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Erin Burnett Outfront

Key Ukrainian City Of Kherson Appears To Have Fallen; Russian Tanks In Streets, Soldiers Looting Bank; U.N.: 934,000 Plus People Have Fled Ukraine Since War Began; White House: Biden Admin "Very Open" To Sanctioning Russian Oil; U.S.: Russia Moving Cluster Munitions & Vacuum Bombs Into Ukraine. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 02, 2022 - 19:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. Brian, thank you very much. Brian Todd reporting. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, a key city in Ukraine appears to be in Russian control at this hour. Tonight, more cities on the verge Putin ramping up his air assault.

Plus, Russia facing mounting allegations that it is using weapons banned by many countries intended to inflict mass casualties, what are they and will Putin use them against Ukrainian civilians? We have an OUTFRONT special report tonight.

And we're going to take you inside a makeshift bomb shelter under a synagogue not far from the capital of Ukraine, people hunkered down and bracing for attack. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, major Ukrainian city now appears to be in Russian control. In a message posted to Facebook, the mayor of Kherson writing, "No one agreed on anything with me. However, indeed, there were armed visitors in the city council today. We don't have Ukrainian Armed Forces in the city, only civilians and people who wanted to LIVE here."

Kherson is a strategically important city for Putin. It is located near the Black Sea just northwest of Crimea. Russian tanks can now be seen patrolling the streets. Russian soldiers can be seen looting a bank in Kherson. You can literally see it on video, hauling a safe from a back office. That's how Russian troops are behaving.

And there are more cities in Ukraine right now fighting back but on the edge of falling Russian control, seven days of relentless strikes and America's defense secretary moments ago warning it could get even worse.


that the Russians still have available to them.


BURNETT: There is a lot that they have available, no matter how blundering and cumbersome their assaults may have been thus far they have the sheer numbers and supply and we are hearing U.S. officials warned Russia could focus on a bloody and deadly bombardment of civilian targets now.

We've already seen them firing at anything in their way including homes, apartments, schools and hospitals. Throughout the day and into the night, there is consistent and haunting wails of air raid sirens across Ukraine. Now so hauntingly familiar to anyone who has been there.

And we have terrifying new video from just outside the capital. You can hear what appear to be two Russian jets flying at low altitude. Then they attack, striking an apartment complex and I'll show you the aftermath. Entire floors obliterated, every window gone, cars on the street destroyed.

We have no idea if there were innocent human beings and civilians in those departments who died. We don't even know a death toll. We do know that they hit an apartment building. In Kharkiv, the second biggest city in Ukraine. Russia's assault is devastating the city, 1.5 million people live there, second biggest in the country. That's video footage of a massive fireball from the explosion in Kharkiv.

Inside the city, windows blown out, piles of debris littering the streets and sidewalks. Again, no sense of how many people have lost their lives. You can see a hole in the side of a school from a Russian military strike. Voice in the video saying everything is in ruins, there are shell fragments everywhere, everything is in smoke.

America's ambassador to the U.N. now saying that she has seen videos of Russian forces moving lethal banned weapons into Ukraine, which includes cluster and vacuum bombs. We're going to have a special report coming up on these devastating weapons that are designed for one purpose and that is to kill a lot of people, a lot of innocent civilians. That's what they're designed to do. And they are now in Ukraine.

Ukrainians though are still resolute in defending their country. Tonight, video from the southeast of Ukraine, hundreds of people blocking an access road to a nuclear power plant. They're using garbage trucks to stop Putin's forces. The city's mayor saying, "No one is going to surrender the city." People are determined. We saw cinder blocks in front of every village in every town, piles of tires they could burn to stop the Russians.

And as we reported from Ukraine over the past two weeks, we saw men and women even teenagers preparing to take on Putin's forces, whether it was learning how to treat battle injuries in school - that's Anna, we saw her doing that - or civilians like doctors and graphic designers practicing shooting skills at target ranges. We saw all of it. All of them saying they were willing to take on Putin's forces, despite knowing how powerful the enemy is.

The President of Ukraine just moments ago at 1 am local time, talking about his country's resolve against Russia and about the world united opposition against Russia speaking as he now has almost nightly at about 1:30 in the morning local time from deep under Kyiv.


