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Erin Burnett Outfront

"When Your Sky was Black": Zelenskyy Invokes Pear Harbor, 9/11 In Emotional Plea To U.S. For More Weapons; Ukraine: Russian Forces Strike Multiple Civilian Targets: A Pool And Theater Used As Shelter, Even A Bread Line; Ukraine Army Halting Russia's Advance With Anti- Aircraft Weapons Such As U.S.-Made Stingers Against Helicopters; Putin Calls Russians With Western Mentality "Traitors"; Putin Calls Russians With Western Mentality "Traitors"; Zelenskyy Cites Pearl Harbor, 9/11 In Push To U.S. For More Weapons. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 16, 2022 - 19:00   ET


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: His own countrymen might see it as an unacceptable compromise, given how he's framed this whole thing is a battle of good versus evil, Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Brian Todd, excellent report. Thank you very, very much. That's it for me. Thanks for watching.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, President Biden says flat out that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal. So what is the United States prepared to do about that? The Chief Spokesperson for the State Department is OUTFRONT.

Plus, how is Ukraine's military kept Russia from taking over the country and who are the top generals leading that fight. We have a special report for you this hour.

And I'll speak with a man who lost his wife and children in that horrific attack. He found out about their death on Twitter. The image seen around the globe of that innocent family lifeless on the street, what he wants you to know now. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, President Biden accusing Russia's President Vladimir Putin of war crimes for the first time.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Putin a war criminal, sir? Are you ready to call him a war criminal?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, I think he is a war criminal.


BURNETT: Well, those are significant words, because it's something the Biden administration has not said before and they came shortly after the President announced today that he's sending hundreds of millions more dollars in aid to Ukraine. A list which does include defensive items, Stinger anti-aircraft systems, javelins are all on that list and also offensive items including 20 million rounds of small arms, ammunition, and grenade launcher and mortar rounds along with guns, 7,000 of them.

This after President Zelenskyy asked the U.S. to do more today to help Ukraine in a speech via video before the U.S. Congress. Zelenskyy appealing directly to the American people, first in Ukrainian. But then he spoke in English directly to President Biden.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through interpreter): Remember Pearl Harbor, terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you. Just remember it. Remember September the 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories, in battlefields. When innocent people were attacked, attacked from air, yes, just like nobody else expected it, you could not stop it. Our country experiences the same every day. Right now.

As the leader of my national, I'm addressing the President Biden, you are the leader of the national, of your great nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.


BURNETT: And here is some of what Zelenskyy's country experiencing today. In the city of Chernihiv in north of Kyiv, a shell or rocket- killing people they were waiting in line for bread, at least 10 people were killed waiting in line for bread, just standing there. A month ago with a normal life. They were killed today by Russian shelling.

And in the southern city of Mariupol that catastrophe continues. Ukrainian officials say that the public swimming pool that we're showing you was being used as a civilian shelter and it was bombed today by Russia. It was roughly two and a half miles north of another bombing of civilian shelter. A theater where Ukrainian officials say hundreds of civilians were taken refuge also was bombed today by Russia and video shows a fire raging in the ruins.

We have absolutely no idea of casualties here, okay, so it could be horrible. We don't know, no one knows. A new satellite images show the word children's spelled out on the ground in both sides of the theater before the bombing.

Earlier today I spoke with Irina Perederey, she works for the Maricopa City Council.


IRINA PEREDEREY, MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL DEPARTMENT HEAD; FLED MARIUPOL (through interpreter): The city is simply flattened down. It's shelling all the time. Planes fly over the town and throw bombs.

They (inaudible) themselves. You see huge craters because of the bombs and shelling.

I saw with my own eyes how very hungry people were breaking into some food shops.


BURNETT: Hungry people breaking into food shops. There's been no food delivered there, we understand she was saying, since the 24th of February, invasion. Many civilians including Irina fled the utter destruction of Mariupol and headed to Zaporizhzhia for relatives safely.


Of course, Irina only got out yesterday but Zaporizhzhia then was shelled for the first time today and that hit a rail station. Ukrainian officials say five people were injured by Russian fire on humanitarian convoy traveling to Zaporizhzhia as well. And Irina told me that now the fear is permanent.


