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Erin Burnett Outfront
Russian Assault Increasing Brutal; West: "Worst" Yet To Come; Mayor: Kharkiv Impacted By "Continuous Bombardment;" Apartment Buildings In Port City Of Mariupol On Fire; U.S. Official: Russians Showing "Willingness To Hit Civilian Infrastructure On Purpose;" U.N.: 133,000+ Ukrainians Have Fled To Hungary. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 03, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No jail time at all and his defense attorney says it's good he took the stand in his on defense. Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Athena Jones reporting on that story. Athena, thank you very much.
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, Putin gaining ground in southern Ukraine as the mayor of the second largest city in Ukraine tells me his people are under siege in constant bombardment tonight. He says Putin is intentionally targeting innocent civilians.
Plus, the west punishing Putin looking to go after the pricy yachts belonging to Russia's richest, yachts that include missile defense systems and submarines in addition to massive pools.
And we're live in Moscow tonight where citizens tell CNN that any negative news about Putin's invasion is 'fake news'. Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, Vladimir Putin is gaining ground tonight in southern Ukraine. His forces now closing in on key cities, port cities like Mariupol. The city trying to stop Russian forces to fight devastating attacks that have cut power and water there and caused inconceivable suffering.
Force yourself to look at this, Surhai (ph), a father and his dead son, a son named Elia (ph).
And tonight reports of heavy shelling near a place where hundreds of people are blocking an access road to a nuclear power plant. The mayor of that town saying a column of Russian vehicles is now heading straight for them. And just a short time ago, I did speak to the mayor of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine. He told me the bombing in his city is constant and that Putin is now specifically, specifically targeting civilians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
IHOR TEREKHOV, MAYOR OF KHARKIV (through interpreter): As far as the residential blocks are concerned, what I can say is that I look around and I see that there are no military troops stationed in our residential blocks. And what does that mean? That means that they are purposefully hitting at the residential buildings, intentionally trying to eliminate the Ukrainian people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Intentionally trying to eliminate the Ukrainian people. I'm going to have more of my conversation with the mayor in just a moment. His words, though, come after the French president Emmanuel Macron spent 90 minutes on the phone with Putin today. And his takeaways, the worst is yet to come and Putin will go all the way.
Well, it's impossible to think about this, the worst is yet to come when this is what we're seeing tonight. In a town just about 30 miles from the capital, this was the scene seconds after it was hit by Russian artillery; cars, buildings on fire, residential homes completely decimated.
And this morning, a shocking image, a hole punched straight through an apartment building, straight through. And to the north, watch as a dashcam captures a blast. That's just dash cam video (inaudible) took at entire neighborhood. Look, you see all this and you wonder the death toll. We don't know. But innocent people are dying, civilians are dying. Every one of those blasts you are seeing, innocent people die and they are being targeted in military strikes. There's really no other way to put it at this point, because it's happening in town after town and these are the facts.
The fear of more bloodshed, more destruction and more death has Ukraine's President challenging Putin now to a face-to-face.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: It's not about I want to talk with Putin. I think I have to talk with Putin. The world has to talk with Putin, because there are no other ways to stop this war, that's why I have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: President Biden also responding tonight, hitting Russia's oligarchs with a new set of sanctions. Many of those billionaires now scrambling to prevent their yachts and mega mansions from being seized in U.S., Florida, New York and London, yachts with pools, yachts with anti-missile defense systems, mini submarines, we have a special report on this coming up tonight.
And we begin with our teams across the region in Ukraine, Hungary and Russia this evening. I want to begin though straight with Nick Paton Walsh. He is OUTFRONT live in Odessa. Nick, what is the latest that you are seeing from a city, of course,
also under siege?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin, no matter what the sanctions, the condemnation, this seems to be, according to Vladimir Putin himself, going according to his plan and that plan is hideous and terrifying for the hundreds of thousands who live in this third largest city of Ukraine. Across the Black Sea coast, a march of Russian military that appear to be seeing ground in population centers, what they bring with them is utter horror and chaos.
WALSH (voice over): The town of Kherson refuses to give up it seems. Looting, crippling life here. This Russian soldiers bid to get into a cell phone store, a sign of the lawless world they brought with them where food and medicine is lacking and what life is left made more unbearable by the laying of tripwire mines. Local officials said this one post online to warn others.
