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Erin Burnett Outfront

WH Announces Biden Will Go To NATO Headquarters; Zelenskyy In Clearest Term Yet Appears To Drop NATO Ambitions; "2 Days With No Sleep": Russian State TV Editor Speaks Out After Arrest For Holding Up Anti-War Sign During Broadcast; Russian Prisoners Of War: Putin "Has Given Orders To Commit Crimes;" U.S. "Concerned" About China Providing Military Support To Russia. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 15, 2022 - 19:00   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't know. And that's obviously a question that science and then the policy may be different in different areas around the country. But, again, we got to pay attention to these signs and what's happening in Europe.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We certainly will. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as usual, thanks very much for watching. And to our viewers, thanks for watching as well. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Biden headed to NATO headquarters as Putin ramps up his attacks on civilians. Ukrainians accusing Russian troops of holding people against their will in a hospital tonight in Mariupol.

Plus, the Russian journalist who interrupted that broadcast on state- run television, remember to protest the war, you saw her last night, is speaking out tonight detailing what she went through after being arrested.

And Russian soldiers crying, speaking to CNN telling us that Putin's invasion is a 'crime'. These are incredible interviews. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight the breaking news, a show of force. The White House announcing tonight that President Biden will travel to NATO headquarters in Brussels. It is an important meeting as Putin's forces bomb Ukraine for the 20th straight day. News of Biden's trip coming as the leaders of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia actually went into Ukraine. A trip shrouded in secrecy as the three men traveled by rail all the way to Kyiv to meet with the country's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

This is a video of that sit down posted by Zelenskyy. And along with the video he writes, "Your visit to Kyiv at this difficult time for Ukraine is a strong sign of support. We really appreciate it."

A dramatic visit given a barrage of explosions continue to rock that city. I'll show you what's left of an apartment building series of them actually look at that. Just destruction and smoke entire exterior wall is gone. City's mayor walked the streets wearing a flak jacket saying that at least four people were killed in the attack so that we should emphasize no one really knows given the horror of the situation where people are and what those numbers are. There's the Mayor of Kyiv.

And in an effort to prevent more fatalities, the capital is now on lockdown. People inside Kyiv are no longer allowed to move around the city for the 35 hours unless they're heading to a bomb shelter. And in Kharkiv, scenes a dramatic rescues after that city was pummeled by Russian strikes, 65 of them in 24 hours.

And I spoke to the city's mayor today. He told me just how grim the situation is. He says all in now from what he sees 600 buildings in his city damaged, 48 schools, 26 kindergartens and at least five medical clinics.


MAYOR IHOR TEREKHOV, KHARKIV, UKRAINE (through interpreter): Unfortunately, shelling is continuous both in the center part of Kharkiv and in suburbs. It just continuous incessant shelling and firing and it seems like it has actually increased towards the evening. And we've had more air strikes and it seems like more of them actually hitting at residential blocks, and buildings, infrastructure of the city. So basically the situation is dire.


BURNETT: The situation is dire and that's in Kharkiv. In the port city of Mariupol, the city that's been described as the center of hell by the U.N. where they can't even get humanitarian supplies in, they actually can in Kharkiv but not in Mariupol. Tonight, their reports from Mariupol that Russian forces are now holding people against their will at a hospital there.

One hospital employee managing to get a statement out saying, "They shoot hard, we sit in the basement. Cars have not been able to drive to the hospital for two days. High-rise buildings around us are burning, the Russians have rushed 400 People from neighboring buildings to our hospital. We can't leave."

Well, in a moment, I'm going to speak to an official from Mariupol for the very latest there. And we are live across Ukraine tonight.

I want to begin with Sam Kiley who is OUTFRONT in Kyiv, in the midst of that curfew. Sam, what is the latest from where you are now?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, there was a lot of very loud explosions at some distance in the west of the city as this curfew went into play at about eight o'clock local time. Then there was a pause just in the last time, in the last few moments while you've been describing what's been going on across the country to our viewers.

