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Erin Burnett Outfront

Ukraine Rejects Russia's Demand To Surrender Mariupol; Deadly Explosions, Anti-Aircraft Fire Reported In Kyiv; Ukrainian Forces Capture & Repair Destroyed Russian Vehicles; WH: Biden Has "No Plans" To Visit Ukraine During Trip To Europe. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired March 20, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Next, breaking news on this special edition of OUTFRONT, Russia demanding the besieged city of Mariupol, surrender that 11 o'clock Eastern, two hours from now. Ukrainian officials say, no way. This is massive anti-aircraft fire erupts tonight over the capital city of Kyiv. Plus the Russian shut down his website devoted to covering the government's secret service activities.

And he's speaking out tonight right here OUTFRONT. And the U.S. Defense Secretary warns Putin against using chemical weapons. The U.S. says Putin has used them before repeatedly of course in Syria, will he do it now? Let's go OUTFRONT. And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, a special edition, we begin with breaking news. Ukraine refusing to meet Russia's demands to surrender the city of Mariupol, the deadline was scheduled for less than two hours from now.

But Ukraine's deputy prime minister saying moments ago, and I quote her, there can be no discussion of any surrender or of putting down arms. We have already informed the Russian side about it.

Instead of wasting your time to write an eight-page letter, open the corridor. That's referring to humanitarian quarters and apparently an eight-page letter that the Russians had given the Ukrainians demanding this surrender, which is not happening. The formal rejection there according to the deputy prime minister. It comes as Mariupol is in near ruins tonight. It has seen some of the worst damage, destruction, and death so far in this war.

Today, Ukrainian officials say Russia bombed an art school that was being used as a shelter. They are still struggling to figure out how many people were sheltering there. An early estimate from the city had said 400 people may have been outside. And I want to show you the map because you see the art school, right? Well, it's just as you can see a really across the way from the theater that was bombed ago, a few days ago. And you may remember us talking so much about this, up to 1,300 people were sheltering underneath that.

Only 130 are known to have survived, hundreds more still missing in the rubble. It's been days. You can see what's happening here, this horrific civilian death toll. This was bombed by Russia and it was bombed despite having the word children written on the ground outside the building. We have no idea how many children were sheltering underneath that building in that bomb shelter, but obviously they were there.

And despite these horrific losses for Ukrainian civilians, Russian military forces expanding experiencing losses as well, two senior Russian officials saying tonight but a deputy commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet was killed during the fight from Mariupol. Now, it is a rare admission by Russia of a significant loss for its military.

Also breaking right now north in the capital of Kyiv, the mayor saying at least one person is dead following explosions there. Several explosions were heard by our team on the ground tonight. Coming as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy tells CNN he needs to speak directly with Putin now, or the worst is yet to come.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE: I'm ready for negotiations with him. If these attempts fail, that would mean that this is a Third World War.


BURNETT: We have reporters on the ground tonight across Ukraine. I want to start with Nick Paton Walsh in Mykolaiv. And Nick, what is the latest on the ground tonight where you are?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: A chilling, Erin, to think what possibly left Russia could throw at Mariupol is that deadline to surrender passes in the hours ahead given they've already besieged and bombarded the town for days. For the west here though on the Black Sea coast near at Mykolaiv, we have seen some degree of Ukrainian success pushing the Russian forces away from this town. You would normally expect to see blasts on the skyline frankly here. We have heard some of the distance.

But there's a greater sense of relief here because Ukraine has pushed Russian forces back towards the town of Kherson, the first city that Russia took. We spent three days around the frontlines as they have been pushing in that direction. And I should warn you our report does towards its end contain some distressing images.


WALSH (voice-over): This is what the slow route of Russia in southern Ukraine looks like. Kyiv's forces are pushing close to Kherson, the first city the Kremlin took.

(on camera): Here, so many people being evacuated day by day, and the area quite, in contrast to these impacts we see all around in the fields, just constant barrage over the past days.

(voice-over): The bus is the last way out of here, going from door to what is left of every door. The village of Posad-Pokrovske has been Ukraine's last position for days. And so this is what Russia left of it. The noise is the village gas main leaking furiously. Putin's war of annihilation was sure not to overlook this school, its front torn off by a missile.


It is hard to imagine life returning here even when the shelling stops, which just now, it does not. We run down for cover. The Marines here are mobile, pushing forwards where they can, Khersan's nearby airport their prize.