PEREDEREY (through interpreter): Even when we came close to Zaporizhzhia, the town of Zaporizhzhia, the fear was still there that maybe the shelling who start again, maybe the bombs would start dropping again. The fear is now in our skin, ingrained in our skin.


BURNETT: The fear is ingrained in our skin.

Our reporters are on the ground tonight. I want to begin with Sam Kiley. He is out front again in Kyiv tonight. And Sam, what is the latest where you are?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've had air raid sirens, there've been distant sounds of shelling, we don't know if that's ingoing or outgoing. But there has been here a curfew is you know now coming to an end tomorrow morning, but it's the 36 hours of curfew that had been supposed to be potentially to deal with or to clear the ground as it were to deal with a fear of a Russians thrust from the east on the northeast.

But actually most of the fighting seems to have been concentrated in the west of the city. The really, the local horror has been the nearby town of Chernihiv of to the north, where those 10 people were killed in some kind of missile or artillery strike, others wounded, a queue of people queuing for bread, reminiscent of Syria, Erin, of course, the tactics of Syria where the Russian systematically bombed hospitals and other civilian areas in support of President Assad have been repeated across the country here and clearly expanding now with that attack you're reporting on there in Zaporizhzhia. We were in Zaporizhzhia just last week indeed covering a mass evacuation of people from the railway station and that was before they started to get refugees from other cities. These are just people trying to flee the city, because they're worried that the route out might be broken by attacks on the train stations and attacks on civilian areas in general.

It was very swiftly put back together, the tracks there very badly damaged, but very quickly repaired. And the station is now fully functional again. But it just goes to show the scale of Putin's intent in this country once again, Erin.

BURNETT: Yeah, it's incredible. The scale of his intent and the speed with which they fix those rails though for some reason again that was also incredible what it showed on the Ukrainian side. Sam Kiley, thank you very much.

OUTFRONT now U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price. And Ned, I appreciate your time. I want to start with President Biden today calling Putin a war criminal. He did that for the first time, of course. There is not yet a formal designation from the U.S. State Department though on that front. Are you prepared to make that statement tonight?

NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Well, Erin, you're right. President Biden, as he often does was speaking from the heart. And when you're speaking from the heart, speaking as a human, and you're seeing what we've all seen, these searing images on TV, a Russian strike against a maternity hospital in Mariupol, strikes against residential buildings, against schools, against civilian neighborhoods, it's hard not to walk away with that conclusion.

What we are doing here at the State Department, we are collecting every single piece of information. We're evaluating it, we're documenting it and we're sharing it with our partners. There is a process that's involved in this. There are people here who are working almost around the clock to document, evaluate, share as we all watch what is happening with some horror.

BURNETT: You talk about those searing images, one of them we've all seen and I spoke earlier today with Serhiy Perebyinis, his wife and children were the ones who were killed by Russian fire when they were trying to evacuate Irpin in Ukraine. And I know you saw the photo, the world saw it, his wife and two children lying dead on the road. It was taken by Lynsey Addario of The New York Times.

So I talked to Sergei tonight about his children and his wife and he told me this.


SERHIY PEREBYINIS, WIFE AND 2 CHILDREN KILLED BY RUSSIAN SHELLING WHILE TRYING TO FLEE IRPIN (through interpreter): A saw a photo on Twitter and I recognized my children. I recognized their things and their clothes and I called my friends to say the children are dead. Their bodies are lying on pavement. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Ned, how is that not a war crime?

PRICE: Well, Erin, we have all seen these same images, these shocking images.


And as I said before, as a human, it is hard to walk away from these images, from these videos without coming to that conclusion. There is a formal process here at the Department under international humanitarian law to document war crimes. We're involved in that.

But look, I think you heard from the President the same way many of us feel, what is happening should not be happening. What is happening is needless. It is unprovoked. It is something that must come to an end, at the earliest, earliest possibility. This violence is just unconscionable.

BURNETT: It is unconscionable. So when it does come to an end or when does it come to an end is the real question, I mean, Zelenskyy said today Russia's negotiating position is becoming 'more realistic'. Zelenskyy has very publicly moved to saying NATO membership for Ukraine is pretty much off the table. Do you have any indication that a real meaningful, lasting peace agreement could happen in the near term?

