assessment given the Russian President just had a devastating assault across Ukraine and Kharkiv. We'll show you the chilling video. That's a residential area being bombed in the city of Kharkiv. It is the second biggest city in the country.

According to the city's mayor, nine people were killed, three children burned alive in their car, 37 others were injured. These are civilians. In a late night address, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky calling the attack a war crime. In the capitol of Kyiv, again, sirens ringing out, some of the largest explosions and loudest today rocking that city, home to nearly 3 million people.

Today's attacks come as things are not going as Putin planned.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: What we also have seen is Ukrainians resisting quite effectively around Kyiv and continuously. They have made it a tough slog for the Russians to move further south. Make no mistake, Mr. Putin still has at his disposal significant combat power. He hasn't moved all of it into Ukraine, but he's moved the majority of it.


BURNETT: That's right. He's moved the majority of it and this is the part that just has to give you pause. Even in the fog of war that you feel when you're there not knowing what's happening a hundred miles away or in the nearby town, the reality of it is the one thing we do know is that there's a lot of weapons already in Ukraine that are horrific that don't appear yet to have been used even with the horrors we're seeing.

And more coming in, you can see a Russian military convoy in this satellite image consisting of armored vehicles and tanks. That line stretches for 17 miles outside of Kyiv and it all comes as chaos is consuming Ukraine's western border. Look, it's a country of 44 million people and when this happened, none of them thought it was going to happen on the scale. And now you have millions leaving everything behind to flee Ukraine.

And in a moment, I'm going to show you firsthand the struggle to get out of the country. You're going to see the people and what they are going through. It is unbelievable. It took us 21 hours to get to the border with Hungary and we're going to show you what we saw, the suffering on the way.

The UN says about 500,000 Ukrainians have left. That number is going to be the tip of the iceberg. Right now though 10s of millions are saying put putting their lives on the line to defeat the Russians. It is a remarkable show of fortitude and force that has shocked Putin.

I met these young college men the other day in Lviv and I asked them will they fight knowing now that for them death is no longer just an intellectual concept.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lviv will be under direct attack of tanks. I will go on the streets and we will (inaudible) ... BURNETT: You'll go on the street?


BURNETT: And what about you, how do you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like I didn't want to live because - to fight for Ukraine is very, I think, inspiring for me and like Ukrainian is very, very connected with me. So I think it's very honorable to fight for Ukraine. And if I will need to, I will do it.



BURNETT: Honorable, if he needs to, he'll do it. Of course, they are just barely in the range of men not allowed to leave Ukraine. Alexi (ph) is 18, Nikolah (ph) is 19.

And I spoke to them a few minutes after we had all come out from what is now - those now normal bomb shelter air raid alerts.


BURNETT: You would be willing to fight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a very hard question. I think if Lviv will be under direct attack of tanks, I will go on the streets.


BURNETT: "I will go on the streets," the baby face, just young face. I heard from Nicolah (ph) today. He told me he was volunteering today, making Molotov cocktails. He was also helping refugees, try to find different ways out of the country.

I want to go now to Matthew Chance. He's OUTFRONT live in Kyiv. And, Matthew, I know you've been witnessed to some terrifying scenes on the ground there today. Tell me what you saw and the situation you're facing right now.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, the aftermath of some very significant losses for Russian forces as they attempt to take the Ukrainian capital. The concern tonight, though, Erin, is that that big column of Russian armor you mentioned is making its way to the outskirts of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, opening the possibility that Vladimir Putin intends to launch overwhelming firepower on the city in order to take it.

And as I say, it comes after some significant losses by Russian forces. Take a look at what we saw on a strategic bridge to the north west of where we're standing right now as Russian forces tried to take Kyiv.



CHANCE: Right within the past few hours there has been a ferocious battle here on the outskirts of Kyiv.


CHANCE (voice over): This is the front line in the battle for the Ukrainian capital.


CHANCE (on camera): The Russian column that has come down here has been absolutely hammered.


CHANCE (voice over): Trucks and armored vehicles reduced to twisted Metal as Ukrainian forces dig in, catching the Kremlin and its invasion force off guard.


CHANCE (on camera): Look at this. I mean, what kind of munitions does it take to do that to a car, to a vehicle? I know that I've just been to the local Ukrainian commanders here, they've been saying that they were using western anti-tank missiles to attack these columns.

Look, so recent, the battle, this vehicle is still smoking. There's still smoke coming out.