It started up again, there's a very heavy bombardment of some kind going on principally in the west of the city. We don't know if that's incoming or outgoing. It's too far away for us to tell. But the pattern has been, of course, that the west and you were showing images there from earlier on today has borne the brunt of the Russian assault, the northwest and west. There has been anticipation also of in continuing pressure to come in against the capital from the east and the northeast as part of the presumed Russian plan to try to completely cut the city off, if not, try to capture it all together, Erin.


BURNETT: Al right. Sam, thank you very much as we continue to monitor, we'll hear from Sam as he listens through this hour.

I want to go now, as promised, to Maxim Borodin. He is the Mariupol City Council Deputy. And Maxim, I so much appreciate your time. And, of course, I know you are both physically, emotionally, mentally fatigued so greatly right now. What is the situation tonight?

MAXIM BORODIN, MARIUPOL, UKRAINE CITY COUNCIL DEPUTY: The situation is catastrophic. I speak with my friend who today is lucky to go out from Mariupol. And it's terrible, because Russian terrorists, not military, they are terrorists, taken as hostages not only people in the hospital, they take hostages all 300,000 people of Mariupol for about 10 days. They're not stopping bombing with big bombs, fire bombs and they're shelling all the time. The people can't even go out to cook something. There are no electricity, no heat, no water and no food supply. They totally cut off Mariupol from Ukraine, because they can't get the city with their troops and they decide to totally destroy it. I think there are no any building today in Mariupol which are not - partially destroyed. The center of the city is a mess.

BURNETT: So I want to understand how many people are there in this catastrophic situation. I know today, President Zelenskyy's Deputy Chief of Staff, Maxim, said 20,000 people were able to leave Mariupol by car. But as you point out, that would still leave about 320,000 people in Mariupol, more than 300,000 people. You're talking about no heat, no water, no food cut off even from all of Ukraine - yes.

BORODIN: And froze on the streets, it's minus seven and minus six on the streets.

BURNETT: So what is going to happen to these people, Maxim? If they don't have food and they don't have water, this has been going on for days. I mean, when you use the word catastrophic, what are you saying?

BORODIN: Russians especially do this. They know what they doing. They want the city to surrender. And only one decision, to free the free is get help from our American and European partners. We need this plane jet, MiG-29, and we need anti-air systems, because without them, Russians are making genocide in Mariupol.

And even today, we don't know the real count of dead people, because a lot of body lies on the street and no one can bury them with normal situation. So all the world don't understand the real situation here, people who fled from the city today, they're in - I don't know how to spell it, they have problems to speak about this.

BURNETT: Yes. And do you have any sense, Maxim, at this point of the 320,000 or 330,000 people at least who are still in Mariupol, how many of them want to leave?

BORODIN: Most of the people want to leave, but this green corridor which today is present it's not enough because Russians don't get humanitarian convoy to Mariupol with food, with water, with medical supply and with buses, which can go away citizens from Mariupol. They say they'll only let them in if Mariupol surrender. They do like terrorists, it's not military operation, it's terrorists.

BURNETT: Wow. Maxim, thank you so very much. I appreciate your sharing this with us, making sure people understand. Thank you.

BORODIN: Thank you.

BURNETT: Maxim Borodin, as I said Mariupol City Council Deputy.

I want to go now to retired Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, former Assistant Secretary of State for Political military affairs and Evelyn Farkas, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Eurasia and Ukraine.

Gen. Kimmitt, let me give you a chance to just respond to what we just heard from Maxim, talking about the catastrophic situation in Mariupol that there is no food, no heat, no water and people can't even get outside to cook on an open fire because of the shelling.


He says not a single building in that city does not have damage. And by his estimate at this point of the 330,000-ish people who are left, almost all of them want to leave and are not being allowed to buy the Russians unless the city surrenders. What does all this say to you about the Russians - the Russians are doing, General?

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, we've been using this phrase over and over again. This is the Russian way of war. You surround a city, you siege the city, you shell the city, you starve the city. You take away their food, their water, their electricity, because the last thing they want to do is send their troops in because all of those rubble buildings have now become sniper positions, those sewer lines have now become a means for the Ukrainian fighters to get from one position to another.