We have reporters across Ukraine as well as in Hungary, where thousands of Ukrainians, 10s of thousands, are trying to flee. I want to begin tonight with Nick Paton Walsh because he's OUTFRONT in Odessa, a key port city, 90 miles west of Kherson. And I know, Nick, you were there just days ago and we were talking every night about the bridge. You saw that fight back and forth of trying to get control of this key access point how that was playing out. What are you learning from your sources there tonight?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's clear that there has been a sea change in how that city is run. Certainly since the mayor posted on a Facebook page, he runs - there were basically new rules. He'd agreed at what he called armed men who'd been to his office. He sort of slightly circumspect in how he referred to the Russian troops who were there, but it's clear, some sort of deal was made and the result of which he says, the Ukrainian flag still flies over his office.

But locals must only move around in the day, only civilians, they must - pedestrians walking groups of one or two and obey the instructions of Russian soldiers there, so a particularly stark set of new rules, certainly for people living in Kherson. Strategic, yes, because it is the big city on the way up from the peninsula of Crimea, held by Russia since 2014 north and along that inlet from the Black Sea, where there's so many different parts of Ukraine's infrastructure people want to control.

But really what this shows us, Erin, this first big population center, not overwhelming in its size, but key because of where it is, it's exactly what Russia does, when it moves into these population centers. We saw the fight for the bridge, which is important by itself. We wondered what were they going to do if they went into the city. Now we've seen it, they were looting, arresting people and now they've laid out rules. That essentially sound like martial law using the current administration to stay in place while Russian troops essentially run riot looting. Erin?

BURNETT: It's awful when you see that and just going in and ripping out safes. I mean, completely horrific behavior. All right. Thank you very much, Nick.

I want to go to Matthew Chance north of where Nick is tonight in Kyiv. Matthew, again, the assault continues. Tell me the latest as you can hear and see it.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, it does. And the remote concerns tonight in Kyiv, that Russian assault or the plans for Russian assault on the Ukrainian capital are gathering pace. Within the past hour, there's been a huge explosion, just outside here from where I'm talking to you now, some distance away on the outskirts of the city. Apart from that, it's been relatively quiet.

But within the past few minutes, there has been another sort of impassioned address by Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian President from his bunker in Kyiv, where he kind of regularly addresses the Ukrainian people saying that, look, we are a nation that broke the enemy's plans in a week. He's congratulating the Ukrainian military on their battlefield advances on the civilian volunteers for the efforts they've put in to defend neighborhoods and towns across the country and from ordinary Ukrainians as well for standing up to the Russian occupiers. That as the Russian bombardment of towns and cities across the country continues.


CHANCE (voice over): Russia's assault on Ukraine continues without mercy. This is what's left of a university in Kharkiv, the country's second city amid a pounding of civilian areas.

In the port city of Mariupol, also the scene of heavy shelling, local officials say hundreds of casualties are now feared.

United Nations has confirmed more than 200 civilians killed across Ukraine in the week since this Russian invasion began. Ukrainian officials say the figure is much higher.

You think those figures would scare people off the streets, but look at this scene from the town of Konotop, where a Russian officer holds up two grenades for protection after delivering an ultimatum demanding surrender.

"Shame on you," the angry crowd shouts. "Just go back to where you came from." Minutes later, the local man sets out Russia's term.

"If we start resisting, they will shell the city," he tells the crowd. "But if you vote for it, we will fight back. The decision has to be taken by everyone though, because the artillery is aimed at us," he warns.


Across Ukraine, there continue to be courageous acts of civilian defiance against the Russian occupiers. This was a scene in the southern town of Melitopol now under Russian control. Locals literally lying in front of these military vehicles to resist.

There's resistance on the battlefield, too. Russian officials admitting nearly 500 of their own soldiers have been killed so far. Ukrainians say the figure is closer to 6,000. Either way, the human cost of this war is already tragically high.

(END VIDEOTAPE) CHANCE (on camera): Well, Erin, there are hopes tonight of some kind

of diplomatic breakthrough in the sense that a second round of talks between Ukraine and Russia have been announced, have been scheduled for tomorrow in neighboring Belarus, but those hopes are very, very thin indeed, Erin.

