Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

WH Warns Russia Could Use Chemical Weapons In Ukraine; Zelenskyy: Strike On Maternity Hospital "Proof" Of "Genocide;" Russia Escalates Attacks As Ukrainians Push To Escape; U.N.: 2.1 Plus Million Refugees Have Fled Ukraine; U.K.; Russian Mercenaries Likely Deploying To Fight In Ukraine; Chinese Journalist Given Special Access To Pro- Russian Separatists. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 09, 2022 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So beautiful indeed. 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 the breaking news, U.S. warns Russia could be on the verge of using chemical or biological weapons as Ukraine accuses Putin of genocide after an attack on a maternity hospital.

Plus, lucky to be alive. A reporter shot while reporting outside Kyiv. He'll me how he came under attack and survived.

And a Chinese journalist gets unprecedented access to the pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukraine, why? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, the White House warning tonight that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine. The White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeting in part, "We should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine or to create a false flag operation using them. It's a clear pattern."

A chilling warning coming as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accuses Putin of genocide after a strike on a maternity hospital. In a video tonight, Zelenskyy asking why the maternity hospital was bombed.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through interpreter): Children's hospital, maternity ward, why were they a threat to Russian Federation? What kind of country is Russian Federation that is afraid of hospitals, afraid of maternity wards and destroys them?


BURNETT: I'll warn you that the images from the bombing are terrible to see.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are on a maximum extend, whatever cars you got send them here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Air strike. Maternity hospital.


BURNETT: Apocalyptic. The grounds completely scorched. Pieces of debris still floating in the air in the images that you're looking at here. Some people stumbling to safety. Others like this mother-to-be had to be carried out on a stretcher by volunteers, woman pregnant and bloody as she makes her way down a damaged flight of stairs. Unclear if others are still buried underneath. We don't know.

Russians are scrambling for an excuse. The Russian ambassador to France claims Russia wasn't behind the attack. The spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs though hours before the bombing claimed that Ukrainian military were using the maternity hospital to store artillery.

The pictures though, women bleeding and suffering are devastating. And Putin has hit many other civilian targets, of course, in many cities but in Mariupol itself, we are getting new satellite images tonight of Russian attacks on civilian targets. I'll show you this, this is an image of a shopping center in Mariupol before the invasion. There it is today. Entire building now shelled.

And neighborhood, let me show you this new image, a building with a red roof in the left hand corner, now the roof completely gone along with so many of the homes. These are residential neighborhoods. Civilians live in them.

Mariupol's mayor pleading for help. In a video tonight he called for a no fly zone and said what happened at the children's hospital is pure evil. From the air to the ground, there has been no lead up in the fighting.

New video in tonight from a city in southern Ukraine where troops armed with shoulder-fired missiles, Ukrainians are fighting back. Unclear if anyone was injured in the exact exchange that you're seeing here. But these attacks are coming as we're hours away from some sort of a meeting, a peace talk with the two top diplomats from Ukraine and Russia. There have not been talks thus far at the senior of a level.

For the first time since the invasion began, Ukraine's Foreign Minister will meet with his Russian counterpart. That meeting is going to happen in Antalya, Turkey in just hours. Now though we are on the ground across Ukraine as well as in Moldova where refugees are fleeing.

I want to begin with Sam Kiley. He is OUTFRONT tonight in Zaporizhzhia, of course, home to that massive nuclear power plant. Sam, what more are you learning tonight about the attack on the maternity hospital?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, while the people of Mariupol and that's 500,000 of them were waiting in vain for the possibility of an evacuation out of that besieged city, the Russians hit with a devastating air attack.

Now, this air attack fell in hospital number three, a maternity hospital in the city. The numbers of injured are remarkably low, only 17 reported so far from officials and no deaths. The probability is that most people in that hospital were already underground, cowering from the ongoing shelling that that city has endured now for more than a week.