WALSH (on camera): The only way to the airport.

SALEM: To kill the --

WALSH (voice-over): Daniyel is a former Lebanese soldier working in T.V., married to a Ukrainian.

SALEM: Two weeks ago this place had life, and now nothing.

WALSH (voice-over): The bus has filled with anyone left who wants to leave, anyone who can move themselves. We are asked to take those who cannot. And who remember the last time war came to Europe. As we leave, shelling hits the village, it has become a deathbed riddled with cluster munition mind, this man said.

VITALI: (Speaking of Foreign Language).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking of Foreign Language).

WALSH (voice-over): Over days, the road out there has been fought over. Its pockmarked concrete lined with these tiny peaceful worlds ripped open. This woman was in Poland when Russians took her hometown, Kherson, where her children are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking of Foreign Language).

WALSH (voice-over): Nickoli (ph) can't really hear the blast at his age but sent his wife to live with his daughter in the city. He has stayed protect whatever they have left. Shelling hits the road out again. And we drive past the earth Putin shells have happily scorched as his army slowly loses.

Whatever ground here it gained, Ukraine's guns pushing them back. But Moscow imposes a cost. These barracks torn in two, reduced to rubble by missile strikes that killed dozens of Ukrainian soldiers some as they slept Friday morning in one of the worst known losses of the war. This trauma unit struggles with some of the 40 injured.

(Speaking of Foreign Language)

WALSH (voice-over): One soldier asking for his friends by name, not all injuries involve blood. This soldier was in bed on the third floor when the blast hit. And he found himself on the second with both legs smashed losing consciousness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking of Foreign Language).

WALSH (voice-over): That night, the Kremlin's blunt force hits another target around Mykolaiv. Moscow may be losing ground here, but does all it can to crush and stifle what it cannot have.


WALSH: And those pictures you're seeing their work from last night. We have heard distant blasts around Mykolaiv tonight. But it is quiet. And there is a feeling in this town that some sense of room to breathe has been created. But that pushed down towards Kherson, it's not easy. It's not going possibly at the pace the Ukrainians wants to see.

And Russia does continue to impose a cost, heavy weapons targeting a warehouse, Russia claim that was a hypersonic missile going to need to see proof of that, but a real feeling here that the bombardment isn't necessarily going to stop even though Ukraine is seeing strategic gains. Erin?


BURNETT: All right thank you very much, Nick, for that report. And now retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, the former commanding general for Europe and the Seventh Army, Jill Dougherty, former CNN Moscow bureau chief, she just returned from Russia to the United States, and Steve Hall, former CIA chief of Russia operations.

Thanks to all for such needed expertise tonight. General Hertling, Russia demanding Mariupol surrender and Ukraine,we hear from the Deputy Foreign Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, I'm sorry, saying no, there will be no surrender. And mentioning that Russia handed over some eight-page document to which their answer is no. What now?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: What we're likely to see in the next couple hours, Erin, is because Mariupol is such a critical objective for the Russian army. It links not only their forces coming in from Crimea to the east, but it also potentially links with a northern approach in an encirclement of the Ukrainian forces in the Donbass coming up to go to Dnipro.

So from a military perspective, Mariupol is a critically important objective for the Russians. What we'll see probably in the next few hours, is women and children attempting to escape this town, this very large and beautiful town as it once was, to get the heck out.

But I believe the men will stay, the territorial fighters, the Ukrainian army forces that were there, and they will continue to offer resistance to the Russian forces, because the Russians have not achieved their objectives in any of the cities they've attempted to occupy are secure.

So it's critically important they have this town, but I think we're still going to see a massive fight. And what we'll also see is Russia continuing to bombard the city with missiles, rockets, and artillery from long distances, because they don't want to go head to head with the Ukrainian forces and their ground maneuver forces.

BURNETT: And we should note, I mean, that theater, that art center, with possibly well over 1,000 people possibly dead are there, the latest numbers that we have, and I know that these aren't numbers that are sure, but according to the U.N. and others, they're more than 300,000 civilians are still in Mariupol. I mean, just so people understand the scale of human life we're talking about.