BURNETT: Matthew Chance, thank you very much. I want to go now to retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, the former Commanding General for Europe and the 7th Army, spent a lot of time in Ukraine and Evelyn Farkas, the former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia in the Obama administration. Thanks so much for both of you being back.

Now, Gen. Hertling, when you look at the strategically important study of Kherson and that it is now under Russian control, let me show everyone the map of where Russian troops now are. So in all the red areas you can see they're there and that does not mean they control all of it fully, but you're getting closer. You see Kharkiv is not fully in that red, but right there on the edge as that battle fiercely continues. What does the capture of Kherson tell you?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Erin, can I first address Matthews reporting just now, it is infuriating to me to watch the so- called Russian soldiers, this scum, these barbarians, these terrorists go after civilian targets. They are afraid to go after the Ukrainian military. They're concerned about that, so they have these standoff attacks, these cowardly actions and they continue to wreak a scorched- earth policy on Ukraine.

Going to your question about the map, I mentioned earlier, just because a map has red area over the top of it does not mean the Russian forces control that area.


HERTLING: When you look at that map. That's a very long area. It's 400 miles between Odessa and Mariupol. The city of Kherson consists of 400,000 civilians in their population when they are all there. This is early in the fighting and the Russians are cowards and Ukraine's are extremely courageous.

They may hold the city today, they may have some things that they've got against the mayor and the population. But I'm convinced Ukrainian people will be back to fight them in guerrilla groups. We've been used to insurgencies over the last couple of years with the U.S. military, but this will be guerrilla warfare and it will be deadly to the Russian occupiers.

BURNETT: Well, and it is clear from everyone we spoke to there that it will be that and that there were many, in Ukraine, who prepared for that, even people who were not necessarily in the formal Ukrainian military. I mean, that they were prepared for guerilla warfare and insurgency that may happen here.

I mean, let me ask you, Evelyn, when I look at this, you see a country of 44 million people. A few million of them probably have fled in recent days, I think the numbers out there underestimate the reality. But you still have a huge country. These cities are full of people, even though many have left. And you see the Russians coming in and bombing apartment buildings and cars and there's holes in schools all over in civilian areas, looting banks, taking food and this is on day seven.

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: Right, Erin. I mean, I'm incredibly worried because what the Russians are doing is, as Gen. Hertling said, cowardly, they are using these huge indiscriminate weapons, including thermobaric weapons which were used in Chechnya under Vladimir Putin. They were not used under a President Yeltsin when he was fighting the First Chechen War.

But Vladimir Putin had no problem literally bombing the city of Grozny to dust. The U.N. after the war called it the most destroyed country - sorry - city on the planet and he used those weapons in Syria as well. I'm afraid it's not only cowardly, it also may be a sign that he doesn't have the ability, I guess, his military can't get out of those tanks and trucks and go and fight the Ukrainian military, because perhaps their supply lines are stretched too far. I don't know.


But this is a very dangerous situation that we're in right now. I'm not super optimistic about the talks that you mentioned coming up.


FARKAS: But obviously, we have to try to prevail on the citizens of Russia and on any negotiators who will come and meet and hear the truth.

BURNETT: So Gen. Hertling, let me ask you about the situation here. Look, it's cold as everyone knows, but there had been a lot of rain in recent days, as we all experienced it there. There's now expected to be significant snowfall, though for the first time in the past few weeks on the eastern part of Ukraine, but over six to eight inches. So significant snowfall in a lot of these places, Kharkiv among them, and Donetsk, in places where a lot of this fighting is happening.

Given that this is a war that is like something we saw 70, 80 years ago; it's tanks, it's fighting, how significant is that weather?

HERTLING: Well, what I'll say, Erin, is it is a combination of things that all contribute to the human factor of war. You not only had the cold, the rain, the snow, the weather conditions, but you also have this constant shelling of the civilian population, which is not only deadly from the standpoint of a kinetic attack, but it's also psychologically damaging.