But nonetheless, there were injured, there were pregnant women taken out of that facility. And above all, just the viciousness of this attack shown by the depth of the crater left from this vast detonation in the courtyard of a hospital, clearly marked hospital, the crater large enough, Erin, to swallow a whole man. Erin?

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Sam.

I want to go down to Matthew Chance. He is OUTFRONT in Kyiv. And Matthew, there was supposedly a brief ceasefire in some areas near where you were today. It seemed it may have held in some instances to allow civilians to flee. Did those ceasefires work at all? Were people able to evacuate?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, Erin, there was ceasefires across the country and there were humanitarian corridors that were opened up in various cities that have experienced some of the worst of the fighting over the past couple of weeks and, yes, Kyiv was one of those places.

And at that for a while, for a couple of hours, at least, for several hours, that corridor from the north of the city of Kyiv right into city's center was open. We went up there earlier. There were hundreds upon hundreds of people that were taking this chance to flee the fighting and to get their families to safety.


CHANCE (voice over): In the chaos of this evacuation, the frantic search for a lost child. In the rush to escape the fighting, an orphan has been left behind. Each bus now desperately checked for a familiar face.


CHANCE (on camera): Hi.


CHANCE: Hello. Hi. Do you speak English?


CHANCE (voice over): For the journey across the frontline, the children are well-protected against the cold, if not the bombs.

"The older kids were terrified, they're carried," Natasha tells me. "But the little ones didn't understand the danger they were all in," she says.

This is a mass exodus from areas under heavy Russian assault, an agreed safe corridor which hundreds of civilians, entire families are using to escape before it closes, leaving the horrors of the past few weeks behind.


NADIA: Nice to meet you, Matthew. My name is Nadia (ph).

CHANCE (on camera): Nadia. Where have you come from, Nadia?

NADIA: From Vorzel.

CHANCE: From Vorzel, which is a town up there.

NADIA: Yes. And this is a place which was very dangerous and there are lot of Russians and a lot of Chechens, I don't know.

CHANCE: Russians and Chechens?

NADIA: Yes. Russians and Chechens and they kill our ...


NADIA: ... owner of the house where we set in.

CHANCE: They killed the owner of the house?

NADIA: Yes. Yes. They killed the owner of the house.

CHANCE: And so you must have been - and your over here, you must have been terrified, frightening.

NADIA: Yes. It was terrifying. It was terrified, absolutely, terrified, but family is okay.


NADIA: Now, we are going to the ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language).

CHANCE: Where?

NADIA: Ten days in the underground.

CHANCE: You've been 10 days underground?

NADIA: Ten days underground.

CHANCE: Oh, my goodness. There you have it. Just one family that has taken this opportunity to escape the horrific situation they found themselves in for the last 10 days or more. And again, take that chance to get themselves and their children out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a lot of volunteers who helped with nutrition and warm ...

CHANCE: Yes, all these sandwiches ...


CHANCE (voice over): And helping them do that safely. This embattled Ukrainian official tells me is now as much a part of fighting this war with Russia is killing the enemy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, warm food and warm drinks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a medical crew that helps to manage people that were wounded. We've seen shelled people with broken and ruptured legs here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have a security force that actually interview people, because we are afraid that Russians may have sent some of their own in this ...

CHANCE: As spies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... as spies, as ...

CHANCE: Saboteurs or whatever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... as saboteurs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, right here.

CHANCE: And all of this is happening, of course, all of this is happening under the threat of artillery strikes and gunfire.


CHANCE: That's a real threat right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the real threat, but we have no choice because we have thousands of people who really have spent more than a week in the basements with no cellular coverage, with no access to medical assistance, with no food, no lights, no electricity and they want to flee. They need us to help them.


CHANCE (voice over): But as the buses leave for the capital, the boom of artillery fire resumes in the distance. The window for this escape from the fighting is closing fast.