See if one thing we learned when the Russian -- when the Ukrainian said no to the Russian demand of a full surrender Mariupol tonight, was it the Russians have given over an eight-page letter in which they laid out the who knows what all of their demands. Why did Russia make this demand in this way now?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think it's fair to say that it's not because they're considering not attacking Mariupol or anything like that. I think the real indication here and something that caught my attention when the Russians wrote this letter and offered the opportunity for non-combatants to leave Mariupol was that I think it shows that there's impact that the West is having when they're talking about things like war crimes, when they're talking about things like hitting civilian targets, the Russians are perhaps becoming sensitive this -- to this, and they're addressing it by simply saying, OK, look, we're trying to do the right thing. We're trying to get everybody out. We don't want to kill women and children.

Of course, it's all propaganda, they do not care. We have seen that substantially in the past for leveling of civilian targets. But the idea that we would be talking about it here in the West, and we would say, oh, look, the Russians are doing this are exactly what the Russian, the Russians want us to think. Yes, we're, you know, they're trying to avoid civilian deaths, which they're not. So it's all propaganda in my view.

BURNETT: Right, right. Well, I mean, again, to make your point, they're saying, OK, we won't kill your 300,000 plus people or, you know, as many of them as we happen to hit, if you just completely and utterly surrender and give up your city to us. I mean, it's absurd on the face of it just to consider it. Jill, how though, will Putin perceive this very blunt and clear and short response from Ukraine on Mariupol, no, there will be no laying down weapons.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR & FORMER MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: I think is going to infuriate him. He's already at that point. You can see it in every public appearance that he has had, ever since Wednesday. The rhetoric has increased, the vehemence with which he's speaking. I think that he wants to punish Ukraine at this point, because he's not getting the objectives that he had that he in the beginning.

And it doesn't appear to me that he has any, let's say reverse gear. You know, there's no way that he's going to pull out and look like he's lost. His plan isn't working. So he's in the middle and then plowing forward with I think what both of our other guests are talking about which is, you know, just leveling as much as he can, Mariupol, and maybe, you know, the entire country. BURNETT: General Hertling I want to play with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said today when asked about the utter destruction in Mariupol. Here he is.



LLOYD AUSTIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We've seen deliberate targeting of cities and towns and civilians throughout in the last several weeks. And, again, I believe that he's taking these kinds of steps because as was described earlier, his campaign has stalled.


BURNETT: Stalled General at great cost, right? I mean, we're hearing, you know, at the commander's level, the general level, and just an seemingly unprecedented amount of death among Russian forces. Why, why are the casualties so high, General, among the Russians?

HERTLING: Yes, we talked about this a couple of weeks ago when this fight first started, Erin. This is high intensity conventional warfare. This is not an insurgency where a squad goes out among the people and one person gets hit with an IED or a truck sometimes gets blown up. These are tanks, trucks, armored personnel carrier, artillery firing barrages not just one or two rounds. And so when you engage as Ukrainian forces have with infantry, when you engage a tank, you're killing an entire crew.

You know, Russian tanks have three person crews, they're burning up inside. This is -- these are horrific injuries. Most of the bodies aren't found because of the goriness of the fight. When you're hitting a truck, you're going to get at least three people inside that truck.

An artillery crew has five to eight people firing their guns. So every time you actually hit a target, and the Ukraine's through their infantry and their small unit active defense are hitting a lot of vehicles estimates say over 500 Russian tanks have now been destroyed or captured. That's a lot of people, three people in each tank, and they're all dying, unfortunately, very gory deaths.

So what you're seeing is high intensity, lethal conventional warfare with weapon systems when they hit, they're very deadly. So that's why we're seeing these kinds of casualties. And the Russians are doing the same thing to the Ukrainian population when they're hitting these buildings, barrages of artilleries and rockets from a faraway distance, which is incredible.

BURNETT: And so, Steve, to this point, you know, the Russians obviously didn't expect this, right? You know, they expected that you can enter sort of take Kyiv within 24 to 72 hours of the initial invasion, right. That was what they thought.

And yet now we're starting to hear from sort of regional Russian media, about generals dying, not from the central Moscow media, but regional media, right? And two senior Russian officials talked about the death of a deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet, I'm sorry. Why are they now suddenly starting to announce these senior level deaths again, of which there have been more than anybody could really imagine at that level?

HALL: Yes, somewhere, Erin, between three to five generals depending on whose side you believe. You know, the Russians have a bit of a propaganda issue right now because of course, if you watch Russian state media, which is clamped down even tighter now that they've essentially evicted all the other sources for foreign media, if you watch Russian media, and Jill is probably seen this when she was there, you know, it's a completely different story than what we're seeing here. It's a very curated story for most Russians.