On the other side of Russian-held Crimea, Mariupol under siege without water or electricity. The mayor saying, "The Russian 'scum' have found no other way to break us." The prize in the south is this, Odessa, its opera house fortified, its coastline, a harder task, where the tide could bring Russians in with it, yet still lapse, as if nothing has changed.
Odessa brims with locals ready though. Like so many here, these civilian defenders don't want their whereabouts filmed, but are happy to speak.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENYA: The war starts (inaudible) turn back home and ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH (voice over): Jenya (ph) is chief marketing officer for an IT company who's traveled Europe in Africa, but joined up to fight on day one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENYA: Unfortunately, I have lost two of my friends in Kherson two days ago.
WALSH: I'm sorry.
JENYA: Yes. They also have been ...
WALSH: Were they fighting in Kherson?
JENYA: Yes, they were fighting and they were in volunteer troop, so they have no military background at all, both of them are programmers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH (voice over): We're joined be Lera (ph), age 19, a nanny who fled Russians in Crimea when she was 11.
"We're ready to the end to defend our land," she said. The occupiers came to my home before, my family is still there. Only I could leave because I don't want to live in Russia.
Across town, mother's knit camouflage netting while, like Nellia, their daughters fight, her staying behind to defend Kyiv.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NELLIA KONONOVA, VOLUNTEER: We know the danger. We know that it will come, but we didn't know when will it come and I asked them, "Children, come here please be safe. Come to me." But they didn't want. "No mom, please stay alive. Stay safe. But we will defend our -" because everybody loves our motherland. Everybody. Sorry. Sorry. Everybody wants to be independent, to be free. They decided to stay there and I can't influence their decision. But I pray every day, I pray every night for them to stay alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH (voice over): The defying words of Ukrainian soldiers of Snake Island who told her Russian ship where to shove it echo here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KONONOVA: (Foreign language), Russian ship (inaudible), it's the logo, it's the logo now in Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALSH (voice over): They'll need more than high spirits in the days ahead.
WALSH (on camera): Now, this city deeply on edge quiet tonight, no sirens that we've heard so far. But a chilling report of an Estonian- flagged cargo ship sank off its coast. Ukrainian officials say that was from shelling by Russian ships that were trying to use that cargo ship as some sort of shield for potentially an amphibious landing here.
That's what people are deeply concerned about that at some point, the threat of Russian ships on the horizon will materialize as something real on their shores here. Erin?
BURNETT: Nick, thank you very much for an incredible reporting.
OUTFRONT now, the Mayor of Kharkiv, Ihor Terekhov. And Mayor I so much appreciate your time tonight so late in these exhausting nights. What is the situation in Kharkiv right now?
TEREKHOV (through interpreter): So the situation is extremely difficult. Today, Kharkiv has been hardly impacted by continuous bombardment. Planes are flying constantly, missiles are being launched. Grenades are launched and residential houses are being hit. Entire residential blocks are being destroyed.
We are talking about global destruction of residential blocks, administrative buildings, city administration building, people have no way to live, they're forced to go into shelter. Schools have been moved and even now when we are talking with you, I can hear air raids.
BURNETT: Ihor, you talk about residential buildings. Do you know how many civilians have been killed in your city?
TEREKHOV (through interpreter): Yes, so we definitely have a great number of Kharkiv people who have already been killed or being killed and the casualties are enormous. They are wounded, there are people that have been treated at the moment, operated, taken to hospitals and besides the number of fatalities is very great, that is why I believe it is quite inappropriate to talk about the numbers because the situation is constantly changing.
BURNETT: Mayor, President Zelensky said today and I quote him, he said, "We have nothing to lose but our freedom, our dignity, this is our biggest treasure." How far will you go to defend your freedom and your dignity?
TEREKHOV (through interpreter): Just like the entire Ukrainian people, I'll go till the end.
BURNETT: And I want to ask you, Mayor, about the civilians, the people of your city, more than 1 million of them. You talk about entire blocks of residential buildings being bombed. It seems when you think about that, that this is purposeful. From what you see, is it purposeful right now? Is Vladimir Putin purposely targeting civilians in your city?
TEREKHOV (through interpreter): As far as the residential blocks are concerned, what I can say is that I look around and I see that there are no military troops stationed in our residential blocks. And what does that mean? That means that they're purposefully hitting at the residential buildings, intentionally trying to eliminate the Ukrainian people.
BURNETT: Mayor, I so much appreciate your time. I'm very grateful to you for taking the time and the risk out of your life to talk to us.
TEREKHOV (through interpreter): Thank you.