CHANCE (on camera): Right. Well, Erin, it's been two days in a row that these humanitarian corridors have been opened from the north of Kyiv into the main city. But it's past two o'clock in the morning now here local time and there's no suggestion there's going to be another opportunity for these people to save their lives and to flee that fighting tomorrow.

There are going to be negotiations, though, because in Turkey, in a Turkish city of Antalya, we're seeing the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia meeting for the first time since this conflict began. And so there is at least, perhaps, a glimmer of hope that there could be some kind of, at least, talks about a diplomatic solution on the horizon. Erin?

BURNETT: Matthew, thank you so much.

And now I want to go to retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, former Commanding General of Europe and the 7th Army who has been with us throughout this and also Julia Ioffe, Founding Partner of the media company Puck. She was born in Russia and has long covered Russia, Ukraine and the region. Thanks to both.

So General, let me start with you. Sam Kiley was talking about that terrible bombing of that maternity hospital ward in Mariupol. Now, you heard the Russians, one Ambassador denying it, the spokeswoman for the foreign ministry seeming to justify it hours before, implying that the Ukrainians had some sort of military installation there and, of course, we saw the horrible images of pregnant women on shelters, bleeding being removed.

But a senior defense official said today that Russia is using dumb bombs, that their precision-guided targeting process is not working. What do you think is actually happening?

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I believe it's part of their campaign, Erin. This is not accidental. This is not because they don't have the right weapon systems. If you have suspicions that a military target is hiding in a hospital, which they claim they do, then you use a precision strike to get at that specific military target. That's not what this is.

This is purposely attempting to sow terror, confusion, grief, wanting the people to get out of there, so they can cause more damage to the civilian infrastructure. It is part of Russian campaign. We have seen it. It's no surprise because we have seen them do this time and time again.

BURNETT: So just to be clear, when the Defense Department says they're experiencing faults in their precision-guided targeting process, you're skeptical of that? You're saying that they could and they're choosing not to.

HERTLING: No. I'm not skeptical. It's BS. They had been using dumb bombs since the very beginning of this. We have seen explosive (inaudible) on the streets of Ukraine defusing dumb bombs. They have used them exclusively.

The only precision weapons they may be using are some of their missiles, but they're not dropping them from aircraft. I don't know what hit - I don't conduct crater analysis, that's not my specialty. But that crater in front of that hospital looks like something greater than a thousand-pound explosive.

So when you're talking about that, it's either a thousand-pound bomb, one type of cruise missile. And if it was a cruise missile, it would hit the building. It wouldn't land in the middle of. So this is purposeful in my view.

BURNETT: So Julia, in that context, the Ukraine Foreign Minister said today, he doesn't have high expectations. Those were Minister Kuleba's words. About his meeting that's scheduled for tomorrow, well, hours from now, actually, with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

But it is interesting, Julia, that Zelenskyy did last night talk about well possible calling to NATO and possibly in terms of certain territories, including Crimea. You have been following this closely and these are the highest level talks that have happened thus far. Do you have any hope that anything comes out of this?

JULIA IOFFE, RUSSIAN-AMERICAN JOURNALIST AND FOUNDING PARTNER, PUCK: Well, on one hand, I think that this might be the only way that this war ends and I can see why President Zelenskyy would say, you know what, NATO isn't worth this, isn't worth pregnant women in labor being shelled by the Russians, isn't worth little girls dying of dehydration in Mariupol. So I can see why he's offering some of this stuff up, putting it on the table when two months ago was not on the table.

As for the talks, I don't know how seriously the Russians are taking it. They've done this before, for example, in Syria while they were helping Bashar al-Assad do exactly what Putin is now doing to Ukrainian cities. They also had very high level talks with the U.S. and Geneva with - they had them all over Europe and nothing came of them. If anything, they gave cover to Assad to seize more and more territory, to grind more and more of Syria into the ground.