CHANCE (voice over): Commanders like Alexander (ph) of the Ukrainian army wouldn't give me his rank or full name.

"The Russians thought they could just march into Ukrainian lands in a tramp and parade," he tells me. "They were mistaken. It will never happen," he says.


CHANCE (on camera): I mean, look, I mean this is a bit of a - almost a cliche, but obviously somebody has brought a memento from home and now it's scorched and lying with the debris of their, in this case, failed attack.


CHANCE (voice over): An attack that's left Ukrainian forces who repelled it confident, perhaps overconfident that victory can be repeated across the country, as Russian troops advanced.

"Absolutely, Ukraine will win this war," Alexander (ph) tells me. "Of course, we'll win and the Russians will rock here," he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHANCE (on camera): This vehicle here is obviously from the Russian

military. It's got the letter V (inaudible) side look in tape or in paint. I think that stands for vostok, which is the Russian word for east which implies that these military equipments, they came from the eastern divisions of the Russian military. (Inaudible) there. Look, as evidence and I want to show you, this is too much, but there's a body there. That's a Russian soldier that is lying there dead on this bridge.

You can tell they're Russian because they've got this black and orange St. George ribbon daubed across them, which is a sign, a symbol of the Russian army.

(Foreign language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language) ammunition.

CHANCE: You, ammunition. (Foreign language) ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language) ...

CHANCE: Oh, my god, there's another one there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language) ...

CHANCE (voice over): It's terrible to see the grim inhumanity of a war. For the Ukrainians and, of course, for the Russians as well, the sacrifice that is being paid by all sides in this complete waste of life is here for us all to see.



BURNETT: Matthew, as you say, just a complete waste of life and it's really hard to watch that and it's hard to imagine them leaving those bodies behind. It's disgusting. So let me ask you about more of what you saw when you saw that and you also, while you were doing that reporting on that destroyed column of Russian tanks, something very shocking happened to you. I just want to play it so everyone can see that moment.


CHANCE: I was crouching down right by a grenade there. Look, I didn't see that, so let's move away from that.


BURNETT: A live grenade. Look, Matthew, you are coming to this after living in Russia, living in Moscow and covering that country for a long time. How do you expect Russia could respond to these setbacks? And there's no other way to describe it, this isn't how they wanted it or thought it would go.

CHANCE: Yes. Look, I mean, it's hard to predict, isn't it? As always Vladimir Putin, it is difficult to read him. I mean, I hope that, perhaps, Vladimir Putin, perhaps the Kremlin and the military leadership there decide that enough is enough and that they want to sue for peace.

And in fact, there are peace talks or talks underway right now ...


CHANCE: ... to try and reach some kind of diplomatic resolution to this. But I have to tell you, my gut tells me the record would indicate that instead of backing down, Vladimir Putin is more likely to double down and I think we may get the answer to that question within the days ahead.

BURNETT: Matthew, thank you.

I want to go now to the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, the Democratic Congressman Adam Smith, who just received a classified briefing on the latest from Ukraine.

I appreciate your time, Chairman. These images are horrific. It's just complete and utter needless loss of life; dead soldiers, Ukrainian, Russian, families are never going to see those kids again. It's disgusting. I don't know how else to describe it.

I know that you can't divulge classified information and I know much of this briefing included that, but what stood out to you the most? Is there anything that you're able to share with me?

REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): Well, I think two things stand out and one - and your reporting has been incredible and very helpful - is to show the absolute inhumanity of this, to unite the world against what Putin has launched, to put pressure on him from every conceivable angle, to put pressure on him to stop and to make sure he doesn't succeed.

And what really stood out to me was bipartisan members of Congress making that statement. The second thing is what the military told us was the mission here is to help Ukraine in any way we can in this fight, while making sure that we don't get into a war between Russia and the U.S. or Russia and NATO. That's the fine line that our leaders are trying to walk and helping Ukraine as much as we can, without getting into that war that would expand and just add to the inhumanity that we're seeing in Ukraine right now.

BURNETT: So one member that came out of that briefing did say that the officials - there were some estimates that were given that were very disturbing for one of some cities could call - could fall, I'm sorry. They said they were 'alarming'. Is there anything you're able to tell us on that?

SMITH: Sure. I mean, it's clear that this did not go as well as Putin had hoped it would. It's not going along the path that he thought it would, not happening as quickly, they have not been able to move through the country as easily as they'd hoped. They are meeting far stiffer resistance, but at the same time what the briefing made clear is the overwhelming military force as you just outlined in that 17- mile column that Russia is bringing to bear.