Maxim is exactly right, they're trying to get the city to surrender through essentially a terrorist campaign of trying to bring the city to its knees.

BURNETT: And Evelyn, admits to this, a pretty incredible thing happened today, three NATO country leaders got on a train and went to Kyiv, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, the prime minister of Poland and the leader of Slovenia. They arrived just hours after people were killed in shelling of a residential area in western Kyiv. And obviously, there's ongoing shelling, you heard Sam Kiley said a shelling going on right now. The entire city, in fact, is in a 35-hour curfew. Okay, so they're coming in during this. It's a pretty incredible thing. Biden will go to meet with NATO next week in Brussels. So how does Putin see all of this, these moves of solidarity? Do they mean anything to him?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: KIMMITT: Well, I don't think it means much to him that the leaders of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia went to Ukraine necessarily, because he has disdain for smaller countries and even larger countries like Ukraine, which is larger than Slovakia and the Czech Republic and Poland.

So that's not going to enter into his calculus, but these are very brave politicians to go in there and I think they further underline the fact that this is a war that where the we is very broad. We are Ukrainians is what they're saying. And we are Europeans together with the Ukrainians and we have to defend them.

I want to just say one other quick thing. Just to add to what Gen. Kimmitt was saying about the Russian behavior here. I mean, these are war crimes after World War II. I mean, my father lived through World War II. He lived in a basement and was getting bombarded by bombs, civilians were targeted, but they are also were military targets at the time.

After World War II, we set up the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions, which established laws of war so that you couldn't target civilians. So the Russians really have to be held accountable. I mean, they are bringing us back so many decades and centuries, it's unbelievable.

BURNETT: Again, I want to point out just so everyone understands here, when the Russians want to, they have hit with incredible precision military bases, exact radio battalions, they have shown their ability to do that. So the fact that they are not doing that in city after city and shelling it with brutal artillery is a choice, not a mistake. I know that people have this conversation. I just want to make that clear.

General, I want to ask you, President Zelenskyy has finally moved away from Ukraine joining NATO. Today, he said and I'll just read it. He said, for years, we've been hearing about how the door is supposedly open to NATO membership, but now we hear that we cannot enter and it is true and it must be acknowledged.

Obviously, this was maybe the bare minimum of what Putin would have accepted before this, if even anything. Does it move the needle now?

KIMMITT: It's too little too late. Putin has sent his troops in. He's lost troops in battle. That's not going to be enough for him to end this campaign. He still wants to overturn the government. He wants to neutralize this country, make it a neutral country so this notion of these small tokens given by Zelenskyy, unfortunately, only show Putin that Zelenskyy is starting to capitulate, which tells me that Putin is going to ramp this up even more. BURNETT: So Evelyn, the no-fly zone comes up again and again. We just

heard it from Maxim from Mariupol. And when I was talking to the mayor of Kharkiv earlier today, I mean, when you say what do you want the world to know, they want the world to know about their fortitude and their passion to fight and they want the world to know that they want a no-fly zone.

And we hear this from Zelenskyy but we hear it from all of them. I understand that that would not stop artillery and the shelling that is occurring, that this is mass death and civilians casualties.


But do you think at this point that a no-fly zone would accomplish anything significant?

FARKAS: Look, I think, Erin, that you have to try everything you can, first of all, to protect the civilians from this artillery, from the bombing, from all of the air attacks that they are succumbing to and that they're suffering from, because these are innocent civilians and it's against the laws of war.

So I believe our administration should look at all options, keep them all on the table and assess them according to the risk. The cost to us, the cost to all parties involved.

I think there is a place for humanitarian, no fly zone, because there has to be a way to resupply places like Mariupol. And if you're going to resupply, or you're going to take people out, there has to be an agreement that the Russians won't shoot at them or if there's no agreement, we have to try to protect them.

And again, these things are both risky, because if you have an agreement, you can't trust the Russians. And if you have no agreement, you're taking a risk that the Russians will be too afraid to shoot at you. But at the end of the day, we can't just sit there and let these people die.