So I worry that this is just Putin stalling for time. I can't imagine that he will compromise and I can't imagine that he will allow himself to be seen as having been beaten or bested in any way by Ukrainians who he thinks are part of a country that isn't real and whom he calls little Russians. BURNETT: So Gen. Hertling, in this context, the question is where

does this go. Poland had said it would transfer it's old MiGs to the United States to then give to Ukraine, sort of a bizarre chain of command, but that's what they were going to do. The United States is for now, General, just shut that off completely. They were caught off guard.

The Pentagon made it clear today that there's no way they're going to do this. That the intelligence community believes that doing it, giving those MiG-29s to Ukraine would be seen as Putin as an escalatory step, so the U.S. is not going to do it. Do you think they're right?

HERTLING: I do. And it's not only just an escalatory step, Erin, it's also because of the threat analysis of what's going on in Ukraine right now. Those aircraft are not as beneficial as Ukrainian air defense capability, ground air defense. Because Russia has some pretty good air defense systems and they have what military guys called bubbles over different parts of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Air Force is flying. They're doing a relatively good job, but the transfer of MiGs, not a very good aircraft by the way to the Ukrainian force is only going to create potentially more casualties, because there'll be shut down. The better assessment, the better analysis is saying let's put air defense or provide them more mid-range air defense to complement the stingers they already have to shoot Russian aircraft out of the sky.

BURNETT: Julia, in terms of--

HERTLING: And by the way, Russian aircraft aren't flying very well either ...


HERTLING: ... across the board. They are delivering some ordnance but they have not shown themselves to be glorious in this campaign.

BURNETT: No, not at all. And Julia, one thing that, of course, that we've seen amongst them and others is this casualty count that is a lot higher than anything Putin expected, but we still don't know how big it is. The Ukrainians are saying it's more than 11,000 Russians have been killed. U.S. intelligence says it's 2,000 to 4,000. Putin says - the Russians are saying it's a whole lot less than that. Do you have any sense of what the real number is, because obviously that number is what's going to matter to Russians.

IOFFE: Well, I don't know that it's going to matter to Russians, frankly. I think historically, Russia's soldiers are seen as cannon fodder or in the Russian parlance, it's even grimmer, it's called cannon meat and I don't think that this matters to Putin. I don't think he cares about casualties the way, for example, the American Army does.

Well, the other interesting thing about this, by the way, is that we don't know what the casualty count is on the Ukrainian side. I think that's going to matter more than the casualty count on the Russian side. The Ukrainian government is not releasing those figures and the U.S. is also kind of not releasing them. I think that's also going to be very significant.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. Thank you both very much. Julia, General, I appreciate your time.

And next, a family with a two-year-old spending days and nights in their basement hiding, they only had minutes to escape when they heard the sound of Russian jets.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They packed two suitcases and left with five minutes' notice.


BURNETT: Plus, reporters under attack in Ukraine. I'm going to talk to one of them who was there with his photo - photographer, photo journalist, they were shot while covering the bombing of a kindergarten. He'll tell you what happened.

And an update to a story that we first told you about last week, an American twins. Remember they were born prematurely in Kyiv literally the day of the invasion. Well, we're going to tell you the story, their harrowing trip out of the country. We'll hear from the twin's father and the man who rescued them.



BURNETT: Hypothermia, frostbite, respiratory disease, mental health challenges, these are just some of the many, many health problems that Ukrainian refugees are experiencing. The WHO is saying it but it is just the reality there on the ground. More than 2.1 million people have fled Ukraine in just the past two weeks. Those are the U.N. numbers and as I've been saying since day one, that is still the tip of the iceberg.

And right now over 100,000 of those refugees are now in neighboring Moldova. That is according to Moldova's Internal Affairs Ministry. Ivan Watson is OUTFRONT there. He is in Chisinau, Moldova.

And Ivan, obviously, Moldova - it's a small country and certainly relative to Ukraine, which is such a large country but people there have been stepping up in such a huge way to help the refugees pouring over their border.