The resistance will continue. There are countries united against it, but - I mean, the Russian timeline is behind. But we're still not at a point where we can say that they will fail because of that force that they're still bringing to bear, Erin.

BURNETT: Right. Although it's amazing and you see - there isn't a single person that I spoke to there who wasn't going to fight and whatever the manner that they were going to fight was. They were going to be doctors in the hospital, they were going to get guns, they were going to get knives, they were going to be militias. They're joining the territory defense.

I mean, every single one of them. You see that 18-year-old kid right now volunteering to help refugees and make Molotov cocktails. That's how he spends his day. And yet in all of that context, as much as they're willing to fight, there's one thing nobody can fight against, and that is a nuclear strike. And Putin has ordered the deterrence forces nuclear arms to be placed on high alert. Are you - yes, go ahead, are you ...

SMITH: No, I was going to say that's one thing that every leader and we had Secretary Austin, Chairman Milley, Secretary of State as well as others and they're very clear that we have a strong deterrent in place, so that Putin - whatever his rhetoric may be, I think we are further from that nuclear brink than some of the comments might mean, because we've made it very clear that that is a line that cannot be crossed.


But I think the other important thing to remember here, most of the analysis is on when certain cities can fall Ukraine. But even after that, even after the Russians get sort of initial control of most of Ukraine, they're going to continue to face a guerrilla war for a long time to come. They have no plan for dealing with that, because Putin's hope was that Ukraine would accept the invasion and that is clearly not going to happen.

BURNETT: What I find shocking about that is spending two weeks there, it's blatantly clear they were going to fight. And you think with all of the knowledge and all the intelligence and then being their neighbors, if that would have been something that Vladimir Putin would have known 18 months ago and yet clearly he was deaf to it, which brings me to a crucial question, Chairman, and that is as Sen. Marco Rubio mentioned, and he's on the Intelligence Committee at the Senate, he mentioned that Putin 'appears to have some neurophysiological health issues when he was talking to Jake Tapper today'.

This is actually a really, really crucial thing because it lends itself to when you're in some sort of a deterrence thing and you know what this means, it means this. Well, it doesn't mean this necessarily when you're dealing with a person who's mentally unstable. Does the United States have any sort of assessment that is accurate on Putin's mental health that you're aware of?

SMITH: I think it's very difficult to make that type of diagnosis just from watching someone on TV.


SMITH: I think what is clear, Erin, is that Putin has been surrounded by yes men. He's been being told what he wants to hear for a very long time.

Look, I was in Ukraine last August and there was a time, prior to 2014, where there were very mixed feelings in Ukraine about Russia. After 2014, Ukraine is anti-Russian and only by getting this watered down information, we miss that. So I'm less qualified on the mental health side, but it's clear he's been getting bad information for a long time.

BURNETT: At the least. All right. Thank you very much, Chairman. I appreciate your time. I always do.

SMITH: Thank you. Thank you.

BURNETT: And next Ukraine accuses Russia of using a vacuum bomb. That's exactly what it means. It sucks the oxygen from the air. It sucks the oxygen from a human beings lungs and organs with devastating and horrific consequences.

Plus, first the French president and now a top U.S. Senator questioning Putin's mental state. The Russian leader is increasingly isolated, even now from his top advisors. And the harrowing journey to get out of Ukraine. We wanted to witness it, to see it in our 21-hour trek to try to get to a border.


BURNETT: All right. This is the main train station here in Lviv. It is unbelievably crowded and most of these people, this is the final stop they can get west. Many of the men are trying to board buses to go to Poland.




BURNETT: Breaking news, we have new satellite images and they show that Russian military convoy on the outskirts of Kyiv, I just mentioned it to you that 17 miles. Well, now, the images have been updated, and guess how long it is, it's 40 miles. So that's more than double what it was. A 40-mile convoy heading towards Kyiv.

It comes from the Maxar Technologies satellite company and they're giving us details about what's in this massive 40-mile convoy; armored vehicles, tanks, towed artillery and logistical village vehicles. It comes as U.S. officials warn that Russian forces plan to intensify their attack on Kyiv, Western official tell CNN though that Putin is, of course, well behind schedule. Originally, he thought it would fall within one to three days. He's

already used about half of the Russian forces that were deployed to this region. OUTFRONT now, the retired U.S. Army Major General James 'Spider' Marks.