Now, one quick thing about Zelenskyy's comment. I think he's showing that he's open to negotiation. He can't go much farther than what he said today, but he may be signaling to the west and to the Russians that you can sit down and deal with me. So that's just an aside.


FARKAS: But we have to do more to protect the civilians. And I hope the administration is coming up with all kinds of options.

BURNETT: All kinds of options. Al right. Thank you both so very much. And again, I mean, you just got to keep in mind, there's hundreds of thousands of people in Mariupol. And by our count, talking to people who have family there, doctors who are working there, it's been a week to 10 days since people have been able to have contact with a lot of individuals who desperately need medical care or for diabetes medication. I mean, it is fair to use the word catastrophic.

Thank you both so very much. I appreciate both of you.

And next, the Russian journalist who burst onto the set of that state- run television network appears in public today. So what made Putin decide not to put her in prison?

Plus, CNN with incredible access tonight. This is an incredible thing. Russian soldiers speaking to CNN. What they're saying tonight about the deadly invasion that, of course, they have been part of. They've been carrying out. They're speaking to us.

And we travel to one Ukrainian town where everyone from electricians to grandmothers are coming together to protect their country.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the way, Nina says if she saw Vladimir Putin, she would strangle him with her own hands.




BURNETT: Breaking her silence, the Russian journalist arrested for this anti-war protests that aired live on Russian state television. Spoke out today on what she endured before being released.


MARINA OVSYANNIKOVA, RUSSIAN JOURNALIST, ANTI-WAR PROTESTER (through interpreter): Those were indeed very difficult days of my life. I literally spent two days with no sleep. The questioning lasted over 14 hours. I wasn't allowed to contact my relatives or friends. I wasn't provided with any legal assistance. So I am in quite a difficult position.


BURNETT: Marina Ovsyannikova, a mother of two children was spared prison time and instead was fined 30,000 rubles which is $273. Now that fine was actually specifically for the message that she recorded before the televised protest where she urged others to follow her lead, so that fine was for this.


OVSYANNIKOVA (through interpreter): Dear Russian people, thinking and smart, and it is only in our power to stop all this madness. Go to the rallies and do not be afraid. They cannot arrest us all.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Ekaterina Kotrikadze, News Director and Anchor at TV Rain, an independent Russian outlet that was shut down by the government when they pass that new law, saying you could go to prison for 15 years for saying that this was a war. TV Rain played Swan Lake as it went off the air to signal to viewers that something was wrong because that's what Russian state TV had done during a failed coup attempt on Gorbachev.

Ekaterina, I'm so glad to have you back. So let me just - because you understand what's happening here, Marina, this television producer, who walked out with that sign and before that she had recorded the video, that's what the fine is for. We don't know what the punishment may be for the sign part of this, it's apparently separate.

But she goes through 14 hours straight of questioning at this point. During that time, she says no contact with families with friends or lawyers. But then she comes out again for the video portion that she recorded with this $273 fine and no prison time, what do you make of that?

EKATERINA KOTRIKADZE, NEWS DIRECTOR & ANCHOR, TV RAIN NEWS CHANNEL, WHICH SAYS IT WAS SHUT DOWN BY RUSSIA: Well, first of all, thank you so much, Erin. It's good to be here. I'm not sure that this is the end of the story of Marina Ovsyannikova, because I think that this is just the first step because I can see that the representatives of Russian government are demanding for some revenge on this person, because she is representing not just a media outlet, she represents the first channel of Russian television and she was on air during the most popular, I would say, news program on Russian television. Millions of viewers all around Russia, 140 million people living here. And a lot of - a big part of this people were watching this newscast.

So I think she did something really wrong for Russian authorities who claim that there is no war in Ukraine, that there's a special military operation. Well, we will see the next steps but I think that it's not the end for her, unfortunately. But she's adorable. I think this is one of the bravest persons that we can see in Russia nowadays. It's unfortunate that I'm not in Russia. She is and she's doing what she's doing. This is amazing.