BURNETT: I want to go now to the former Director of National Intelligence under President Obama, retired Lieutenant General James Clapper. General, I appreciate your time. You heard the Mayor of Kharkiv just staying there through this incredible strain and agony and suffering that everyone around him is going through.
He says Putin is purposely striking residential buildings, trying to eliminate the Ukrainian people. He talks about an enormous number of casualties. Is there any other way to look at this at this point, given that we see residential building now after residential building, personal home after personal home being hit?
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, Erin, unfortunately we need to get used to enduring this carnage and mindless destruction and having failed the first attack were very light approach that Putin took, thinking, I guess, assuming that Ukrainians would just roll over and give up and they're not.
So he's going to resort to what has always traditionally been - going back to Soviet era and now Russia, very heavy on destruction and mindless destruction, without any regard for humanity. And it is atrocious. It's wanton (ph) and brutal and mindless. And unfortunately, I think we're going to see more of that.
BURNETT: There has been intense fighting near one of the largest nuclear power plants in the entire continent of Europe. It happens to be located in central Ukraine. Again, it is one of the largest nuclear power plants in entire continent of Europe.
We've got video of gunfire and explosions nearby. The mayor says that there's a column of vehicles heading in the direction of the power plant. He says there's loud shots that have been heard from that. You talked about your concern even for Chernobyl and what we may yet find out about what happened there after those fierce battles. I hear we see something seeming to be specifically about getting the plant itself. How worried are you about something truly horrific happening?
CLAPPER: I'm very concerned about it, Erin, and have been since the outset. There are 15 nuclear reactors in Ukraine, which provide about 50 percent of Ukraine's power and six of them are at this one site that is in the southeast quadrant, if you will, not far from Donbas and not far from the Crimea.
And if one of these is struck, either intentionally, god forbid, or unintentionally an accident, a short round, whatever, we'll really have a catastrophe on our hands of biblical proportions and it will not just involve Ukraine, it'll be a regional issue to normal times, too. And so I really worry about this phenomenon. We've already seen apparently high radiation levels in Chernobyl.
BURNETT: Yes, we have and, obviously, also part of what people should be so concerned about is, we've seen those and no one's actually able to fully verify it, because you can't even get in there, because you've got this fierce fighting going on. General, I really appreciate your time in making that loud and clear.
I'm sure everyone heard loud and clear what you said, biblical proportions of something could happen here if you have something with one of these 15 nuclear plants or twice as big as Chernobyl. Thank you very much, General.
CLAPPER: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: Next, a chilling warning from Russia's foreign minister saying a third world war can only be a nuclear war. Former National Security Adviser and retired Army Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster will be OUTFRONT.
Plus, fleeing a war zone, I going to speak to one Ukrainian who spent 30 hours traveling to a safer location. A journey that included sheltering in metro stations and dealing with air raid sirens all the way through. You'll hear about him and his family.
And the super yachts owned by some of Russia's wealthiest still sailing the high seas. One even has an anti-missile defense system, bomb proof doors and a mini submarine, what in the world you need that stuff for? Russia's billionaires scrambling to prevent the most prized possessions from now being seized by the West.
BURNETT: Breaking news, apartment buildings up in flames tonight in Ukraine. This is new video that we have out of Mariupol in the southeast part of Ukraine where the city's mayor says Russian forces are creating a humanitarian catastrophe. We hear it in town after town where, of course, so many people are still stuck, so many people are still choosing to stay. This as France warns, "The worst is yet to come." That's a quote and that Putin will 'go all the way in Ukraine'. That's the take from the French President Macron. He spoke on the phone with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
OUTFRONT now, retired Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, who was the National Security Adviser for former President Trump. And I also want to point out, of course, General, you were stationed in West Germany during the end of the Cold War, so you have both a personal and a professional understanding of some of what we're seeing here.
General, when you hear France say the takeaway from a 90-minute conversation is that the worst is yet to come and that Putin is going to go all the way. What do you think the worst is yet to come looks like?
LT. GEN. H. R. MCMASTER (RET.), FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I think it's what we're already seeing, Erin, as he's met much
more resistance he had anticipated. He thought the Ukrainians were going to fold and they're fighting courageously. You thought that Ukraine's leader would be weak and instead he's heroic. He thought that the Ukrainians would welcome them, but they refuse to be subjugated by the Russians.