When you're under that much shelling repeatedly for long periods of time, when you think you're in a safe spot, like an apartment or a school or a hospital, the places that the Russians are bombing, it takes a psychological factor and it really impairs those who are on the receiving end of that ammunition. And the unfortunate thing about it is that fatigue combines with the

cold and the psychology and there's an old expression that fatigue makes cowards of us all. It is amazing to me to watch the Ukrainian population and the Ukrainian army continue to fight under these conditions, they're used to the snow, that's not a big deal. They're used to the cold. It's the other factors contributing to that, that will really make it difficult in this guerrilla war.

BURNETT: That is the exhaustion, not knowing where they're going to strike or when they're going to strike and those air raid sirens, of course, as you know, General, they go off in the middle of the day. They go off at three o'clock in the morning. You're woken up out of a dead sleep. There's just this constant adrenaline and fear for all of them, even in places that aren't being directly shelled, like some of the places farther east.

So Evelyn, when you look at what you're seeing in terms of the looting, what is that signal to you about the status of the Russian military?

FARKAS: Yes. So I'm going to answer your question, but I want to make a quick point, that is to say that what the Ukrainians are doing is resisting, but I actually think a better term for them would be resistance rather than insurgency or guerrillas, because they're resisting an occupation force. It's much like the French who were resisting the Nazi occupation, the German occupation in World War II, so that's the quick aside.

But what the looting is telling me is, again, the point that I kind of made about logistics, these Russian forces have been sent out, strung out on a long line of operation, as the general would say, without sufficient resupply. They don't have, apparently, not only do they not have fuel, because we know some of these vehicles were breaking down already back in Russia, but they don't seem to have sufficient food. That would really impact your morale, especially if you're a conscript soldier.

HERTLING: I'm going to add to that, Erin, if I could because I think Evelyn is exactly right. It does indicate some major logistics problems. We've been seeing that since the start of this campaign, but I'd also add to this, it really points to the indiscipline of the Russian military.

These folks have no discipline as a soldier and they're not even one step up from a criminal, they are a criminal and they are terrorizing Ukrainian people. This war is for nothing.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both very much. I should point out on the food front here, I mean, you've got millions and millions of people and all sorts of food issues. People fled, people in the stores fled, grocery stores, it's hard to find things open even in some of the more functioning cities. I mean, you have a much broader crisis looming as you think about this right now.

Next, we're going to take you to the border of Ukraine where families have been torn apart. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANASTASIA HRANKINA, COMPUTER PROGRAMMER: Now, I just can't make any plans. I don't know when I will see my family again.


BURNETT: The White House saying it's very open to banning Russia's oil. What the world is that mean? Very open to banning it? They haven't done it yet?

And the U.S. warning, Putin's moving controversial weapons into Ukraine; cluster bombs, vacuum bombs banned by so many countries. Tonight a special report on these weapons and how deadly they are.




BURNETT: The United Nations has recorded more than 934,000 refugee arrivals from Ukraine in just the past week. The majority of these refugees have fled to Poland in search of safety. But there's that whole border of Ukraine. You go Slovakia, and Hungary, and Romania, and Moldova. There are multiple borders, Hungary is one of them.

And it comes as the United Nation is warning Putin's invasion could lead to the largest refugee crisis in Europe, this century. Ivan Watson is OUTFRONT in Hungary near the Ukrainian border. And Ivan, you've seen them, we've seen them traveling with them out of Ukraine to those western borders, including where you are tonight, desperately trying to get out of Ukraine. What is the situation like on the ground where you are?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, on this side of the border here in Hungary, it was a very ordered process for bringing people in and the refugees were being welcomed by Hungarians. And that's all the more remarkable when you consider this massive humanity that is moving towards these borders of people who are homeless and their livelihoods have been completely uprooted.

As you pointed out, the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees, they're predicting that this number could swell to 4 million refugees from Ukraine by July and they're warning that since many of the majority of these refugees are women and children, they're worried they could be vulnerable to sexual exploitation and gender-based violence.



WATSON (voice over): The train to safety arrives 20 minutes late, rolling across the border from Ukraine, loaded with civilians, all fleeing the world's newest war zone. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WATSON (on camera): This train brought hundreds of refugees to safety here in Hungary. The United Nations says more than 800,000 people have fled across Ukraine's borders in just six days.