BURNETT: So that's exactly how it seemed, just her boldness and her bravery and she has two young children. And then Ekaterina, of course, today there were suggestions on social media that she's not a genuine dissenter of Putin's war, that the whole protest may have been planned, because she wasn't given any prison time. And in fact, some of that, conspiracy came from some Ukrainian sources. Okay, so I know you saw all of this, what's your perspective? Do you see that as possible?


KOTRIKADZE: No, I think she's - I mean, she is the real person, definitely, and she is who she is. And I don't believe these rumors about stage fake contest. I mean, this is not truth. The truth is that there was a person working inside of this propaganda machine who decided to say something, because her father is Ukrainian, her mother is Russian and she wanted to declare that it's not right that the war was going on and it's going on. And people are dying in Ukraine and Russia is dying, actually, together with Ukraine. It's not only about Ukraine, it's about both countries. So I think that war is going on for a lot of Ukrainians. I mean, it's

not easy. It's not easy to separate the truth from false. It's not easy to judge the situation. It's understandable. But it's also very important to understand that there are a lot of brave people in Russia, who don't believe that they need to spread lies, who are fed up with the situation.

And I really think that it's important to respect this kind of people and there are a lot of Russians who support her and who support free media, democracy and Ukraine. It's really important (inaudible) ...

BURNETT: Yes. Well, Ekaterina, I appreciate talking to you again. I know it's late and I thank you.

KOTRIKADZE: Thank you, Erin. Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. We'll speak soon.

And next Russian soldiers crying, calling the invasion horrifying and a crime. Tonight, we have incredible access to prisoners of war and you are going to hear more about what they are saying to us about Putin's war.

Plus, a warning tonight that people are trying to enter Ukraine from Syria to fight for Putin?



BURNETT: Russian soldiers crying as they recount phone calls with their families, describing Putin's invasion of the shelling of cities as, quote, crimes committed against the Ukrainian people, suggesting they were deceived about Russia's military operation and saying Putin is trying to deceive the world with his purported reason for invading.

All of it coming from three Russian prisoners of war who spoke to our Sebastian Shukla in a remarkable 30-minute conversation. One of them indicating that Russian troops are widely opposed to the war, telling Seb, quote, I know in my unit, they are totally against it.

Sebastian Shukla is OUTFRONT and he has been covering the war in Ukraine since the lead up to the invasion.

And, of course, for so many years, I know you have spent a incredible amount of time in the country, in the Donbas.

So, Seb, you had this remarkable opportunity now to meet with, to speak with these captured soldiers up close. They were upset by the civilian casualties.

One soldier telling you, and I just want to read this quote of what they said: It was horrifying fact not just because it is a crime. It's vandalism. You cannot forgive such things. To bomb a maternity ward?

The soldier, of course, was referring to that Mariupol maternity ward bombing in which multiple people were killed, including a woman and her unborn child.

Seb, tell me more about that conversation.

SEBASTIAN SHUKLA, CNN FIELD PRODUCER: Well, Erin, I was able to speak to them one-on-one in a -- after a press conference on Friday in Kyiv. And I can honestly say they sounded remorseful to me. They sounded regretful for what had happened.

But I want to start by saying initially that what the Ukrainians are doing here is incredibly controversial. They are -- they are violating one of the international -- international laws, which is, on human rights, the Geneva Convention, which talks about not making prisoners of war items of public debate. And that is clearly what is happening here, not just from the three I spoke to, but all of the others who have been paraded on Ukrainian television, too.

I want to read you some of the quotes that they told us. It says, you know, we don't see any Nazis or fascists. I think it was invented as a pretext. It is something the world cannot understand.

But Putin and his circle need this in order to achieve their own objectives, but now cities of peaceful civilians are being destroyed. Even I don't know what can justify the tears of a child, or even worse, the deaths of innocent people and children.

And, you know, I think it's abundantly clear, just from that one quote, that this isn't a war their hearts are invested in. And it seems to be very, very clear that this is President Putin's war, not theirs.