PRICE: Well, Erin, these decisions are going to be up to Ukraine to make in terms of its diplomacy with the Russian Federation, a number of countries are engaged in that diplomacy. We are supporting those efforts. But first and foremost, we're supporting our Ukrainian partners. What we're doing is trying to give Ukraine the strongest hand it can possibly have at the negotiating table and we're doing that in a couple different ways.

We're providing massive amounts of security assistance to our Ukrainian partners, more than a billion dollars in the past week alone has been announced $2 billion, more than $2 billion during the course of this administration. At the same time, we're putting mounting pressure on the Russian Federation. And you look at any metric, any financial or economic metric emanating from Moscow and you see a very grim picture.

The Russian Stock Exchange has been closed for weeks, presumably to prevent capital flight. The ruble is virtually worthless, literally worth less than a penny. Russia's credit rating is at junk. It's on the verge of default. Dozens of countries are fleeing Russia with more every day.

And so both of these things together, what we're providing our Ukrainian partners and the pressure we're inflicting on the Russian Federation, that in turn is strengthening Ukraine's hand.

Now, of course, what we want to see is genuine, good faith diplomacy on the part of the Russian Federation. We've seen a lot of talk so far, we've seen a lot of what we call the pretense of diplomacy. The Russians going through the motions as they continue to bombard Ukraine.

What we want to see, what we need to see is de-escalation, diminution of the violence and genuine diplomacy.

BURNETT: So obviously, when the invasion happened, you were clear the time for talk was over between President Biden and President Putin. Now the Kremlin today did say Putin is open to speaking with President Biden. Is President Biden open to a conversation directly with Putin right now?

PRICE: Well, you may have seen earlier today, the National Security Adviser had conversation with his Russian counterpart. The tenor of that conversation was it was really an opportunity for the National Security Adviser to underscore the profound concerns we have with the Russian conduct with the senseless violence, with this senseless war.

And our concerns, of course, that the Russian Federation may be preparing or planning to use chemical weapons or biological agents. So we do have lines of communication open. We have always said that we are going to do everything we feel is appropriate to bring this war to a close. We have lines of communication with our embassy in Moscow. There are other ways to convey messages if we need to do that, but right now, we have not seen any concrete indication from President Putin that he is serious about diplomacy that he is serious about putting it into the violence and much to the contrary in some instances.

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

PRICE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

BURNETT: OUTFRONT next, what Vladimir Putin didn't expect, well- trained, well-equipped and determined Ukrainian forces. You'll see the generals leading the Ukrainian fight next.

Plus, Putin trashes some of his own people as traitors as dissent grows from a U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch is my guest.

And the man we just told you about who learned about the death of his wife and two children on Twitter, why he doesn't want you to look away from the graphic images of the attack on his family.



BURNETT: New video shows Ukrainian forces knocking out a Russian tank in a military strike. It comes as Russian troops are still 'generally stalled' outside of Kyiv, according to sources and have made no apparent progress around the second largest city of Kharkiv either. That's according to a senior U.S. defense official. All of it the result of the Ukrainian army. Yes, equipped with weapons from the United States, but let's just be honest, exceeding nearly everyone's expectations. So who's leading it? Fred Pleitgen in his OUTFRONT tonight in Ukraine.


FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is how Ukraine's army is halting Russia's advance, using anti- aircraft weapons like the U.S.-made Stinger against low-flying helicopters. Now, answering Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy's plea, the U.S. says longer range anti-aircraft missiles are arriving in Ukraine including the powerful S-300.


ZELENSKYY (through interpreter): You know what kind of defense systems we need, S-300s and other similar systems. You know how much depends on the battlefield on Russia's ability to use aircraft.


PLEITGEN (voice over): After Zelenskyy's impassioned speech to Congress, President Biden announced a massive new security assistance package worth $800 million, including drones, anti-tank weapons and 20 million rounds of ammunition.


BIDEN: It includes 800 anti-aircraft systems to make sure the Ukrainian military can continue to stop the planes and helicopters that have been attacking their people and to defend their Ukrainian airspace.


PLEITGEN (voice over): Despite being drastically outgunned, Ukraine's forces have been putting up a tough fight. The country's ground troops led by Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, a veteran of Ukraine's defense of the Donbas region.

Meanwhile, the Chief Commander of the Armed Forces, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, who's widely credited with reforming Ukraine's military vows to fight the Russians to the last drop of blood.