WATSON: They have. The Russian invasion and the exodus of refugees triggered this really impressive mobilization of resources here first with civil society that got started on moving refugees to safety and then across the border deeper into Europe if they wanted to and then the government joined up with civil society.

Perhaps, most impressive is just how much people are doing at a grassroots level.


WATSON (voice over): On the day Russia first attacked Ukraine, residents of this sleepy village in Moldova heard explosions.


RUSANDA CURCA, MOLDOVA ACTIVIST: You can hear sometimes the explosions from Ukraine. It's terrifying.


WATSON (voice over): It's not just the sounds of war that are coming across the border. Refugees of the conflict have come here too. Some Moldovan villagers have opened their doors to their Ukrainian neighbors in their time of need. People like Boris Makeyev, this 75- year-old widower welcomed Olga Kuznetsova (ph), her mother and two children into his home after they fled across the border last week.

"I feel badly for them," he says. "The children are small. This little one is innocent." Boris holds two-year-old, Andrei (ph), as if he was his own grandson.


These Ukrainians have never been to Moldova before, but they fled after spending days and nights hiding from Russian airstrikes in the basement of their home.


WATSON (on camera): The family left on very short notice after hearing warplanes through the night. They packed two suitcases and left with five minutes' notice.


WATSON (voice over): With no advance planning, the women rely entirely on the generosity of Moldovans for food, shelter and clothing, including for eight-year-old, Viera (ph).


VIERA: (Foreign language).

WATSON (on camera): Viera (ph) says that they're very kind people here in Moldova.

What made you want to help?

CURCA: Because I don't know how to act differently.


WATSON (voice over): Rusanda Curca has been helping find homes in the village for a few dozen of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians that have fled to Moldova in the last two weeks.


CURCA: So because it's normally to help people in need, some people are hosting refugees, other are donating products, stuffs things and others are just praying for peace.


WATSON (voice over): Down the road from Boris' house, we meet Valentina Chevney (ph). She took in her Ukrainian sister-in-law, Olga and family, including 29-year-old Natalia (ph), who is seven months pregnant.

"We have to stop Vladimir Putin," Olga tells me or else he'll just keep going, invading countries like Moldova and Poland. As she speaks, Olga's 14-year-old daughter fights to hold back tears.

The Moldovan government says 10s of thousands of refugees are living in the homes of ordinary Moldovans, an extraordinary act of collective kindness from one of the poorest countries in Europe. Asked how long he can afford to continue hosting this Ukrainian family, Boris Makeyev told me, they can stay as long as they need.


WATSON (on camera): Now, Erin, the Moldovan government says one out of eight children in this country right now is a Ukrainian refugee and an official says the government starting to look at trying to integrate this population with the country's existing education system.

The kids that I met today, I asked them, "What are you guys doing for school right now?" And their parents said that they're actually doing distance learning right now, a phenomenon that, of course, began for these Ukrainians during the COVID pandemic and now has been extended into this war. They may be refugees outside of their countries, but their teachers in Ukraine are still sending them assignments and homework to do on the internet. Erin?

BURNETT: That is incredible. Quite extraordinary what it says about those teachers. It is extraordinary. And about Moldova, that the first thing that they're trying to do is to integrate and include them in the schools when they have the list of so many countries. It is extraordinary. Thank you, Ivan.

Next, lucky to be alive. A reporter's firsthand accounts of his brush with death. He was shot while covering a kindergarten bombing near Kyiv. And a Chinese journalists whose reports sound, well, curiously like Russian state media, accusing Ukraine of lies. Who is he? Why is he there? And why is he saying what Putin wants him to say?


[19:32:27] BURNETT: Breaking news: mercenaries from private Russian companies are likely deploying to Ukraine right now to help Putin. This is the latest intel from the United Kingdom's ministry of defense tonight. It comes as a growing number of journalists are coming under attack or being shot at while reporting on this war.