BURNETT: I mean it is pretty stunning, right, when you just think about the entire structure of the largest militaries on this planet, right? It all relies on soldiers doing what they are told.

I know one of the POWs talked about their Ukrainian captors. And as you point out, even talking to them, I understand it's controversial, that is why we are showing their faces and you're putting quotes and choosing not to show the video.

But they told you: The treatment has been unacceptable. They've offered us food and drink. They offered medical treatment.

Did the soldiers, Seb, give you any impressions that they were speaking under duress?

SHUKLA: I didn't get that feeling. I mean, look, let's be honest, there were Ukrainian security and intelligence officials and officers in the room. They were wearing balaclavas. They had AK-47s. They were loaded.

But there was nothing to suggest that what they were saying was scripted in any way. I found what they have to say to be genuinely very compelling. Lots of what was said came from who would be the ranking officer in the room.

And, you know, they spoke candidly about wanting to be able to go home and wanting to go and see their families. But also about the uncertainty about what is going to happen to them, you know?

And one of the things they said to us is, our faith is in the hands of the armed forces of Ukraine.


Of course, we want to see our families and loved ones and to meet them, and hug them, because they are worried, and the crimes that we committed, we will all be judged the same.

And, Erin, on the topic of being judged for crimes, that was very -- one very disturbing piece of information that he told us, was that the bombs that the Russians are dropping across Ukraine are not guided, they are not ballistic, they are not precision guided in any way. They are World War II bombs that have been updated and upgraded, and they are dropped indiscriminately so that when -- when they land, when they land, the damage is extensive.

And I think it's very, very clear that the world is judging them now. And that President Putin, and this war that he's calling a special military operation is going to reflect on them very, very badly.

BURNETT: Yeah. Seb, thank you very much.

Well, certainly, the 100 -- 150,000 plus soldiers that he already has on the ground, they're all seeing it because they're doing it. That's a lot of -- that's a lot of Russian eyes.

So thank you so much to Seb Shukla. An incredible opportunity to talk to those -- to those POWs, and you heard how he felt that they were genuine in what they said, despite the controversial nature of the conversations.

Andrei Soldatov joins me now. He's a Russian investigative journalist and the editor of, which is a watchdog of the Russian Secret Services activities. And he's also a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Andre, thank you very much for being with me, and I have been reading your work and following it. I'm so happy to have you want tonight.

So when you hear our Sebastian Shukla. You know, he's in the room. He talked to those POWs. Yes, there are Ukrainians in the room, yes, it's controversial. So, we've made all that very clear.

But from his conversations, he said they were clearly upset by the civilian casualties. One of them telling him, quote, you cannot forgive such things.

And another saying, what can justify the tears of a child, or even worse, the deaths of innocent people and children?

So, Andrei, how do you think Putin views these words, these POWs who are speaking? And no doubt, many others who are not speaking, who are also seeing these atrocities that they're committing? ANDREI SOLDATOV, RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, it looks

like Vladimir Putin still has a picture of what is going on in Ukraine. And this picture is very far from reality. And we already have some indications that, actually, even the intelligence he was briefed about the situation in Ukraine before the invasion and now, it's very far from what is really going on in Ukraine.

He's getting upset with that, and we've got some news about at least two level FSB generals being interrogated and placed under house arrest. But it looks like he still has these strong opinions about what is going on in Ukraine and he sticks to his opinions.

BURNETT: So, Andrei, of course, I know you've done so much reporting on this. We obviously haven't confirmed that about the FSB agents, but I want to ask you about that. With what we're seeing in terms of military performance there, what are you hearing right now about how Putin views his top intelligence agents, and other top officials, in his -- you know, such that it is, inner circle?

SOLDATOV: Well, it looks like now he is getting that, that the intelligence he was given by the FSB was not absolutely accurate.

But it's not only about intelligence. This department of the FSB, which was hit by this arrest, is also responsible for conducting political warfare operations, mostly cultivating agents underground and cultivating political opposition to Zelenskyy. And the idea was to have some people on the ground ready for the Russians, to help them get into Ukraine. That never happened. And it looks like now Putin is getting upset.