WATSON (voice over): It is a carefully managed procession, families emerging one by one, expatriates from South Asia and Africa, and, of course, Ukrainians welcomed by a Hungarian officials and aid workers. Each handed a solidarity ticket, a free seat on another train to the Hungarian capital were more help waits.


DAVID OROSY, REFORMED CHURCH OF HUNGARY: They will help them with traveling, with food, with WiFi and all unnecessary things, even with hotels.


WATSON (voice over): Among the new arrivals, Anastasia Hrankina and her son Mark and their cat.


HRANKINA: Soadic (ph), his name is Soadic.


WATSON (voice over): They fled Kyiv on the first day of the invasion.


HRANKINA: Two days ago, I was thinking that this war is going to finish just in few days and that we won't need even to have Ukraine. But now I just can make any plans. I don't know when I'll see my family again.


WATSON (voice over): The Ukrainian refugees are almost all women and children. Absent here, husbands and fathers, men of fighting age ordered to stay behind to defend the country.


WATSON (on camera): You're going to Ukraine now.



WATSON (voice over): Oleksandra Shulenina was on a foreign business trip when Russia invaded. Now, she's hurrying back into Ukraine to collect her children.


SHULENINA: My husband insists that I protect our children, so I take to my son to my niece, we can go to Europe with my friend waiting for us and he stay in Ukraine for protect our country.


WATSON (voice over): Anastasia Hrankina's husband is also back in Kyiv, defending the city against Vladimir Putin's invasion.


WATSON (on camera): And what would you tell people in Russia?

HRANKINA: I would tell them just get rid of your president. He is insane.


WATSON (voice over): Safe but now uprooted with no idea if and when these people can ever go home.


BURNETT: And Ivan, when I was at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border, it was, as you described it, orderly. And then as you drive into Hungary, where you are, I don't know at rest stops, you could tell who the refugees were. They were exhausted. They were in groups, primarily women and children, as you point out.

And the Hungarians were very welcoming, sort of that face crumple voice breaking hand on their heart that people feel around the world. But it is, Ivan, so interesting that this is all in the same country that literally built a wall several years ago to stop refugees and migrants into the country and they and the response now is so very different.

WATSON (voice over): It's a 180-degree turn and I was at that wall in 2015 when migrants and refugees were being kept out on a Serbian- Hungarian border. It's striking, it may be in part due to the fact that the sight of tanks rolling into Ukraine has opened wounds that Hungary has long had from decades of Soviet occupation and the violent crushing of an uprising in 1956 with Soviet tanks here in Hungary, and that seems to have had a sea change in public opinion here.

For Hungarians, I might add that elections are just a month away and even the right-wing Prime Minister here Viktor Orban, who has run on a sharply anti-immigrant platform for years. He is welcoming Ukrainian refugees right now.

BURNETT: All right. Ivan, thank you so much for that report.

And next, Germany seizing one of the world's largest yachts owned by a Russian billionaire according to Forbes, $600 million yacht. You see it there. It's got the largest swimming pool ever on a boat on a ship or a yacht, two helicopter pads, beauty salon, a gym. And we're going to take you inside a makeshift bomb shelter underneath the synagogue, residents hunkering down there tonight as air sirens go off around them.



BURNETT: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying the White House is, quote, very open to banning Russian oil exports, but that could mean a big hit for American consumers, right? If you got less oil coming in to the U.S., right, that's less to refine, it's less, the pump prices continue to go higher. Russia is the world's second largest oil producer and oil is fungible, right? So, you take it out of the market, it's going to cause the price to go up.

The U.S. on average imported about 672,000 barrels of crude oil in refined products from Russia last area. So, today's price is at $75 million a day, right? Seventy-five million on average last year, per day. All of that money could be used to killing Ukrainian civilians.

OUTFRONT now, Daleep Singh, the White House deputy national security adviser for international economics.

So, Daleep, I know, you know, obviously, $75 million a day on average last year. That number has come way down, of course, but what are you waiting for?