And so what's left is destruction and you see this playing out in the City of Kharkiv, where he's gone from failed offensive towards the city to firing destructive weapons into the city indiscriminately and murdering civilians. And I'm afraid we're going to see more and more of this across Ukraine, because his army, frankly, is not very capable of close combat or at least they're demonstrating they're not very capable of close combat.
And, of course, the Ukrainians are being successful against the ground offensive and what he's going to do is resort to more firepower. And this is what he's done in Syria in enabling the Assad regime's mass murder of innocence there and it's what the Russians did in Chechnya underpins direction in 1999.
BURNETT: One of the things as everybody hopes for this sort of David versus Goliath that nobody thought that Ukrainians could win, but with the power of will and their patriotism and heroism, they can pull it off. The problem is general is that we have to be realistic about what we're looking at. And we're looking at is sure, 90 percent of the combat power that we talked about for months, that was sort of in that horseshoe around Ukraine is now in Ukraine, but that was about 150,000 soldiers.
That's 17 percent of Russia's active duty military. Putin has the second largest air force in the world. He hasn't yet deployed any of it. Now, he's going to need a lot of that force to take and hold Ukraine, but he's got firepower to burn, how much more of his military will he commit to this, General?
MCMASTER: Well, I think we'll see a lot more, but what we've seen so far has not been as effective as you might have imagined or maybe as he imagined and that's because the Ukrainian Army is not the Ukrainian Army of 2014. And the tactical and operational problems that he's taking on is pretty darn complex, Erin.
If you look at the force, you think that's a lot of force, 160,000. But now, divide that on four axes of advance, and then think of the distance that they have to cover, and then recognize that only about 1/3 of those troops are close combat troops. I don't think there's any way, Erin, that he can go all the way if all the way means gaining control of all of Ukraine and consolidating gains politically to put in a puppet government across all of that territory.
I don't think he's going to be able to do that at an acceptable level of loss. And, of course, this is what we don't know, we don't know how many losses have been inflicted exactly on the Russians, but it's a large number. And we do know that the Putin in the past has done everything he could to conceal casualties from the Russian people.
So I know I know that Gen. Clapper talked about Russia and others have talked about Russia's wounds to take casualties, but I think Putin knows that he's in a fragile position internally.
There are more political prisoners in Russia today, Erin, than there were at the height of the Cold War. There are more people in his internal security services than there are in his armed forces.
So I think authoritarians are pretty good at looking strong, but I think he has some real vulnerabilities and, of course, he's going to be much weaker, thanks to the sanctions and the way that the free world has come together.
BURNETT: Yes. And certainly just the passion, I mean, the young men that I just met in recent days in Ukraine who are signing up and going to fight. They may have signed up for battalions a few weeks ago. They've never trained before. They're putting on uniforms. They're taking guns and they're going out and they're willing to die. You don't see that from the Russians.
I mean, it is stunning just to see the patriotism and the bravery. But when you contextualize this with how far Putin is willing to go, I have to ask you this part of it, the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a warning today when he was talking about the possibility of World War III, if NATO got involved. Here's what he said, General.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIA FOREIGN MINISTER (through interpreter): Everybody knows that third world war can only be nuclear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Okay. Now, many in the West, General, who oppose, for example, a no-fly zone, they oppose it because they believe that Putin will reply with a nuclear holocaust. Do you share those fears?
MCMASTER: Well, I think it's a legitimate concern and Erin, this is again, a sign of weakness. Putin's conventional forces are proving themselves to be pretty darn incapable, his economy is the size of Italy's economy and is now under severe sanction. What is he left with? Cyber power and nuclear power.
And this is this doctrine of escalation domination that Putin has adopted many years ago, and was really unabashed about making clear the possibility of the first use of nuclear weapons to then pose the United States and NATO was an alternative, hey, either Armageddon or sue for peace on my terms.
This is extremely irresponsible to have a doctrine like escalation domination. But also, Erin, you remember in February of 2018, he's given a speech before the Parliament and he used this animated video and he showed Russian missiles to sending essentially like on Mar-A- Lago in Florida.
BURNETT: I can remember that.
MCMASTER: So this nuclear bluster is not new for him. But again, I think it's another sign of weakness, Erin.
BURNETT: Yes. Well, it's fascinating and I think that context is so important. I mean, that's sort of one of those Kim Jong-un-type of videos that he did point out. All right. General, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.
MCMASTER: Thank you, Erin. Thanks, Erin. Great to be with you. BURNETT: All right, you too.