"I don't have any illusions and don't wait for a gift from God," he says. "I fought and have been preparing my armed forces."

The weapons supplied by the U.S. and its allies are giving them a fighting chance. Ukrainian units blowing up Russian tanks with shoulder-fired missiles like the Javelin supplied by the U.S. or NLAWs, a similar anti-tank weapon made in Britain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're at a crucial point in the battle here where Ukraine is tipping the balance against Russia. Russia is purely in trouble.


PLEITGEN (voice over): Ukrainian troops have fought tooth and nail with Russian tanks on the ground, despite being massively outgunned by Vladimir Putin's army. While the U.S. and NATO still reject the idea of a no-fly zone, the Biden administration has made clear it will continue to arm Kyiv's forces to help as they bog down the Russian military and inflict massive casualties.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And those casualties really are massive, apparently, on the Russian side. Of course, both the U.S. and Ukraine estimating, Erin, that the Russians have already lost thousands of soldiers, hundreds of pieces of equipment as well and that the Ukrainians are actually going on the counter offensive in certain areas.

And I think one sort of information that really stands out in all this, we are now three weeks into this war, and the Russians still have not been able to take a single major city inside Ukraine. Nevertheless, President Zelenskyy, he came out with another new address tonight and he said, of course, for him, the main priority still remains ending the bloodshed. But, of course, Russia has got to get real about negotiations first, Erin.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Fred Pleitgen.

And I want to go now to Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, because he's the former Commanding General of Europe and the 7th Army. And in that capacity, General, you spent a lot of time, we were talking about Yavoriv near Lviv, and you worked with these generals that Fred was just talking about. You know them and they are, obviously, putting up an incredible fight, both strategically and dealing with a much more limited supply of weapons. Tell me what you know about them.

MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, first of all, Erin, I'd like to refute the statement you made at the very beginning of this saying that many were surprised at what Ukraine's forces were doing. There were a few of us that were not surprised at all. We have seen these guys. We have worked with them.

They started a program in the mid - about 2008, where they started to change their army. They had some great commanders on the scene. They knew they were plagued by several things. They had a corrupt general officer corps. They had very poor leaders and they had poorly trained conscript soldiers, much like the Russian army does now.

So they had some visionaries within the Ukrainian force that said we need to change that. The guy I worked with between 2011 and 2012 Colonel General Michail Vorobyov (ph) said, hey, I've got to get rid of my corrupt general. I've got to bring in some new training. I've got to professionalize my force. And he basically asked me in 2011, could you help us do that.

So from a European Command perspective, a U.S. Army Europe perspective and especially interesting, the Special Operations Command Europe perspective under a guy named General Mike Repass, all of us kind of pitched in to start training from the colonel level, all the way down to a new NCO corps.

And I'm going to throw a shout out to a sergeant major that we had in the force, Sgt. Maj. Dave Davenport (ph), who really taught Ukrainian sergeants, a warrant officer ...


HERTLING: --into building a professional sergeants corps, which I think we're seeing the backbone of any army is the backbone of this Ukrainian army today.

BURNETT: And I'll say and you talk about that and that training, and that you weren't surprised. One thing that in the days leading into the invasion, you had all these men showing up to join territorial defense forces, that they were ready to fight. These defense forces have just been sort of formed at the beginning of the year. They hadn't had a chance to be trained.

Now, I've been talking to some of them still. They are still training, right? Even amidst this. They're still training them. They're not just literally sending them out to fight. But what do you make of that, that even now they still are having these mass - men who are coming in to fight who are not trained, and they seem to be successfully training them in the midst of the war?

HERTLING: Well, any kind of an existential threat to your country tends to motivate you a little bit to ensure that you're trained, especially when you're going against a force like the Russian had on battlefield. But you also got to remember, Erin, a big part of these folks that are coming back and joining the territorial, some of them are untrained, but others of them have been fighting against Russian backed separatists on the western part of their country or, excuse me, the eastern part of their country.


HERTLING: So they do have training.


It's like a National Guard or reserve element that's coming back into the fight during a period of time when everyone is needed.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time, General, and your perspectives. Knowing those individuals, now we're starting to see their faces, the men who are leading this. And next ...