You know, things are going well, they will say occasionally that, OK, we lost, you know, some people or we lost a commander, but that's because you've got a growing reality on the ground in Russia, as young Russian soldiers come back in body bags.

Or even if that doesn't happen, as families start to wonder, where's my son, I've heard that he's killed, his one of his friends called me and said he was killed. Word starts to get out amongst families in Moscow and in other cities in Russia, that things aren't going as well, despite the fact that there is no media to confirm that.

And this is a horrible fear for the Kremlin. Because although they could control the propaganda in the media, they can't control it when, you know, when their kids don't come back, and they start talking amongst themselves, it's a propaganda problem for Putin.

BURNETT: And Jill on that front, you know, you have from the Moscow central media, you know, conversations where their military experts are talking about using an ever increasing escalating level of force, those thermobaric weapons that we haven't yet seen, use for example, and other escalations. Is that a precursor to what you think the Kremlin is looking to do?

DOUGHERTY: I think they're going to use everything that they can. And if the, you know, let's call them conventional weapons, don't do it, then they're going to escalate to I think, you know, stronger and stronger weapons. But I'll tell you that, you know, there's another side to this, which is domestically, the economy is in free fall. And I have been seeing on social media, Russian social media, lines of people in -- there was one city in particular, and they are lining up for sugar.

So coincidentally, today on Russian T.V., there was reports Central State T.V., saying, well, here we are in the, you know, warehouse where they have all the sugar and don't worry there's plenty of sugar, you know. The message was, please don't panic, don't do panic buying, but that is happening.

So Russians, average Russians, not the oligarchs, they're nevermind, but average Russians are now beginning to feel the war come home to them. You know, as Steve was saying the dead soldiers and the boys, but also economically it's beginning to really affect them.


BURNETT: All right, thank you all so very much. And I'd encourage people to look at, you know, obviously can't verify all those lines but those sugar lines there's something so poignant about that that it sugar that that's what we're seeing those four and so many of them older people in Russia lining up for that.

Thank you all very much. And next, just ahead of Russia's fast approaching deadline from Mariupol to surrender. My next guest is desperately trying to reach his mother and his sister, both of whom are in Mariupol, plus new video of the brutality being inflicted by Russia and defenseless war protesters. And what should Biden do when he's in Europe? Should he go near Ukraine? I'll ask the former U.S. Ambassador William Taylor is OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: Ukraine tonight is refusing to surrender, the besieged city of Mariupol, despite Russia's deadline which is quickly approaching here. We are literally counting down to that formal expiration here. Ukrainian official calling what Russian has done to the city quote a chapter from World War II. The Greek Consul General who is the last E.U. diplomat to evacuate Mariupol, put it this way.


MANOLIS ANDROULAKIS, GREEK CONSUL GENERAL IN MARIUPOL (through translator): What I saw, I hope no one will ever see. Mariupol will become part of a list of cities that were completely destroyed by war.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Maksym Yali. His mother and sister are currently trapped in Mariupol. And Maksym, I'm so sorry I'm truly no one watching can truly understand the stress and fear that you feel and there's been no communications there. What's the last you heard from your mother and sister?


MAKSYM YALI, KYIV RESIDENT, HAS FAMILY STUCK IN MARIUPOL: Well, actually last I heard from them about three weeks ago, when there was still connection during the first days of war. Then at one, they destroyed everything, electricity, gas, water, supply, everything and no connection, no internet. So then, a week after that, my niece's husband managed to call me, there was just one place where he could reach and call. And he told me that they were alive.

But that time, it was about two weeks ago. It was situation was much better. And after that, it was constant shelling. And I had no news. So I didn't talk to my mother for three weeks. And then about three days ago, a friend of mine managed to call me from Morocco, and they asked him to check out them and to take mother because he lived close to that place. But he said, sorry, I can't because there are no roads. I need to evacuate my wife, my children, and the district is destroyed completely. They wiped off the city. Even four, three days ago, 80 percent of all buildings were destroyed. There is nothing already. No, my school, no district, nothing, absolutely. And people there are still more than 350 people are hiding in the basements. When he told me the story, how they live there.