OUTFRONT now, Stefan Weichert. He is a freelance journalist for "The Daily Beast" and "Ektsra Bladet", which was a Danish newspaper. He and his photographer were shot about trying to cover a reported Russian bombing of a kindergarten near Kyiv.

Stefan is now recovering in Denmark.

Stefan, I'm so glad that you are -- that you are safe. That you survived. I know your colleague of course did as well.

Obviously, this happened incredibly quickly in your memory of it I'm sure is punctuated and truncated in various points of what happened. Tell me how you do remember how it unfolded.

STEFAN WEICHERT, FREELANCE JOURNALIST FOR EKSTRA BLADET, DAILY BEAST: Well, I was going as you said to report about that bombed kindergarten and I got there and my colleague and I were in constant contact with the Ukraine military about, you know, getting access to that kindergarten which was on the territory controlled by Ukraine military.

And you know as we got there was almost the kindergarten that we -- there was a Russian artillery attack, which made a lot of confusion in the area. And that prevented us from going there and instead, my colleague and I decided to arrive in the outskirts of the city to get away from potentially what could be a new Russian invasion. And when we did that, a car with a gunman just approach from behind stepped out with an automatic rifle and just shot into our car.

And I just want to add that our car was labeled "press". It was labeled. So it was obvious that we were journalists.

BURNETT: Right. There was no way that anyone could confuse you for not being a journalist, which I think is really crucial to say.

So, Stefan, there's that. There is also than at that moment when you realized you were shot. It's almost as if did you even realize what happened? Did you even feel it at first?

WEICHERT: It was crazy. I mean, I've never felt anything like this. I mean, bullets were like flying right next to my head, I remember I felt like I could almost see one of the bullets I know that's not really possible but it was just going right past my ear -- it was crazy. Just by pure reaction when the shooting started, you know, I just dived as fast as possible way in the car while the guy keeps shooting at us, you know?


And we're getting shot -- I'm getting shot here in the shoulder on the back and through and actually did not feel the of first, until I'm trying to make a turn and I can feel how my arm is not really working properly. And --

BURNETT: So, again, your car here is clearly labeled press. There have been a Russian artillery attack obviously that you were trying to get away from, when you are going through this checkpoint. Someone gets out of the car behind you and again I just one make the point here, your car as I know you know, we were doing with ours as well, clearly labeled on the roof, clearly labeled on the sides, and every possible way that your press, right?

WEICHERT: Yeah. I mean, that's what we have to do, and I think there was a lot of confusion because we did not expect that there would be shootings directly at what would be the press, right? I mean, that's not what we were expecting. That's now we heard has been the case but I think what we have seen here over the last few days have been that numerous journalists have been shot while driving around the cars label press. So it seems like this is happening deliberately, right?

And there was something I couldn't really -- I couldn't really grasp at the beginning because we seen my colleague and I could be the first ones who were deliberately shot after.

BURNETT: Yeah, it is -- it is horrific. Stefan, I'm so glad they are okay, you and your colleague. Thank goodness you're there and you are home safely. Thank you so much.

WEICHERT: Thank you very much.

BURNETT: And next, usually it's the kind of acts as the you'd only get if you were Russians state media. So why is a Chinese journalist riding along with pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, showing off their deadly weapons.

Plus, it's a story we first told about last week, that you may remember the American father pleading for help because Ukrainian surrogate have given birth to an extremely premature twins, on the day of the invasion. Tonight, you're going to hear the incredible details of how we got them out of Ukraine.



BURNETT: Breaking news, the White House slamming China for helping Russia push lies about its invasion of Ukraine. The Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeting: We took note of Russia's false claims about alleged U.S. biological weapons labs and chemical weapons development in Ukraine. We've also seen Chinese officials echoed these conspiracy theories.

It comes as China faces growing scrutiny for pushing Russian spin, anything the Russians have alleged, you hear coming as an echo from some Chinese state media. They've even refused at the highest level of the Chinese government to publicly called the invasion an invasion.