HERTLING: A great bunch of soldiers, Erin.


HERTLING: Thanks for publicizing (ph).

BURNETT: As we are seeing.

And next, can the U.S. and other countries do more to help Ukraine? If so, what? What? What can people do with this feeling of futility? Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, is OUTFRONT.

And his wife and his two children were killed attempting to flee Ukraine. I'm going to speak to this grieving husband and father about what he wants the world to know about his family.



BURNETT: Tonight, Russian President Vladimir Putin slamming his own people saying this about Russians who sympathize with the West.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through interpreter): They will try to bet on the so-called fifth column on traitors, on those who earn their money here, but live over there, live not in the geographical sense, but into the way they think with the mindset of a slave.


These people cannot live without oysters and gender freedom.


BURNETT: And that was just the beginning. Putin continued.

He said in part, quote: Russian people will always be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and simply spit them out like a midge that accidentally flew into their mouths, spit them out on the pavement. I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self purification of society will only strengthen our country.

That was actually in a speech from a president of a country.

Marie Yovanovitch joins me. She was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine under both Presidents Obama and Trump and also served in Russia and entered the Foreign Service during the final year5s of the Cold War. She's also the author of a new book "Lessons From the Edge: A Memoir."

So, Ambassador, I really appreciate your time and your perspective on this.

Obviously, from all of the places you have spent an extraordinary amount of your professional life, you have been studying and observing Putin for decades. You hear him say these things, you know, talk about Russians who don't agree with him as slaves, you can't live without oysters and gender freedom and then talking about spitting them out on the pavement like midges. It's quite bizarre.

What do you make of those comments?

MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Well, it's pretty typical Putin, actually. I mean, he's made comments like that before, but there's a new intensity to it. There's new vitriol to it. And, you know, he has a very evocative way of speaking, kind of crude at times as well, that he seems to want to put out there.

But it's all in line with the repression that we're seeing in -- the increased repression, I should say, that we are seeing in Russia today, whether it is of journalists, people in civil society, demonstrators. It just goes on.

BURNETT: So the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy obviously made that powerful and emotional appeal to Congress today, asking for more to help Ukraine in the fight against Russia and he made it very personal. He was obviously -- to the U.S. Congress, it was very personal to Americans. Here he is.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY, UKRIANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Remember Pearl Harbor. Terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you. Just remember it.

Remember September the 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories in battlefields. You could not stop it. Our country experienced the same every day.

Each city they are marching through, they are taking down Ukrainian flags. Can you imagine someone taking down your Canadian flags in Montreal and other Canadian cities?

I would like to remind you the words that the United Kingdom have already heard which are important again. We will not give up and we will not lose. We will fight until the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost.


BURNETT: Ambassador, that last was a quote from Winston Churchill, you know, to the -- looking there at members of parliament and they were emotional, right? And then it was talking to Canada about, you know, flags being taken down over their cities and then to the U.S. referencing Pearl Harbor and September 11th.

He has made it so deeply personal and so relevant to every country that he speaks to. How effective is it?

YOVANOVITCH: I think it's very effective. I think that Vladimir Putin -- excuse me, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is one of the great communicators of our age and he is not only uniting and inspiring his own people, he is inspiring the world. And you can see it in terms of the assistance that is being provided not only by us on an unprecedented scale but by other Western countries. Publics are being moved by his communication and very evocative messaging as well as by the bravery of the Ukrainian people, as are our politicians. They want to do more.

BURNETT: In your book you write about returning to Moscow after 1993 after part of the Cold War. And you write about how many saw the collapse of the Soviet Union as an existential humiliation and overnight loss of a great empire. And up against the post-1991 uncertainties, the old social contract seemed preferable to many Russians.

In that context, what do you think about what's happening now? These deeply punishing sanctions that could result and -- you don't have a stock market. You have a ruble that's worth a penny. You have an economy that could shrink faster and by a larger amount than any economy has in the history of this planet.


Is the outcome of that going to be good?

YOVANOVITCH: Well, the Russian people are really going to bear the brunt of this. The elites, including Putin, probably will not, but let's see what happens. I mean, we're seeing the -- a journalist on Channel One who put up that placard saying "stop the war".


YOVANOVITCH: We're seeing people demonstrate.