I was just shocked and couldn't stop but crying because they were sitting in the basement. There is no food, no water. A week ago, or 10 days ago, they were eating snow, melted snow. Now there isn't and there are no food resources, reserves, I mean. And Russians don't pledge a humanitarian convoy for many times already, five times.

They promised but they don't let it come to the city. And people are starving there. That's the problem. They're dying. They drink water from puddles already. They drink water from small rivers, there are only two of them. In the city, there are no lakes, nothing. And just when I was told that shocking story, I was just couldn't -- but to burst into tears. They are sitting without lights, without anything inside the basements because they have to go out to prepare some food and open fire.

But the Russians keep shelling and kill more of them. So it's a very big risk. And you can imagine people, their psychological state, state, their feeding inside the basement for two weeks without light, without electricity, without food. They eat for example, spaghetti raw, you know, they have already.


YALI: But what I'm afraid that the worst is still to come. Because as I told you, most of the people are pensioners, elderly people, women, and they work on metallurgical plants. The average salary was about 3, $400, so they could hardly make both ends meet. So they didn't buy reserves.

Even I asked -- I three weeks ago when the war started when I was begging my mother to evacuate to Kyiv firstly, but then situation was worse in Kyiv during first days. She rejected. Then I asked her to evacuate to the nearest villages. You mentioned here a Greek diplomat, yes, consul that was --


YALI: -- I'm also a Greek origin of this city was set up by Greeks. And I ask, we have relatives nearby, I told you, it would be better anyway. The world just wouldn't be shelled. So she rejected and I asked them at least, I sent the money to sister, to my mother, to my niece to buy some food and it saved their lives because they didn't -- nobody thought that it would be such a catastrophe, a real hell on earth happening because, you know, now they are dead people, corpse are spread all around the city.

Nobody counts how many people have been dead. Official said that it was about 2,500 but it was three four days ago when the police could count at least.

[21:30:08] BURNETT: Yes.

YALI: Now they bury people in the yards, you see, nobody will now tries to pick up these dead bodies or to bury them, because it's dangerous. There is constant shelling and bombing. And I don't know. There is still catastrophe to come. Because you can imagine these dead bodies are decaying, and the dog read (ph) each of them, it will be a catastrophe, humanitarian catastrophe.


YALI: We need, you know, soldiers who are left their -- they don't, they can't shut down bombers, which constantly day by day, regularly, every hour are bombing civilians. And moreover, they are targeting people who are gathering to prepare food as, you know, drama theater, it was a shelter for more than 1,000 women, elderly people and mostly children, they were hiding there. And they dropped a huge bomb three days ago, and there were saying children, three, four weeks later.

And yesterday, they dropped a bomb on School of Arts where they were 400 also women and children. It's a genocide, complete the genocide. And moreover, what I'm afraid of, I hope I can still entertain the hope that my mother is alive, still alive and sister.

The problem is that yesterday I reach of course information, I have sources, they evacuate civilians on that districts, which they occupied to filtration camps. And then to Russia, to the outskirts of Russia, they take their document and order not to leave that places for two year, so it's Nazi. They are Nazi. You know, it's --

BURNETT: Well, Maksym, I appreciate you so much sharing all this and on that that point that you just made about them having some of the civilians go to Russia, we're going to be talking much more about that because I know it is so crucial and not what those civilians have indicated in any way that they want. You know, our thoughts are with you, as you are in this agonizing, agonizing wait to see if your mother and sister are OK. Pray that they will be, and that you will hear good news soon. Thank you so very much, Maksym.

And next Russia's own weapons now being used against them as Ukraine forces show our firepower coming from the U.S. and other countries.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Is it effective, I asked the deputy commander, very effective to shoot tanks.


BURNETT: And a website devoted to Russian secret service activities suddenly shut down today. And I'm going to speak to the man behind the site. Why was he targeted?



BURNETT: Disturbing new video showing Ukrainian protesters being met with force by Russian forces. This is in southwest Ukraine. This video that you're seeing appears to show Russian troops detaining at least two protesters with their hands tied behind their backs, one of the protesters being kicked repeatedly by the forces.

It says Russia announces a deputy commander of its Black Sea Fleet was killed during clashes in southern Ukraine. It's a latest in a series of inexplicably high losses and setbacks for Russia's military all the way through the ranks to the very top. Frederik Pleitgen is OUTFRONT in Kyiv where he just witnessed anti-aircraft explosions over the Capitol. Obviously, I can hear some of that behind you. Fred, tell us what you're hearing and seeing now.