And there's one Chinese reporter whose unprecedented access is raising a lot of questions.

Will Ripley is OUTFRONT.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Reporting from the front lines of the battle for Eastern Ukraine, veteran Chinese journalists, Lu Yuguang, long time Moscow chief correspondent for Phoenix TV, embedded with pro-Russian separatist forces.

This kind of exclusive access riding with rebel soldiers getting this close to their tanks and weapons normally reserved for Russian stay media.

Lu's station is privately owned. But just like state media, Lu's reports have a distinctly pro-Russian spin, largely ignoring the relentless bombing of civilian targets.

JAKE WALLIS, HEAD OF INFORMATION OPERATION & DISINFORMATION, AUSTRALIAN STRATEGICPOLICY INSTITUTE: There is a fundamental difference between how the press and journalists who come from Western democracies. That's particularly apparent when we compare it to state media from China.

RIPLEY: Chinese media, largely following the Russian narrative, calling the invasion of Ukraine a special military operation, claiming high prices and weapons are targeting the military and not civilians, saying the Ukrainian people feel abandoned by the United States and president Joe Biden, while quoting Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that Russia has no ill intentions towards his neighbors.

ZHANG XIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF CENTER FOR RUSSIAN STUDIES, EAST CHINA NORMAL UNIVERSITY: Well, state media tends to follow the official line of a more closer.

RIPLEY: For millions of mainland China viewers, this sanitized, pro- Russian coverage is all they're allowed to see.

Coverage praising the peacekeeping efforts of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his strengthening alliance with the Russian president. No mention of U.S. intelligence claiming China persuaded Russia to postpone the invasion until after the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Critical coverage by CNN and other Western networks censored, along with graphic images of terror and carnage unprovoked and unleashed on the Ukrainian people by the same President Putin praised on Chinese state media.


RIPLEY (on camera): They are very reluctant to go against the government's official stance and as a result of that, they're not showing some of the graphic images, the cruelty that's happening on the ground in Ukraine, Erin. You saw firsthand when you are there but this reporter who obviously

has seen things as well, not choosing not to show those in his reports.

BURNETT: That's incredible. That's just such an incredible perspective. Will, thank you so much, reporting from Taipei tonight.

And OUTFRONT next, an update on the American father we first told you about last week whose twins were born prematurely via surrogate in Ukraine. Those twins are now safe, but wait until you hear the story about the rescue that those children you know still in neonatal care and where they are tonight.

Plus, we are learning this evening the names of the mother and her two children who were killed while trying to escape Ukraine.



BURNETT: Happy inspiring update, to a personal story we have been falling in Ukraine. Last week, I spoke with the American father. You might remember him for his twin sons were born seven weeks premature via surrogate in Ukraine on the day of the invasion. They are now safely out of the country, they are in a polish hospital.

But the rescue operation was dramatic, and it was spearheaded by a military veteran who specializes in rescuing at risk people from war zones. It is in incredible story. I spoke earlier today with the boys' father, Alex Spektor, and Bryan Stern, who got the twins out of Ukraine safely about the dangerous journey.

And I began by asking Alex what it felt like that when he was finally able for the first time to hold his sons.


ALEXANDER SPEKTOR, FATHER OF PREMATURE TWINS BORN IN UKRAINE TO SURROGATE: It is hard to put into words. , you know for the last 12 days, we were in such a different mode, in such a different life. It was nonstop attempts to get the boys out of Kyiv. We haven't slept. So, just to hold them, in our hands, to see them, to be able to touch them, it's -- you know, it's quite overwhelming.


And I think it's -- it will take time, it is hard to switch from the overdrive mode into regularly mode. Which, I also don't really know, like I told you, I'm still trying to change the diapers, and learn how. We asked the nurses for a doll so they could practice at home, but they said no dolls. They said you're going to start with the real babies. They said it is going to take time. So --

BURNETT: So, Bryan, I know you're a military veteran, you specialized in getting people out of some pretty terrible, and frightening wars on situations. In this case, you're taking two preemie babies, out of an active war zone.