But the problem is that you cannot solve your problem with bad intelligence by arresting people. They are getting more afraid of you. That's it. And they will try to guess what you have in your mind. And again, the problem is that Putin re-has really strong opinions about Ukraine.

BURNETT: Yes. All right, Andrei, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

And next, we're going to take you back live to Ukraine where the resistance to Putin's forces, which we saw even before the war started, it was clear it would be there, it's still now as strong as ever.

And China fighting back against the United States' warning to stop helping Russia.



BURNETT: Tonight, the Pentagon reporting that people are trying to enter Ukraine from Syria to fight for Russia, as Putin has basically called for. It comes as Ukrainians across the country are bracing for a fierce ground war with Russian troops, with everyone from farmers to grandmothers doing what they can to protect their homeland, . Ivan Watson is OUTFRONT in Vinnytsia, Ukraine.

And, Ivan, you have met some of these individuals, no matter their age or stage in life, willing to do whatever it takes. What do they tell you?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I think the groundwork has not come to the city at. But everybody here knows somebody who's either fighting the Russian army, or who has been made homeless by them or hurt or killed by them at this point. And everybody here is talking about the war, and getting ready for the possible worst-case scenario that the groundwork comes to their doorsteps.


WATSON (voice-over): Dawn breaks over the city of Vinnytsia with an air raid siren. The ground war has yet to reach the city in central Ukraine, but locals aren't taking any chances.

This is the entrance to the outskirts of the city, a checkpoint protected by volunteers, an ex-cop, a fireman and an electrician.

Look at how this village is protecting itself. Homemade tank traps, which the locals call hedgehog.


They've sewn netting and put up sand bags. And around the wall here of this checkpoint, they've got boxes of Molotov cocktails ready. This all locally made, these are improvised defenses. And this is just one Ukrainian village.

Just down the road, I met a Nina Chataluuk, who seems like a sweet 71- year-old grandmother.

By the way, Nina says that if she saw Vladimir Putin, she would strangle him with her own hands right now.

I'm ready, she says. If by God, the Russians come here, I'll shoot them all and my hands won't even shake. I'll throw grenades at them.

There is seething anger here at Moscow's invasion, and at the same time, examples of tremendous generosity. Stacked inside a garage, humanitarian assistance trucked in from Europe. Personal donations of clothes and food for the struggling people of Ukraine, aid that will then be shipped off to frontline cities.

VLADYSLAV KRYVESHKO, DISTRICT HEAD OF VINNYTSIA CITY TERRITORIAL COMMUNITY: I want to say thank you for the rest of the world -- for the world. I want to say that we need help. We need and we will need help.

WATSON: Is Vinnytsia ready if the Russian military comes to the city?

KRYVESHKO: Yeah. And other cities, you ask the time. We have two weeks to make good defense. Today we're ready, but we don't want this.

WATSON: The war effort extends to Vassily Solskiy and his farm where workers labor, listening to news of the war. Vassily donates of free food to self defense forces.

Vassily Dimitrovich (ph) says he's doing his part to help with the war effort. He says he's planting more crops and he's going to try to grow more food to feed Ukrainians who may be in need in the weeks and months ahead.

One of Vladimir Putin's stated objectives for his war on Ukraine was to demilitarize the country. Instead, he has mobilized farmers, grandmothers, and electricians to form a grassroots resistance against the Russian invasion.


WATSON (on camera): So the city is playing an important role, local officials say. It's a place, for example, where wounded Ukrainian soldiers can come to get treatment, to get better before going back to the front. You constantly see displaced Ukrainians coming through here taking shelter as they then move on further west into the country.

And local officials say that they play an important role. Their economy has to continue functioning because that is how they will continue being able to fund the Ukrainian military that is fighting and dying to protect this country -- Erin.

BURNETT: Iran, thank you very much.

And next, the breaking news, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tonight calling out China for not condemning Putin's invasion.

Plus, the war in Ukraine tonight taking the lives of two more journalists.