DALEEP SINGH, BIDEN'S DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Good evening, Erin. Well, when it comes to energy prices, let me back up and remind, in terms of the guiding principles for our sanctions, we always try to maximize the costs on the target and minimize the impact on Americans. So, we don't have a strategic interest in reducing global energy supplies. That would only increase prices at the pump for Americans and pad Putin's profits.

That's why the president said last night in the State of the Union --


SINGH: -- we're exempting energy payments from our financial sanctions.


But where we do have a strategic interest is in degrading and downgrading Russia's status as a leading energy supplier.

That's why we took aim and shut down Nord Stream 2. That's why we're surging liquefied natural gas to Europe, and that's why we're denying critical technologies that Russia needs to sustain its production.

But let me just say one last thing on this.

BURNETT: Yes. SINGH: We are looking at ways to cut U.S. consumption of Russian oil while still maintaining the global supply of energy.

BURNETT: So, look, this is a big conversation. I want to ask you one more question. You raise a really important point. When you sanction the second largest energy producer, there is less oil. So they're getting more money for the oil they are able to sell. And I can't tell if I'm buying oil, whether it came from Russia or somewhere else, right? I mean, it's just the black drippy stuff, right?

So if they can find a way to get it out, they're now getting $110 a barrel for it, versus say, 40, right? So they can sell a lot less and get a lot more money. So how many are the sanctions hurting them? They are the second oil producer in the world. It is their biggest source of income, and we've seen the princess for every barrel they send out surge.

SINGH: Well, I'm not going to get into the specifics of what we have in mind but there are ways to cut our consumption of Russian oil while keeping constant the global energy supply. The other producers in the world, that could backfill. For any Russian oil we don't import, and that's really our goal. That's consistent with putting the pain to Putin and making sure Americans don't pay for it at the pump.

But let me say, Erin, you know, the president was clear last night. When dictators don't pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and the cost and the threats to the American people and people all over the world continue to go up.

So this is a moment for American resolve and we must put debilitating pain on Putin for his tragic choices and -- please, go ahead.

BURNETT: No, no, I want to ask but the oligarchs as well. I know you personally sanctioned Putin.

SINGH: Yeah.

BURNETT: That's obviously important to do, but questionable impact because he's not exposed overseas but his oligarchs are. And you've taken moves against them.

The Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov was sanctioned by the European Union on Monday. There he is in that picture with Putin. "Forbes" reports German officials have seized his most prized possession. It was docked in Hamburg, getting some of -- I guess, who knows what they were doing. Cleaning it, tweaking it.

Anyway, it's a 512-foot yacht, custom built, valued at nearly $600 million. It requires a crew of 96 to even sail this thing. Again, "Forbes" reporting the Germans have seized it. Is the United States prepared to do more like this, seizing property of all oligarchs in New York and in Florida and just taking it away from them?

SINGH: Absolutely. Absolutely. Today, Merrick Garland, our attorney general, officially stood up the DOJ task force. And the purpose of that task force, it's called klepto capture. It is meant to identify, hunt down and seize physical assets, yachts, jets, fancy cars, luxury apartments.

And make no mistake: they're going to use the most cutting edge cryptocurrency tracing, data analytics, and foreign intelligence to get the job done. I would say along with that announcement, we broadly intense identified our strategy of putting debilitating pain to Putin. We sanctioned 22 more Russian defense companies that are powering the Russian war machine. We tightened the vice grip on Russia's economy by preventing Russian exporters, Russian SOEs from defending the ruble.

His war chest of foreign reserves is now essentially worthless. The ruble is worth less than a penny. We're cutting off critical technologies to Belarus for helping Russia. This pain will continue to intensify for Putin's strategic choices which will be a failure.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I appreciate your time, Daleep. Thank you very much.

SINGH: Thanks, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, we're going to take you to a town just outside the capital of Ukraine where people are taking over in a makeshift bomb shelter under a synagogue.

And this massive blast until Ukraine is a warning that Putin is stepping up his assault in a big way, possibly now using a thermo baric weapon.



BURNETT: Breaking news: The U.N. says it has recorded more than 750 civilian casualties in Ukraine since the invasion began. That's not a real number. They don't pretend that it is. They say it is a lot higher and it certainly is. The tragedy is we don't even know. We showed you the Russian attacks on an apartment building. We can't even tell you how many died there. Nobody knows right now. Putin is targeting more civilian sites with deadly strikes.