And General, I appreciate your time. And I know you've been going through these maps with us and it's been so crucial to really understand this detail. So can you first start off with where you're seeing the heaviest fighting right now?

JAMES MARKS, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. Absolutely, Erin. The heaviest fighting right now certainly is in the vicinity of Kyiv that we've talked about. And we certainly have the imagery that portrays that, we'll get to that in just a sec. What's also important to notice is that in this area, we've gotten some really good reporting, obviously from over the border in Russia and then some reporting, most recently, in Kharkiv, indicating that there has been some significant shelling.

Let me take for a second and demonstrate for you. Again, a built up area entering into that is extremely difficult for the Russian forces. The Ukrainians have a home field advantage in this case. And what we're seeing basically is indiscriminate fire. We don't know exactly what targets the Russians are going after.

I think what's important to realize is get back to the bigger map, when we start looking at Kyiv, and we'll do that in a little more detail, this is where the Russian forces are really going to bog down. This is when they hit this very viscous, very difficult area in order to achieve any movement at all.

Just think of any type of urban combat, that type of human terrain is incredibly difficult to try to achieve some success. Here's the image that you were just speaking about, Erin, right up here. This is really what we're looking at is the convoy. This is not unexpected. When forces are deployed, logistics must necessarily be associated with that movement.


MARKS: So where there is combat, you've got to have this tail in order to refuel, to feed, to provide communications, et cetera, and that's what you're seeing with this.

BURNETT: Okay. So you've got that to provide that backup, which is actually a separate point. They failed in a lot of those ways, they've run out of fuel, they've run out of food. I mean, there's been some very serious issues that you wouldn't expect of one of the world's supposedly preeminent military.

MARKS: This quickly in the campaign, you're absolutely correct.

BURNETT: So when you talk about Kyiv and you're talking about that now 40-mile convoy, where is it going?

MARKS: It is going initially to Antonov Airport, which is where they have an airhead established. They came in with some air assault forces early on. And in that location, they could fly some resupply in, they can fly forces in and also they can come down here, get ready to engage in combat.

This is an administrative move. You look at that - you look at this imagery, this is just vehicles lined up back to back. This is what we call target-rich. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Ukrainians had the ability to go after this convoy and to really kind of beat it up as it's moving into this area.

This is not highly protected at all. So they want to get into this location dismount and then start conducting operations in here, which will just eat them up.


BURNETT: Right, right, well, now you understand when all this began with the invasion, taking out those radio battalions, the communications, air force, like all those things so that they could move those convoys in. I mean, that was the rationale for that.

All right. General, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

And I want to go straight to Seth Jones, Director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. So Seth, the satellite images show that massive convoy now are very close to the center of Kyiv, they've moved in from that suburb, but obviously facing fierce resistance.

We do understand, though, as part of this, even though the Russians are using the majority of their military already, were told by Ukrainian official that Belarus is now prepared to join the invasion directly. Just to be clear to people, they probably, it appears, certainly appeared from where we were that they were using Belarus to fire rockets and missiles into bases. But I'm talking about direct joining the invasion, actually using Belarusian military. What does that mean? Do you believe the worst is yet to come?

SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, INTL. SECURITY PROGRAM AT CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, I do you believe the worst is probably yet to come. If Belarusian forces, ground forces, entered the war, it would increase the footprint so that the Russians and Belarusian forces could conduct attacks against cities, including Kyiv.

And Spider just outlined, we're seeing towed artillery. We've got made battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, the general approach in a situation like this and the Russian showed it in Chechnya and Grozny, they showed it in Syrian cities, including Aleppo is a scorched earth policy as they bring in a maneuver force to take territory.

BURNETT: So scorched earth means civilians and when you mentioned Chechnya, I'm thinking about a horrific type of bomb that I know that the Russians have used there. And the Ukrainian Ambassador of the U.S., says Russia is now prepared - actually did use it here, it's called a thermobaric bomb and it's a vacuum bomb. Our CNN crews had spotted flame throwers over the weekend. These are

flame throwers, everyone knows these are the kinds of bombs that can - I'm sorry, that can shoot the actual thermobaric weapon. And so people understand what they do, a thermobaric weapon can basically keep structures intact, but it sucks oxygen out. There's a powerful pressure wave and it sucks it out of a human being.

It basically sucks the air out of your lungs and your organs and it's horrible and I'm describing it this way, because it's a horrible way to die and it's used against civilians. They've got them in the country. Ukrainians are saying they're using them. Seth, is this going to be - we're going to hear about this with civilians now?