And next, the world has watched in horror as Putin invades Ukraine, but this is what Russians are seeing on their TV. They're seeing this. They're seeing their army handing out humanitarian aid. And that's not all they're seeing, we're live in Moscow tonight.
Plus, he teaches English in one of the hardest hit cities in all of Ukraine. He's going to tell us about his harrowing escape and how he and his family are trying to stay safe tonight.
BURNETT: Tonight, a senior U.S. defense official warning that Russian forces have shown a willingness to hit civilian targets on purpose. The mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, telling me that Putin is intentionally killing civilians.
On Russian state media, though, wow. It's a totally different picture. It's like a humanitarian effort down there.
Nic Robertson is OUTFRONT with this report from Moscow.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: On Russia state TV, audiences are only being told what the Kremlin wants them to know about the war in Ukraine. This new Russian army video shows troops handing out humanitarian aid. They claim Russian forces are giving civilians safe passage from the fighting. A message reinforced in President Putin's latest state TV speech.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Our military have provided corridors in all areas of combat action.
ROBERTSON: The terrible reality the rest of the world sees? Shelling of civilians, suffering, death, and destruction. Never gets aired on Russian state TV. And many Russians believe their government, that the war was forced on them by Ukraine backed by NATO.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I know the truth. This was a forced measure on our side. After what Russia went through in world war ii, it's madness to believe we want war.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I see what's on TV when I am getting ready for work. We try not to get too involved in it because we've got enough of our own problems.
ROBERTSON: Some do care enough to reach beyond state TV. But even then, they are not convinced by what they see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Yes, I have heard some civilians, even children, have died. But I am not sure I can believe it because there is fake news. They are making money. ROBERTSON: Obedient anchors on state TV never question the Kremlin's
version of facts and reinforce its tropes about de-Nazification. No mention that President Zelensky is Jewish or Russian missiles killed civilians near a Holocaust Memorial in Kyiv.
Even so, some mostly younger Russians see through their government's lies, get their news from friends, independent and social media.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Almost all of us are understanding this thing that there is a lot of lie around. So we do not know what's happening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I think this is a crime, an aggression against a neighboring country. Our government invaded. Now, they are killing people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's awful. What can we think about it? Normal people understand our situation but we can't do anything, because we're afraid like everyone else.
ROBERTSON: The government is so worried, independent media could challenge their narrative.
In the past few days, it shut down two outlets. And is right now preparing a law that would criminalize what it calls fake media. It could carry a maximum 15-year jail sentence.
Despite the Kremlin's best efforts at controlling the narrative, many Russians have taken to the streets, angered by Putin's war.
More than 7,500 people arrested, so far, including this elderly lady at a protest in St. Petersburg Wednesday. And no surprise, this video is yet to be shown on state media.
ROBERTSON: Yeah. Right now, the truth is perhaps the most dangerous thing for President Putin and Russia, which is why the White House is so concerned that the Kremlin is stifling the independent message, cracking down, shutting down independent media. In fact, CNN has learned that the Biden administration has held at least seven -- held interviews with at least seven Russian-language outlets Echo Moscow radio and other independent stations among them.
Echo Moscow Radio is one of those shut down in the past couple of days. TV Rain was another.
I spoke just a few weeks ago with the anchor there. She said that, every day, they knew they were living on borrowed time. Well, that borrowed time is up because the Kremlin's shutting them down because they cover the protest, they cover -- they try and cover the facts, and now we know and see what's happened to them -- Erin.
BURNETT: Nic, thank you very much. And I want to go now to Mike Litovka who fled his home in Kharkiv and
traveled for more than 30 hours to a safer location for now in western Ukraine with his family, and his girlfriend.
And, mike, I so much appreciate your time. I -- I -- I have to imagine it is hard for you to hear a piece like you just heard. Our Nic Robertson in Moscow speaking to Russians about the invasion, and many saying they are against the war.
But -- but -- but many also believing what they see on Russian TV, asking a woman about civilian casualties and she says I am not sure I believe it because there is fake news. There were others who said the same.
Mike, what do you want the Russian people to know?
MYKHAILO LITOVKA, FLED KHARKIV WITH FAMILY AND GIRLFRIEND: Main thing I want -- I'd love people to know is that their country is -- is obviously the aggressor. There is no such thing as -- as a military operation that they are being told. There is no such thing as countries or nationalities here, Russian-speaking people who need to be saved.