Now, our CNN crews across the country have spoken with Ukrainians including some about 100 miles south of Kyiv who are sheltering in a makeshift bomb shelter under a synagogue.

Sam Kiley is there OUTFRONT live from that town, Uman, Ukraine.

Sam, I know you're outside the capital of Kyiv, in Uman. Tell me what the situation is like.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, throughout most of the night there have been regular air raid sirens played out across the city, apart from our lights at the lowest possible level, is in the complete blackout. Residents have been told to stay behind blackout curtains. That's because this town was hit on the very first day of the Russian air strikes against Ukrainian.

It is a particular irony for some people here because, of course, part of the justification for Vladimir Putin's invasion of this country is what he calls denazification. Yet Uman here is the center -- is a pilgrimage center for Hasidic Jews around the world. Many, many times come in particularly for the Jewish New Year every year. Traditionally, there is the biggest synagogue in Europe, they say, here.

And it is underneath that synagogue, Erin, that people in the center of town have been hiding, whether they're Jew or gentile, from the danger that Putin has threatened them with.


Now, two days ago, there was some kind of air strikes or rocket strikes, we're not sure which, again, on the outskirts of town. There is a significant military base here. There is also an air field and there is a strong expectation that this town could be next in line if Kyiv falls. Ukraine authorities may in the end lose Kyiv but they won't have lost the war. They may lose that battle and this is likely to become a fallback position for the future, but particularly strong sense of solidarity here between the Jewish community, Jewish visitors to the community and other Ukrainians here, Erin.

BURNETT: When you think about the complex, often very dark but complex history Ukraine has with the history in World War II. You spoke to Ukrainians who are staying put, who are staying in Uman. They either weren't able to get out in time or are now choosing to stay even through this.

What are they telling you?

KILEY: Well, I spoke to them in the shelter. In fact, it has been turned into a makeshift shelter underneath that synagogue about 24 hours after there was damage done to the Babyn Yar memorial, the memorial to the 30,000-plus Jews murdered in Kyiv as part of an attempt to eradicate the population of Kyiv in September, 1941. Of course, many tens of thousands were executed after that.

And this is what the non-Jewish lawyer for the jury community said of that strike and these claims of de-Nazification from Putin.


IRINA RYBNITSKAYA, LAWYER, RABBI NACHMAN OF BRESLOV CHARITABLE FOUNDATION: All the community, everybody, every person was shocked. We know that the first day of the war, 24 of February, they were invited the first day. So everybody shocked, and especially after yesterday, the bomb came to Babyn Yar community. I don't know even how to explain the state of the community after this day.


KILEY: Now people are very angry, very frightened. The resident community of Jews has gone down from about 500 to about 50. There are others being accommodated who have fled Kyiv in the predominant Jewish hotels around that synagogue, as they continue to flee the country, including members of the United Nations and the International Community of the Red Cross, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Sam, thank you very much.

And next, growing fears Putin is about to escalate the brutality of his war, and horrific attacks against civilians. There's video of Russian troops moving banned weapons into Ukrainian. We have a special report next on what these weapons are and what they do.



BURNETT: Breaking news: the International Criminal Court says it's beginning a war crime investigation into Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It comes as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. says Russian forces are moving, cluster munitions and vacuum bombs into Ukraine which are banned by the Geneva Convention. These are banned weapons. Our own crews saw thermo baric weapon going in.

So, Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT to tell you exactly what these weapons are, what they look like, and the devastation that they are designed to inflict.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A massive blast lighting the sky and scorching the ground. Military analysts can't say precisely which weapons Russia is using but this has some convinced Moscow is stepping up the conflict in a terrible way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My guess is that that's a thermo baric weapon. That's a fuel air explosive. It's a very, very devastating weapon.

FOREMAN: A CNN team spotted launchers for thermo baric bombs near the Ukrainian border. They fire missiles which produced two blasts, the first rapidly filling the air with fuel vapor, the second igniting it with catastrophic effect, make something victims feel as if the air is being sucked from their lungs.