JONES: Well, I think Erin the broader context here is that the Russians have the capabilities, including thermobaric bombs, to use - to lay waste to huge chunks of cities like Kyiv, if they make that decision. Again, the objective here is to get civilians out, in some cases to kill them and then to use maneuver forces, ground forces to come into cities like Kyiv to then conquer them.

I mean, that's the whole purpose you use. Standoff weapons, you use thermobaric weapons and you use artillery barrages is to destroy huge chunks of territory so then you could take it by a maneuver element.

BURNETT: Okay. Obviously, that is a horrific thing to contemplate. And perhaps part of the reason they're in this situation is that they fail to do what they thought they were going to do, which was a blitzkrieg sort of a thing. They thought they were going to blitz on it and they were going to get it and Putin probably thought he was being welcomed with open arms, obviously false on every front.

But to that front, what we've now started to see is real cracks in the Russian military. They're not picking up their dead. They're running out of fuel. There's been no repairs that have failed on some of their machinery. It isn't what you'd expect from one of the greatest militaries in the world. What do you make of that?

JONES: Well, Erin, those are all challenges we've seen with the Russian military so far in Ukraine. There are two others that are interesting, one is they've sent no forces to Ukraine's western border. There are weapons pouring in. There are people coming in to fight with Ukraine. There are other military, non-military equipment, so there's nothing stopping material from coming across the border that will shoot at Russian tanks and aircraft.

The second issue is that the footprint of the force to population ratio is about three to four Russian soldiers per thousand habitants. That is an astronomically low number. If they want to hold any territory, once they conquer it will put Russian forces in grave danger of being picked apart by Ukrainian insurgents once they do control some ground.

BURNETT: Yes. And there are those insurgents and they are armed, and they are ready, and they were armed before this. They were prepared. All right. Thank you very much, Seth, I appreciate your time. And next question that pretty much everyone is asking now with fear

around the world about where this is going to go. What is Putin thinking? Because what he did isn't rational and what he's talking about doing isn't rational. And those who know him say he's more isolated and more paranoid and more reckless, so what is going on?


And Seth mentioned the western border and it's a pretty terrifying thing what he just said, because that western border is the only way people are getting out. You see these images, this is what we saw. We could show you the hellish journey that now, it's going to be millions of Ukrainians are taking to get out of the country.


BURNETT: So, an hour and ten minutes, we went about one-half of one mile. So, that means obviously do the math, the distance to the border, it would take us 57 hours to get there at the pace we're going now.


BURNETT: Tonight, 520,000 refugees have already fled Ukraine since Russia's invasion, and those are just the formal numbers. They are staggering. It's from the United Nations.

It is a number that is rising exponentially, hour after hour. And that's just a fact because every single minute at those borders, people are crossing over. And behind them are tens of thousands of people -- Poland, Romania, Slovakia, just some of the neighboring countries that -- where refugees are risking their lives to enter for safety.

And they are not spending hours to get there, they are spending days, sleeping on the side of the road, sleeping in cars. It is something that my team and I saw up close on our journey out of Ukraine.


It was a trip that would normally, to get to the polish border, have taken us about two or three hours. It took us 21 hours.

Here's our story.


BURNETT (voice-over): The day began well before dawn with air-raid sirens.

Those sirens you hear, actually, mark the end of the air-raid warning that we just had. The air raid actually went off while it was still dark, while I was getting ready. Had to go to the basement for a little bit. Obviously, it was full because the hotel is absolutely full of people fleeing trying to get further west. Now, we are load up. Few minutes delay because of that and we are

about to be on our way to the border. We are in the van at 7:00 a.m. driving through a shell-shocked city. City, where many had already fled and others were arriving in masse from points farther east. The cold is cruel. There are young children everywhere, exhausted families. Most have nowhere to go. Their destination is still unknown.

This is the main train station here in Lviv. It is unbelievably crowded and most of these people, this is the final stop they can get rest. Many of the men are trying to board buses to go to Poland I will say this is the most diverse group of people that we have seen since we came into this country.

Some head straight from the trains to the bus depot. So you buy the tickets on the bus?

So that's why they're jammed, sort of first come, so the bus is full to get the tickets.

We see a group of women and children.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to get bus tickt.s

BURNETT: How to get bus tickets, trying to get a taxi. They came from Kyiv. Your whole family?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We separate. We don't know each other.

BURNETT: Don't know each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. We met on the train.

BURNETT: And now, traveling together?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. We're trying.