This is absolute from my personal experience. My girlfriend's father lives in -- in Russia. And in this situation, he want literally nothing to do with supporting her or her mom or sister who are right now under fire in Kharkiv in -- in -- which is being constantly bombarded. Kharkiv right now is like the Stalingrad of that time.
And the posture of the media in Russia is so strong that the people who are actually from here, they are from Ukraine, they go there, after living there for some time, they assimilate. And they just take everything at face value. It's so strong that, in fact, my girlfriend reached out to him just for financial support in this -- in this case.
She didn't reach out to him with some kind of proof that, okay, this is what you are doing is wrong. She just said look we have a military situation here, we have a war and can you help us some way, at least financially? He said -- to quote directly -- helping you financially will be considered treason here. And that was the end of the conversation.
It's very sad, though, that this is dividing people so much in this way.
BURNETT: I am so sorry for your girlfriend and -- and her family. I mean, just -- it's impossible to truly understand. I do know, Mike, that you documented your journey when you left and I spoke to the mayor earlier this hour. You know, he is there.
Obviously, those air-raid sirens he is hearing as he speaks and talks about them. Extraordinary. He uses the word enormous number now civilian casualties. I know you are incredibly lucky to have left there, but it has been an arduous journey to where you are now, and obviously only a stop on perhaps where you may be going. You had to shelter in a metro station. You had to deal with air
strikes. How was your journey thus far? And I want to emphasize thus far because obviously you are now far from home.
LITOVKA: Yes. It was -- it was long and it was also sort of a waiting game. Since the first day after -- after the fact that we understood okay, this is the long haul. There are going to be bombardments. They are not going to stop. We remember waiting for a way to get out.
In my case, I have got a big family. I have got four sisters, single mom and my girlfriend, who -- who were living in Kharkiv and Kyiv, some in Kharkiv, some in Kyiv. Both of these places are really melting pots right now and if Kyiv is kind of still holding its own, it seems that Russia is purposefully trying to make an example of Kharkiv by just bombing everything possible there.
They don't even care. The not even trying to show they are bombing strategic units. So essentially, on the second day, we were just waiting for -- for a way to get out because we were just waiting for -- for a way to get out because we had already been sitting in bomb shelters in the metro for some time.
And luckily for me and my family and some other people who are in Kharkiv, a friend of mine gave me a contact of an IT company that was to -- that was to take -- that was doing evacuation effort from Kharkiv. They sent a few buses there, and we were able to go down through a previously checked and more or less safe route. We went down south and then through a few other cities, which I would prefer not to give away right now. It could be sensitive information.
But eventually, we made our way to western Ukraine to Lviv oblast. And we are currently here with -- with -- with my family. And contemplating -- as for the girls, we are contemplating fort ladies if they will continue going on further.
One of my sisters has already gone on further and she is at this moment as we speak, on the border with Hungary if I am not mistaken. And my other two sisters could be close to follow them. Together with my mom and my youngest sister who is only 5 years old.
At this point, I would not be able to leave the country even if I wanted to because there is a mandatory conscription men between ages of 18 and 60 cannot leave. Plus, while I'm here, I do believe there is use I can bring here mainly with information and logistics.
BURNETT: Right. Well, gosh, you are in my thoughts as this -- as is everyone in your family. And your girlfriend, I know it will be so hard for you if they leave but of course indeed be the right and safest thing to do. Thank so much. I appreciate your time.
And next --
LITOVKA: This is like -- the main thing I supposed I would like to add just if I could to finish up -- any effort that -- that -- that can be done is helpful. If there are people who are just around the world who have even a free spare minute, they can reach out and they can join.
Companies around the world, we are so happy to hear many of them have taken this effort to stop business with Russia even at the expense of maybe some losses.
We are really sad to hear some companies like Coca-Cola and other respected ones that I used to really look up to are not following this effort. I really urge them to. This is a way of -- that you can actually help Ukraine directly.
And you can also help with these efforts that are being taken with the IT to some of the infrastructure there. I really appreciate being able to get that across and thank you so much for helping us share our story and giving Ukraine a voice.
BURNETT: Thank you so much. I appreciate your time.
And next, the breaking news. And deeply disturbing news, this is. We have just learned there is now a fire at that nuclear power plant I mentioned in Ukraine, one of the largest in all of Europe after an attack by Russian forces. We have a live report on this very disturbing development, next.
Plus, Russian billionaires now high tailing it out to see, scrambling to move their massive yachts to try to save them from being seized. We are talking ships with outdoor theaters and helipads.