BURNETT: The U.S. secretary of state warning China again not to provide support to Russian President Vladimir Putin.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: Without going into specifics of what we'll do, we made very clear that that's not something that we're going to take sitting down.


BURNETT: That rebuke comes as China has repeatedly refused to condemn Russia's attack on Ukraine, going so far as to refused to call it what it is, a war.

David Culver is OUTRONT tonight with this report from Shanghai. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Beijing fighting back against the U.S. mornings not to help Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Today, a foreign ministry spokesperson strongly urging the United States not to undermine China's legitimate rights and interests when dealing with U.S.-Russia relations, adding, China and Russia will continue to conduct normal economic trade cooperation.

But might that cooperation soon include military support?

JUDE BLANCHETTE, FREEMAN CHAIR IN CHINA STUDIES, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Beijing would think of this as a tightrope walk, but I think from the perspective of most external observers, they see Beijing as really being an active support for Moscow.

CULVER: While both Beijing and the Kremlin tonight that Russia made a request for a, sources say Russia has asked China for drones and prepackaged military food kits, or MREs. In a seven-hour meeting Monday in Rome, China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi told U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan that China wants peace and could serve as a mediator, adding that Beijing is also providing emergency humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

ZHANG XIN, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR RUSSIAN STUDIES, EAST CHINA NORMAL UNIVERSITY: The Chinese government are juggling between several different goals, and trying to be friends with all parties involved.

CULVER: China is already Russia's biggest trading partner, and likely the only superpower that could help slow Russia's economic freefall. About three weeks before the invasion, President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin announced an energy deal totaling about $100 billion, including construction of a new gas pipeline. Beijing also agreed to purchase 100 million tons of oil from Russia over the next ten years.

Then, there's agriculture. The same week the West launched severe economic sanctions on Russia, Beijing announced details of a new wheat deal, expanding imports from all regions of Russia. It adds to what was already massive surge in Russia-China trade.

Chinese state media says in 2021, trade between the two jumped $150 billion over the previous year, and includes Russian seed oil, barley and beef.


Every dollar counts when you're losing customers as quickly as Russia.

And as the West cuts Russian banks out of the dollar-denominated SWIFT system, Russia could look to settle its trade debts with China using Chinese currency instead. Though some analysts believe all of China's potential economic relief efforts still won't be enough to back fill a massive void in Russia left by Western nations.

And with China's rushing trade volume dwarfed by Beijing's deal with the E.U. and U.S., the economic risks might be too great for China.

BLANCHETTE: It is doing deep significant harm to China's interests, to attach itself to the earning and sinking ship that is Vladimir Putin. China has backed the wrong horse.

CULVER: But with the stated willingness to mediate the crisis, China appears to still be straddling how it best keeps its economic ties to the West without abandoning its ideological allegiance to a fellow autocracy.


CULVER (on camera): And, Erin, currently, China is in a pretty good spot. They are able to keep their lucrative trade with the West and potentially get Russian exports for a bargain. But especially as we're dealing with another round of COVID lockdowns here, really harsh measures crushing businesses, you've got to wonder if President Xi is willing to further sacrifice economic stability here, which could mean social stability, all for this ideological push to unite against the West -- Erin.

BURNETT: It is a decision he did not expect to have to make at this point. And yet here he is.

David, thank you very much. Fantastic report there, which is no angle of this is more important.

And OUTFRONT next, Fox News journalist and Ukrainian fixer working for the network both have been killed while covering the war in Ukraine.


BURNETT: Tonight, the war on Ukraine, tonight taking the lives of two more journalists. Fox News reporting that veteran photojournalist Pierre Zakrzewski was killed. The vehicle he was in with correspondent with Benjamin Hall came under fire. A 24-year-old Ukrainian journalist, Oleksandra Kuvshynova, who was working for the network, was also killed in the attack. The network says Hall remains hospitalized, with very serious injuries.

It's tragic news and it underscores the danger of covering this conflict. This past weekend, award winning journalist American Brent Renaud was killed by Russian forces outside Kyiv, in Irpin.

"AC360" starts now.