BURNETT: Yeah, trying.

All right. So we can see the -- they are on a similar to an Uber app. They are looking at trying to get a car.

Back in our van, about one hour later, we saw where those ride hires ended.

We have just come to a complete stop. We are 28 1/2 miles from the border exactly. You hear or see cars going the other direction. Now, we understand why. I was wondering why they were there. It's because people are getting to this point, and just turning around and giving up.

We should be like planning our gas situation because I --

The gas here? Long gone. Now, we know why we have seen abandoned cars. We are stunned.

People who have been living normal lives in comfortable houses and wealthy cities, going to work, to school, days before now with just the clothes on their backs. Others reducing their entire lives to a suitcase. Their baby strapped on strollers, pets, toddlers walking. These people are 30 miles from the border. They may spend nights in the biting cold.

YON POMRENZE, ERIN'S PRODUCER IN UKRAINE: I wonder if there is anyone who --

BURNETT: Our team -- here, you see Jan, Hanna and James didn't have any idea what about what to do either. There is no answer.

POMRENZE: Going to start calling the people we have at least on the other side of the border, to see if we should try to go to one of the other Polish ones. And then, you know, they say they don't have anyone in terms of figuring out Slovak or Hungarian but hopefully they can look at news reports or something that is somewhat recent, maybe it could help us make a decision.

BURNETT: Right. People posting on social media or something.

POMRENZE: I think it is just, you know, if we do 3 1/2 hours down there, and then also bad and, you know, which -- which border do we end up spending the night in the car.

BURNETT: This woman was hoping to eventually get to Germany. So in an hour and ten minutes, we went about one-half of one mile. So, that means obviously, do the math, the distance to the border, it would take us 57 hours to get there at the pace we are going now. And the situation at this border crossing, we understand, has deteriorated dramatically.

There is a lot of tension here. We just saw a skirmish. Someone tried to come in and cut in and come through here to the gas station and literally the car he was cutting off wouldn't let that person in.

When you are 57 miles, 57 hours away from the border, it's just -- give us you a sense of how desperate people are.

So, we turned around. Behind us? The end of the line. People here, not yet aware they are 30 miles, and several days, from possibly crossing a border.

This is mark, a career war zone photojournalist.


He is filming almost all of what you are seeing here -- lines of cars, more lines of cars, lines of cars, a soul-crushing reality. Rare moments of what is normal life along the way.

But mostly this -- sitting, parked, engine off, waiting at checkpoints like this one. Hanna filmed locals building cinder block towers and piling up tires to stop a Russian' against. We lost count of the number of checkpoints but one was worse than all the others.

So now, we are headed for border crossings either on the Hungarian border or Slovakian border. The line of cars here, though, is actually for a checkpoint. And this particular checkpoint, we have been in line for almost two hours. And we probably have at least that far to go, all the way up and around that curve and up that hill.

I was wrong there. It took us more than six hours to get past that checkpoint. People fell asleep waiting but no one ever cut around a sleeping driver when the line moved three or four car lengths. They just waited. While there, we talk today people, like Oleksander, who was trying to find a border where he could drop his wife off.

Does your wife want you to fight?

OLEKSANDER, TAKING WIFE TO BORDER: No, she actually wants to like not fight. She is like scary and says I cannot like decide it on my own. So, I will try to convince her.

BURNETT: Oleksander has a medical degree, and says he can help the wounded in an ICU. To him, nothing can be worse than this excruciating wait.

OLEKSANDER: All this lines and queues of cars, it is actually seems more exhausting and more harder than to actually fight those Russians.

BURNETT: I also met Yarina at the only store in the tiny cluster of houses.

YARINA, UKRAINIAN HEADING TO SLOVAKIAN BORDER: Ukrainian people very strong, and very intelligent. I believe for the peace.


YARINA: I believe for the peace. I believe for the -- everything.

BURNETT: She broke the war news to her family in Russia.

YARINA: And family say, what? War in Ukraine?

BURNETT: In Russia.

YARINA: But nobody know about news. News with Russian, nothing say about it.

BURNETT: They didn't know?

YARINA: With Russia, news --

BURNETT: The news is controlled.

YARINA: Not only controlled, absolutely different, and liar. People don't war. It's only stupid, sick, you know who --

BURNETT: By the time we passed the checkpoint, it was hours past dark. The roads, remote. The curves, sharp. Suddenly, lien after so many hours at the checkpoint, it was disconcerting. We didn't see a single car until anywhere near a border. This line is for the Slovakian border. That line was at least 14 hours long.