BURNETT: Breaking news. CNN learning that there is a fire at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine, Enerhodar. It is the one that is attacked by Russian troops. It is a plant in south central Ukraine.
You just heard me talk about it with General Clapper. It is one of the largest in all of Europe. There is a fire there now. Mayor of the town there posting a message on Facebook that reads and I quote him: a threat to world security as a result of relentless shelling by the enemy of the buildings and blocks of largest nuclear power plant in Europe -- the nuclear power plant is on fire.
If you just heard, General Clapper saying that any accident at this plant would be, in his view, two times bigger than Chernobyl if it were serious, much higher radiation than Chernobyl. Again, we know nothing about what this fire actually is. But obviously, it is a very concerning situation.
Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT. He is live in Odessa, Ukraine.
Nick, obviously, this is developing as -- as we are talking. And there is only so much we know.
Tell me what you understand at this time.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Limited information at this point, Erin, apart from the frankly sheer shock factor that we are even having this conversation. The Ukrainian foreign minister has said that if there were a fire or an accident at this power station, at Zaporizhzhia in south-central Ukraine, it would be ten-times worse than Chernobyl.
Now, I can't speak for the science of that. We don't know precisely where the fire is, within the nuclear power station but we have seen on live stream from the power station. It does appear that shells' impact have happened inside its grounds.
The fact that I am even saying these words is utterly chilling and it speaks, I think, possibly to a lack of discipline or a lack of grasp of the consequences of their actions that Russian forces will consider this to be a target worth trying to militarily seize.
I am kind of aghast that this is something they did not within their battle plan put a big, red circle around and say go nowhere near it. And we are now looking at the possibility of some kind of nuclear accident possibly occurring, again, in Europe. And I -- I -- absolutely remarkable how each time we speak, something occurs which is way outside of the grasp we thought was our reality -- Erin.
BURNETT: I mean, it is. And nick, my thoughts are with you obviously. You know, consider the fear that you have there on the ground. I mean, it is unbelievable that we are even having this conversation.
We are going to keep following this, everyone, as we he get more information. Look, you are in a situation of the fog of war. All we know right now is it is a fire. So, we really can't contextualize it for you, anything other than this is a massive nuclear power plant.
It's really important. It's 25 percent of all the power in Ukraine. It is one of the largest nuclear power plants on the entire continent of Europe. That's what we can tell you right now as we wait for more information.
So the White House today placing new sanctions on several Russian oligarchs described as, quote, Putin's cronies along with family members. The penalties include freezing their assets in the United States and blocking property.
One target is Putin ally Alisher Usmanov, as well as his private jet and his 512-foot yacht. It comes as a satellite image obtained by CNN shows the yacht reportedly tied to Putin docked in a militarized Russian port. They tried to place it out of the reach of potential sanctions.
Drew Griffin investigates.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 280 foot yacht Amore Vero features multiple decks, has a swimming pool that turns into a helicopter pad and boast of master and VIP suites to accommodate up to 14 guests, and it's just been seized by the French government. It's linked to Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian oil giant Rosneft. The yacht company now says he doesn't it.
European Union sanctions Sechin earlier this week, describing him as one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most trusted and closest advisers. The seizure, part of a coordinated action from Western countries making it difficult for Russian billionaires to operate and putting pressure on Putin.
BILL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: This is what he cares about. This is what's important to him, this helps because the oligarchs look after Putin's money. We want to punish Putin personally and directly for what he's done and this is the most direct way of doing that.
GRIFFIN: Another target of coordinated sanctions, super yacht Dilbar. It's currently being renovated in Hamburg, Germany, and owned by telephone and mining magnate. It has dozens of cabins and a crew of 96 people. Guests can swim in an 80-foot pool, once the largest ever put on a yacht.
A CNN review from MarineTraffic.com found yachts have been reported to be owned by Russian oligarchs spread out across the world. Some were already on the move towards friendlier ports in anticipation of a worldwide crackdown.
CATHERINE BELTON, AUTHOR, "PUTIN'S PEOPLE": The problem is the sanctions have been announced ahead of time so probably right now, they're all busy feverishly engineering deals in which ownership changes could be triggered the minute sanctions are handed down. So it's going to be a game of cat and mouse unfortunately.