Daniel Wasserbly is with Janes International Defence Review.

DANIEL WASSERBLY, JANES INTERNATIONAL DEFENCE REVIEW: Let's say you have people hiding in basement or behind walls. They would not be protected against something like this. If the aerosols can get into the basement, they can more around walls, and they catch fire, and everybody dies a pretty awful death.

FOREMAN: Human Rights Watch is also pointing to debris as evidence that Russians are launching cluster bombs, missiles that crack open in the air flinging dozens of powerful explosives in all directions.

WASSERBLY: If you were driving in your car and this landed on the roof of your car, you and your car would be done for.

FOREMAN: So far analysts say many of the Russian strikes appear to have involved common munitions such as targeted cruise missiles. But civilian sites have been hit either by design or accident and U.S. officials expect worse.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: The numbers of civilians killed and wounded, the humanitarian consequences will only grow in the days ahead.

FOREMAN: Which brings us to that stalled Russian convoy near Kyiv, filled with artillery pieces, long a favorite tool of Russian generals. Analysts believe if those weapons get moving again and are placed around the city, they could rain devastating fire on military and civilian targets alike.


FOREMAN: Some of these weapons kill so easily and indiscriminately, many countries pledged to never use them. And Russia says it has not used them in this battle. But then, Erin, Russia has said a lot about what it's doing in Ukraine, much of which has proven to be untrue.

BURNETT: Like the fact they said they weren't going to go in there to begin with, said Vladimir Putin.

Thank you very much, Tom Foreman.

I want to go now to Paul Kolbe, former chief of the CIA Central Eurasia Division. He served in the CIA for 25 years and was stationed in the former Soviet Union. Paul, when you think about a thermo baric weapon, that one the look -- you know, the grid with the rectangle in the front of it. Our crews saw that on the border.

That is the sort of thing that, you know, what is happening right now in Ukraine and all the cities is the air raid sirens and everyone going into the basement.

I can tell that you everyone goes in the basement, they're in there, they're crowded. It's incredibly crowded when you go down there. Those are the kinds of weapons that would kill every single person even in a basement, even in some sort of a bomb raid shelter.

What does it say to you that they're there? We've seen them. They're there. It hasn't been used at this point. But it's in the country.

PAUL KOLBE, FORMER CHIEF, CIA'S CENTRAL EURASIA DIVISION: We don't bring kit along you don't intend to use. The prospect of using these type of weapons whether cluster munitions or vacuum weapon in a civilian area is horrific to think about and should shock the conscience of the entire world.


BURNETT: So as you say, you don't bring kit you don't intend to use. I guess that means it's clear Putin is intending from the very beginning to inflict horrific pain on civilians, because that's what these are for. These are for mass civilian casualties.

KOLBE: Well, look, we've seen Putin already use cluster munitions in Kharkiv. We've seen the video of it, and there is evidence that has shown up afterwards. We know the playbook used in Chechnya when Grozny was leveled with artillery leveling block by block by block until the city was a wasteland. That's how he ended that insurgency.

So, the prospect of that being used in Ukraine, because of the frustration of not being able to win a quick victory, really is disturbing and really should cause everyone pause and everyone to recommit to supporting Ukraine in its fight.

BURNETT: Yeah. Horrific.

Thank you very much, Paul. I appreciate your perspective.

And next, we have breaking news. We're just getting video in of a large explosion in the Ukrainian capital coming in in these early hours of the morning in Ukraine. We're going to tell what you we're learning about it right after this.


BURNETT: Breaking news, the new video that we're getting in of what happened in Kyiv, a massive explosion taking place just after we spoke to Matthew Chance this hour. So, you can see it there. That is what literally just happened in Kyiv. It's in the past, say, half hour, 40 minutes.

You can see a fireball lighting up the sky. While the attack coming after the Ukrainian president who was there in Kyiv in a bunker, Volodymyr Zelensky releasing a message from there saying more and more occupiers are fleeing back to Russia, from you, for all that drive out the enemy with javelins, guns, tanks, helicopters, everything that shoots. I wish you health, native Ukrainians, strong and kind but not to the enemy -- what has become now daily post from the Ukrainian president who is standing so firmly.

Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.