It may have been much, much longer. We stopped after 17 hours for our driver to nap. His dedication to helping us was incredible. Of course, he is between the ages of 18 and 60, so he is not allowed to leave Ukraine. He could take us only as far as the border, where we unloaded in the frigid darkness.

There, we met a family who described, in shock, how they had watched Putin's rockets streaking across the sky in one of the attacks. The feeling of knowing the rockets would land seconds later somewhere in their country, and destroy and kill leaving them just shaking their heads at us, without words.

So this is Hungary, behind me, the border. It took us 21 hours to get here. Of course, for us, we are now headed home. And for so many people that we saw, afraid, and for now, leaving behind the country they love so much.


BURNETT: So for us, it took another four hours. These borders are very remote on both sides so another four hours, multiple flights ending home.

The experience was crushing, and our team found a reservoir of self- control. I'm not sure any of us thought we had. Never had an experience like that. But I cannot emphasize enough how in our minds and hearts, this was so fundamentally different for us than anyone else in those lines. The emotional pain and loss they feel, they are facing an unimaginable and unexplainable loss, and a sudden invasion of their home and attack.

And they are leaving, and they don't know if, or when, they will ever come home.

BURNETT: Next, the warnings about Putin's mental state are growing. People who have followed him for decades say he is disconnected from reality and unhinged.

And another oligarch turning on Putin. The editor of "Forbes" OUTFRONT next. We have a breaking report with another big name.



BURNETT: Tonight, growing fears about the mental stability of Vladimir Putin as Russia pushes ahead with its invasion of Ukraine. One American familiar with the intelligence telling CNN, quote, Putin has been completely isolated partly because of COVID. He is now just basically by himself, completely cut off from most of his advisers, isolated geographically. The only people talking to him are sycophants who are just feed his resentment. This after a French president macron, who just spoke to Putin again

today, told reporters that he found Putin changed and isolated when they met in person. That was a meeting where Putin sat, you know, at that -- that table, which at the time, was sort of a joke. And now, is -- is a sick and horrible indication of what's so deeply wrong here.

OUTFRONT now, Evelyn Farkas, she was deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia under President Obama

And, Evelyn, on top of Putin's mental state being a clear question mark. Obviously, you now have him choosing to formally put Russia's nuclear forces on high alert. They do have 6,000 nuclear warheads, more than anyone in the world.

Do you think it is legitimate worry that he could actually decide to use nuclear weapons?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE & EURASIA: Yeah. So, Erin, first, about his mental state -- I mean, clearly, he is different from the Putin that I remember from when President Obama was in the White House. The guy who slouched, and was very relaxed and didn't seem this angry, stiff, also, puffy looking although I don't like to comment on how people look. But he does --

BURNETT: It is notable. Yeah.

FARKAS: Yeah. So, that is -- that is just to respond to the first part of your comment there or question. The second part of your question, having to do with the nuclear weapons, I am concerned. I don't want to overstate it because, of course, putting them on a higher level of alert, that, in and of itself, to me seems like political signaling. So it doesn't mean that he is going to use them. He is just trying to demonstrate to the world that he means business, and remind us that he has nuclear weapons.

Having said that, however, as somebody who studied the Russian' military doctrine, I know that their threshold for military use is far lower than ours. They have nuclear doctrine that allows them first use of military weapons to strike an opponent if they think that the existence of the state is at risk. And of course, it will be up to Vladimir put ton Vladimir Putin to decide that.

Now, he is not likely to use strategic nuclear weapons. What I worry more about are tactical weapons, smaller nuclear weapons. You can have a nuclear detonation to try to to try to scare your enemy off the battlefield.


And that's in their doctrine. So that does frighten me.

BURNETT: Marco Rubio told Jake Tapper something earlier today I wanted to ask you about. He specifically talked about Putin's mental state and the exact quote, sorry, it's right here, he tweeted I wish I could share more, for now I can say something's off with Putin, and he told Jake Putin has created a system of people not telling him bad news or facts that contradict his performances. He appears to have neuro/physiological health issues.

Neuro/physiological health issues -- look, I know nobody wants to armchair psychology here but that's pretty significant that you would hear that from someone like Senator Rubio who is getting a lot of classified briefings and on the intelligence committee.