Maybe -- maybe this will be a moment in Russian history, but generally the Russians have not, you know, risen up to protest against their leadership. So, we'll have to -- we'll have to wait and see, but I think the collapse of the Russian economy is going to be a real tragedy for the Russian state and for the Russian people.

BURNETT: Ambassador, I really appreciate your time. Thank you so much.


BURNETT: And next, a husband and a father still coming to grips with something no one can ever come to grips with, the killing of his family by Russian shelling as they tried to leave Ukraine, a killing that he found out about on Twitter.

And Russia's president uniting the people of Ukraine against a common enemy.



BURNETT: The Ukrainian President Zelenskyy says at least 103 children have been killed during Russia's invasion. It's at least because the numbers are so unknown. But at least 103 children will never grow up.

Among them, 18-year-old Mykyta Perebyinis, and his 9-year-old sister Alisa. They were killed along with their mother, Tetiana, in a Russian shelling attack on a bridge in Irpin, a bridge they were trying to cross a bridge to escape the violence and get to safety.

It's a graphic image that the world has seen that was taken by a "New York Times" reporter.

Now, it is difficult but it is important to show this image because this image is how my next guest, Serhiy Perebyinis found out his children were killed by Russian fire. And he wants the world to know what happened. I spoke to Serhiy earlier.


BURNETT: I'm so deeply sorry for your unbearable loss. Have you been able to see Tetiana and your children? Have you been able to bury them?

SERHIY PEREBYINIS, WIFE AND 2 CHILDREN KILLED BY RUSSIAN SHELLING WHILE TRYING TO FLEE IRPIN (through translator): Yes, I've managed to bury everyone. I was driving for three days and I broke in there and managed to bury everyone. I even managed to take away a pet dog from there.

BURNETT: Serhiy, I know you had a chance to speak to Tetiana the night before. It was so brave of her to try to leave. She had waited because she was caring for her own mother. What do you remember from that conversation, your last conversation with her?

PEREBYINIS: Last conversation before her death, that was the day when already there was no water, electricity, gas and we discussed -- I spoke to her at 10:00 p.m. even though at that point there were nothing either. But I managed to get through and we had a discussion about potential evacuation.

At the last moment, however, the convoy she was planning to travel with was shelled and fired at and then she came on foot to the bridge trying to make an escape on foot.

BURNETT: Serhiy, I have seen the pictures of her going to work, you know, smiling, you know, in what her life and your life was like a month ago. Can you tell me about her? I know that you've been together for decades, you know, what we would call high school sweet hearts. Can you just tell us about her so we know sort of the woman behind that smile?

PEREBYINIS: Yes. We have been married for 23 years and in 2012, we even had a second marriage, second wedding because we wanted -- at the church. We wanted to make our marriage lawful in the skies above us.

She was a very cheerful person. She was the financial director of a large American company. We spent lots of time together as family. We laughed, bicycles. In winter, we went skiing.

She loved very much planting flowers, Tara Dacha (ph), a countryside cottage. Basically we loved our weekends to be very, very active.

BURNETT: Serhiy, as a parent, any person around the world can't imagine your unbearable loss, above all losing your children -- can you tell me about them?

PEREBYINIS: I call this the word (ph) online because we used to be in our family, we used to use Google geolocation. We used to see each other with my wife on Google Maps.


And that morning, I noticed that there was unusual geolocation between Kyiv and Irpin and then 20 minutes later, her phone moved to another location, to a hospital in Kyiv and I suspected something was wrong. And I asked friends to come to the hospital and find out whether there were any bad news.

And then Twitter, there was news on Twitter that in Romanika (ph), that there was mortar shelling and that family died, two children, their mother and their father. And then I saw a photo on Twitter and I recognized my children. I recognized their things and their clothes.

And I called my friends to say the children are dead. Their bodies are lying on pavement and I asked them, please could you help me to find my wife.

BURNETT: Serhiy, if anyone watching could learn something about -- about Alisa and Mykyta, who they were, what would you want the world to know about them?

PEREBYINIS: They were normal, cheerful children. My son was -- was older. He was 18 and he was in second year of university. He studied -- wants to become an IT professional, started programming.

And my daughter -- and my daughter was 9 years old, and what she liked, dancing, painting. She studied English.