GRIFFIN: That cat and mouse game they already begun, even with Russian billionaires not under sanction. The Galactica Super Nova, with ceiling marble, out door theater and pool, reportedly owned by a Russian oil company executive, left Barcelona on Saturday and cross the Mediterranean to Montenegro, ownership often hidden behind complicated registries, and shell companies, these are a symbol of the cash and prestige oligarchs have built under Putin, luxuries like anti-missile defense systems, bomb proof doors, mini submarine, or a beauty salon, and elevator.
One yacht now out of reach of any Western authorities, "The Graceful". German media has speculated the owner is none other than Vladimir Putin himself. Two weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, the yacht left Hamburg, Germany, and sped to Kaliningrad, Russia, where no location data has been recorded since.
GRIFFIN (on camera): Erin, it's not just yachts. The U.S. has sanctioned five ships it says are tied to a Russian bank, oil tankers and freighters, and there is a sign some of this may have the desired effect. That author interviewed talked to some of the oligarchs today who she said were shocked that Putin went this far, just unclear if they had any kind of influence over Putin -- Erin. BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Drew.
And next, our breaking news continues, the disturbing news out of Ukraine at this hour. The largest nuclear power plant in the country, one of the largest in Europe has a fire. The latest developments, next.
BURNETT: You're looking at live pictures of a fire broken out at a Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Enerhodar after an attack by Russian troops. Ongoing fighting we understand, firefighters unable to reach the fire at the power plant according to the mayor, this is a plant in south central Ukraine, biggest in the country. We're looking to closely follow this story and we'll bring more information when we have it.
This comes as more than a million refugees fled Ukraine since Vladimir Putin invaded, half, more than 500,000 of them are children according to the U.N. and it is distressing to see them on the ground. It comes as U.N. estimates as many as four million people could flee Ukraine in the coming weeks.
Ivan Watson is OUTFRONT at the Ukrainian-Hungarian border.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forced to flee their homes and their country, Ukrainians on the run. Their children, making the best of it, oblivious to the fact that a week-old war just turned them into refugees.
This is one of Hungary's border crossings with Ukraine. There's a steady stream of people arriving here in vehicles and on foot. All of the Ukrainian new arrivals are women and children.
Hungarian aid workers welcome the refugees and bring them free of charge to the nearest village where the community center is now a place of refuge. Some people staying here. Others pause for food and warmth before moving on.
Among those here, Anna Teperchuk, her mother, Svetlana and 16 month old son.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my son, Mark.
WATSON: They crossed the border this morning after spending a week on the road.
ANNA TEPERCHUK, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE: We are very thankful to the Hungarian people. It's very hard work that they are doing.
WATSON: The Hungarian village Barabas (h) has a population of 1,060 people. The deputy mayor tells me that village has taken in more than 100 Ukrainians, including housing families in at least l2 village homes. As we speak, another family arrives from Ukraine.
There's a little baby.
Yesterday, we took care of a five day old baby who came across the border, the deputy mayor tells me. A five day old baby.
Victoria Kurinna says when the Russians invaded, she fled her home near Kyiv for what she thought would be one night. A week later, she and her son just arrived in a foreign country.
What belongs do you have?
VICTORIA KURINNA, UKRAINIAN REFUGEE: I have just one jacket. I think Ukraine is very strong. It's a country with very strong people, strong nation. And amazing power and that's why I don't worry -- but, of course, my heart is broken.
WATSON: She said she tried to convince her friends in Russia via social media about the deadly attack their military is carrying out on her homeland.
What do your Russian friends say to you?
KURINNA: It's not sure. It's not possible.
WATSON: They don't believe you?
WATSON: Ten-year-old Temur (ph) chimes in saying Vladimir Putin is like Adolf Hitler. He's attacking the world just like Hitler did.
There are almost no men here aside from the elderly because all Ukrainian men of fighting age have been ordered to stay behind to defend their country from the Russian invasion.
TEPERCHUK: I'm very angry for Russia people.
WATSON: I want to tell Russians that it is time to do something, it's time to change something, says Anna Teperchuk. My son doesn't deserve to be forced to run across Ukraine and across borders, she adds. He doesn't deserve to grow up like this.
WATSON: Now, Erin, all across the Hungarian border region, I can't stress enough you see again and again in stores, in guesthouses, in cafes, Ukrainian women with their children, no men around.
It is an eerie phenomenon, result of this. The deputy mayor who is taking in these families, she predicts this is just the beginning. She predicts this will get much, much worse -- Erin.
BURNETT: Ivan, thank you very much.
And thanks to all of you. "AC360" starts now.