BURNETT: You're hearing the wars on bombs cough. Tell me what you did.

STERN: There were actually three, and there was also baby Sophia, who is a British premature baby. It was a trifecta. There is the third.

Ukraine is an active war zone, and all of the terrible things that happen in active war zones are present. We stopped at two different hospitals, and then another to get baby Sofia. At both hospitals, we could hear and feel Russian artillery landing in the city.

So, during the opening minutes of the rescue, there was active conflict. And then it was a 14-hour drive from Kyiv to Poland. And along the way are checkpoints with Ukrainians who are defending their country. Appropriately so, we did not have any and negative experiences, or anything like that, but nevertheless, every checkpoint you go to there are machine guns pointed at you.

So, you know, this was a complicated thing. Project Dynamo, we have rescued hundreds of people, and a lot of kids, a lot of kids. We tend to do families. We have never, this was the first one for us where there is medical support needed. That is the biggest challenge.

BURNETT: Alex, how is it to manage that? You're getting updates along the way, but obviously you have decided that this risk is worth it, right, to get them to safety. Every step of the way, you had to have just been so terrified, frankly.

SPEKTOR: Well, thankfully, Bryan did not tell us all of the dangers that we were facing. He was also updating us on the progress, and on the state of the babies pretty much constantly. That was incredibly assuring.

And, you know, for us, because of the terrible situation in which we had found ourselves, where the babies are premature, so they need to stay in a hospital. The window of opportunity was closing. So, when we talked to Brian for the first time, he said you have about 2 to 5 days before it becomes very different.

So, for us, the decision was one of the most difficult decisions to make. Do we take a chance and leave the boys in Kyiv until they get healthy enough, so that we can move them out. Or do we lose this chance to bring them out, even though right now to bring them out is dangerous. The supplies were almost impossible to obtain. They needed incubators. These guys brought hand warmer to give the boys warmth, bottles of hot water, hot water bottles. Just in case.

Baby Sophia needed an incubator because she was on a respirator. Somehow, it all came together.


BURNETT: And Alex told me he hopes to bring his boys home to the United States in about two weeks. He said that they need to wait more.

His brave surrogate Katya made the long journey with the twins to Ukraine to Poland, the surrogate did.

Keep in mind, she left her only child behind to do that. She's going back to Ukraine with Bryan tonight, to reunite with her own, son and bring her to Ukraine. When a magnificent woman.

Alex also credited many who have helped them, including ambulance drivers, who have taken desperately ill people, preemies like his children out of Ukraine every day. And then selfishly turning around, and going back in to Ukraine.


OUTFRONT next, the graphic image of their death was seen around the world. Tonight, we know who they are. The names of the mother and her children killed trying to escape Kyiv.


BURNETT: And tonight, we know the names of the mother and her two children, killed outside Kyiv by an airstrike, while trying to escape Ukraine. Their deaths captured in that haunting images seen around the world.

We warn you when we show you this that it is graphic but we want you to see who she is. Tatiana Perebeinis, according to her employer, SE Ranking, which is a California tech company, and her two children, Alise age 9, and Nikita, 18. A spokesperson for SE Ranking says, Perebeinis -- there she is in her work photo that's how it was for her two weeks ago.

She wanted to leave Saturday. She changed her plans to Sunday because you want to leave through the green corridor with other civilians through the supposed safe path.

Earlier this week, I spoke to the photojournalist, Lynsey Addario, who took that picture.


LYNSEY ADDARIO, PHOTOJOURNALIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: There was a family just there laying down and I saw their shoes, the use of a child in the body of children and immediately as a mother of course I was sort of like, I can't, I can't think about this too much, I have to just document this because this is a war crime.


BURNETT: A man who is helping the family escape was also killed in the attack.

"AC360" starts now.