They were normal, cheerful children. And we have here where I am now four families. All of us resettled from the Donbas area, and this house where I am now is where my wife had to be evacuated. I have here got children and we will not leave Kyiv. We will stay here until the end.

BURNETT: OK. Serhiy, thank you so, so much for speaking with me and for sharing this, such deeply personal loss. Thank you.

PEREBYINIS: Thank you.


BURNETT: Well, next, homes, child care, even teaching kindergarten in Ukrainian. The refugees who are getting out are trying to start new lives and we're going to show you what some of them are doing in Romania.

And a message of hope amid the great loss and destruction, the people of Ukraine are vowing to rebuild.



BURNETT: One and a half million children have been forced to flee Ukraine. It comes to a staggering raid about one child per second in the nearly month since Putin's invasion began.

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT with refugees in Romania.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A stream of Ukraine refugees, old and young, even a dog named Oprah. Some looking for a hot meal, others a place to day for a night or two.

Who are we with here?


MARQUEZ: Svetlana Karpova, her husband and two kids, David (ph) and Maxim, 11 and 2, David has autism.

How do you explain what's happening?

Yes. I explain that there is a war but they don't really understand, she says. It is important for David for both of us to be with him.

The family from Odessa has now found a house here and plan to stay. Their lives up in the air.

I hope there will be no people like Vladimir Putin, then adds in English.

SVETLANA KARPOVA, FLED ODESSA: Putin, two (ph) Hitler, two (ph) Hitler.

MARQUEZ: The city of Brasov, in central Romania's Transylvania region, hosting up to 250 Ukrainian refugees.

FLAVIA BOGHIU, VICE MAYOR OF CITY OF BRASOV: You can see on them, they are being more and more affected about what's going on. We have had stories with people trying to contact their beloved ones for two days in a row and seeing them walk around being worried about what's going on back home.

MARQUEZ: A business center two weeks ago now an oasis of support, a place to sleep, eat, get a change of clothes and there is a play area and childcare, all free of charge.

BOGHIU: Next week, we're having a kindergarten group starting in Ukrainian, with Ukrainian volunteer.

MARQUEZ: Natalia Vataman-Tytarenko is from Mykolaiv, a city under relentless Russian artillery and rocket attacks.

Vladimir Putin united Ukraine with this war she said. Ukraine is now united in its tragedy and pain. Natalia lives in Brasov, with her sister, cousins, half brothers and friends are all back home in Ukraine.

Every morning when there is an attack, we check on our shared chat to see if everyone is okay.


Anna Polischuk arrived here on March 8th with her daughter and their friends. Her husband who was a driver, he is now fighting on behalf of their country.

We're all worried, especially my daughter, she says, but there is no other choice and I'm proud he is defending our country. Ukrainians united, those who come here leave messages like, thank you for the care. All people were nice to us and we never felt hungry, cold or lonely.


MARQUEZ (on camera): That message really struck out to all of us who read it. Look, there is about 450,000 Ukrainians who have come through Romania. Most of them move on to other countries but in places like Brasov, for some reason, about 70 percent of the refugees who come here are planning to stay here. So, now, the town is planning for the short term which they are doing right now, the medium and long term.

Back to you.

BURNETT: Miguel, thank you.

And next, the Red Cross telling me it cannot get into the city of Mariupol where they say fights have broken out over food.


BURNETT: The Red Cross tonight saying the organization cannot even reach the battered city of Mariupol where food is running out, there is no power, there is no heat or water.


THOMAS GLASS, SPOKESPERSON, INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS: Unfortunately, we're not able to get inside Mariupol to bring this humanitarian aid. Unfortunately, this is the sad reality for thousands are still trapped in the city. There is no safe way out.


BURNETT: But for the people of Mariupol, hope is not lost for some. Here again is Irina Perederey who just fled her hometown of Mariupol.


IRINA PEREDEREY, MARIUPOL CITY COUNCIL DEPARTMENT HEAD, FLED CITY(through translator): We're all hoping that the war will end soon and that we all will be able to come back to our houses, to our towns and our houses if they are still there. But if not, we'll rebuild them.


BURNETT: We will rebuild them. We have heard this again and, again, a powerful reminder again tonight of the strength and fortitude and resolve of the people of Ukraine.

Thanks for joining us.

"AC360" starts now.