FARKAS: Yeah. So, I don't -- you know, I'm not a medical doctor. I have a political science degree, doctorate. But what that sounds like is something like Parkinson's maybe. Now, what that would tell me is not that he's suffering in terms of his judgment per se because of the physical issue. It's more that he might feel like he doesn't have that much time as the leader of Russia, which gets back to why he's doing this whole thing, why he's doing it now. You know, the idea that he needs to leave his mark on history maybe because he feels like his time leading the country isn't that long.

BURNETT: Evelyn, thank you.

FARKAS: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, the Russian oligarch, we talk a lot of them on the show, right, the billionaires who are inextricably tied with Putin, and they are now finally for the first time turning on him. And tonight, breaking news on another multibillionaire who has turned.

And the youngest victims of Putin ice Putin's invasion, the children fleeing their country, not knowing g if they will be able to return.


BURNETT: Two Russian oligarchs breaking ranks with President Putin. Billionaires Oleg Deripaska and Mikhail Fridman publicly criticizing Putin's invasion of Ukraine, calling for an end to the war.

Deripaska is a close ally of Putin's also calling for, quote, clarifications and intelligible comments on Russia's economic crisis brought on by crippling sanctions from the U.S. and others, and frankly not even by sanctions. It's a run of Russians on Russian banks. What's happening is an internal complete crumbling of the economy and civil society in Russia, and now another oligarch is turning on Putin, according to "Forbes".

OUTFRONT, Luisa Kroll, she is the executive editor at "Forbes".

Luisa, I'm really glad to have you back, I know you've done so much on this and you have more news on this unprecedented move by oligarchs to denounce Putin.

LUISA KROLL, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, FORBES: We do. Fridman's notification actually came in a letter to employees that he never meant to make public. And then Deripaska spoke, and then today, Alexei Mordashov, who's one of the richest Russians, came out and spoke against the war and was very clear that the bloodshed has to stop.


And now we've counted up to eight billionaires who have spoken publicly, which is really unprecedented. This has never happened before, really is hopefully a sign of them standing up to him and rallying together to hopefully figure out a way to stop Putin.

BURNETT: Well, it's pretty incredible. Once they have said it publicly, you can't go back, right? These things can't be unsaid, they can't be forgiven. If he survives in power, I mean, it's a hugely significant thing to make that point, and you've got the economy in freefall. As I mentioned, sanctions are part to have, but it's also regular Russians sort of responding with shock and awe to what's happening.

They're not even able to have their market open, closed for the second day in a row. The U.S. has targeted Russia's central bank. Russians are lining up at ATMs and I want to say the big difference between the Russians and Ukrainians is, the Russians are lining up trying to cash out their money and turn them into dollars, and Ukrainians are lining up to get Ukrainian money because they trust their own money, which I think is a huge statement.

Do you think it could get even worse in Russia?

KROLL: I think there were reports that the economy could completely collapse. I think they have ever reason to be very worried about what's going on. And as you talked about earlier in the show about Putin's mental health, he's really somewhat unhinged. So, you don't really know what he's going to do or what lengths he's willing to go to push the economy to its brink.

BURNETT: All right. Luisa, I really appreciate your time. Thank you very much. Luisa is the executive editor at "Forbes". They have done so much fantastic work on the oligarchs.

And next, the toll Putin's war is having on the most vulnerable, the children of Ukraine.


BURNETT: I want to share one more thing that stood out to me at the Ukraine border, and that's the children. They are everywhere. And you know, many had just returned to in-person school Monday due to the omicron COVID, they just were back on Monday, and Wednesday night they're attacked, and the country by missiles. They sometimes actually smiled at us, and I wondered could this for some of them, so innocent, seem like some sort of an adventure.

But what stood out to me was this. They mostly seemed so calm. They were stoic and mostly expressionless. In one case, I met a mother and two girls in the bathroom and the mother was weeping uncontrollably as she spoke to me. The girls were aged about 5 or 6 and they were sort of smiling awkwardly, slightly impatient to move on.

Here's an image that was sent to me from a woman I know, Natalia. Ten children crammed into the train. Her journey on that train was 34 hours to the Polish border, should have been 90 minutes. Most of the kids are asleep, you see a baby. The peacefulness there defined the chaotic world around them.

We can't imagine the trauma and damage being inflicted on these children, fleeing their homes, seeing their parents weeping in almost all cases and this is really important, leaving their fathers behind because they have to stay and fight. They're feeling dread and terror. Putin is unleashing an epic of human suffering on millions of children and he owns that.

Thanks for joining us. Our breaking news coverage continues now with "AC360".