PLEITGEN: Hi there, Erin. Yes, certainly pretty tough night here for the folks in the capital of Ukraine not only were there those bursts of anti-aircraft fire that we heard for a very long time, also anti- aircraft missiles being launched. We saw a sort of illuminated dot go across the air above the city, which may or may not have been a Russian plane that those cans were fighting at, but there was also a massive explosion that hit a mall and killed one person.

And we really do hear sirens here throughout the entire night. However, what's also happening is that the Russians really aren't making very much in the way of territorial gains. The U.S. says, the U.S.'s allies say that the Ukrainians say that as well. And they are being pushed back at times and the Ukrainians are actually able to get some of Russia's equipment and then use that themselves. Here's what we saw.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): Another setback for Vladimir Putin's army, Ukrainian forces say they destroyed this column of Russian vehicles. But believe it or not, some might be used by the Ukrainian army soon. This unit of Ukraine's territorial defense fixes up captured Russian military hardware. Mechanics working day in and day out often using scrap parts to get armored vehicles back on the battlefield.

(on camera): Look at all the stuff that they have here. They have old metal, cables. The guys here tell us that they use everything that they can to make these vehicles fit again and beat Vladimir Putin with his own weapons.

(voice-over): When we visited the group was fixing up several armored personnel carriers and a fuel truck. They also showed us this video of rockets they claim they captured in which they also say had already been fired back at the Russians. While some of the vehicles are captured during battle and the Russian crews killed or captured, often Russian soldiers simply abandon their gear and run away. Yuri Golodov, the deputy commander of this unit tells me.

The Russian soldiers are frightened and demoralized, he says. They are afraid to be separated from each other because they are being shot at from every bush. We call it Safari. Civilian hunters are now hunting for those Russians who fled through the forests. The territorial defense unit also trains new fighters to help defend Ukraine's capital.

And they show us some of the arms they've received from the U.S. and allied nations like this German made Panzerfaust 3 anti-tank weapon. Is it effective, I asked the deputy commander? Very effective to shoot tanks, he says.

Ukraine forces continue to hold off Russian advances in Kyiv and elsewhere. But their own losses are significant as well both military personnel and civilians getting killed by Russian fire. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CNN Fareed Zakaria in an exclusive interview.


ZELENSKYY (through translator): We're losing people on a daily basis, innocent people on the ground. Russian forces have come to exterminate us, to kill us. And we have demonstrated the dignity of our people and our army that we are able to deal a powerful blow. We're able to strike back.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): They strike back with any weapons they can get their hands on, whether those come from allies abroad or from their enemy. These fighters say anything that drives and shoots will be put to use against Vladimir Putin's invading force.


PLEITGEN: And Erin, the Ukrainian military says that these weapons that are captured in the tanks the armored vehicles that are captured really are a very significant source for the Ukrainian military. Of course, there is also a lot of attrition on their side, so anything that they can capture they then turn around and use themselves and it's quite interesting because the U.S. is now also saying that the Russians really because their assault on the capital has halted are using more standoff aerial weapons to target the Ukrainian military of course also hitting a lot of civilians as well, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes, well it's pretty amazing though how significant it is to have those weapons that they're seizing. All right, Fred Pleitgen thank you very much who is literally there in Kyiv listening so as these next minutes come into the, you know, required surrender so the Russians to the Ukrainians, which the Ukrainians have said a formal no to in Mariupol. We, of course, are keeping all eyes on what happens on the ground.

Next, a website on Russia's secret service activities shut down by Russia today. Why? Why now? I'm going to ask the man behind the website. He's spoken to him often and he's back tonight, Andrei Soldatov. Plus, the ultimatum on Mariupol, it's been a flat out rejection thus far from Ukraine. And we are now just moments away.


[21:45:22] BURNETT: A Russian website around for more than two decades, the latest victim of Putin's efforts to censor the truth about his invasion of Ukraine,, it was a watchdog. It is a watchdog of the Russian secret service activities, and it is now just blocked out in Russia. OUTFRONT now Andrei Soldatov.

He is a Russian investigative journalist and founder and editor of And Andrei, I'm glad to be speaking to you tonight. I'm not happy about this development, though. Your website obviously has been around for more than two decades with your investigative work focused on Russian secret services and other activities in Russia. Why do you think they decided to do this and block you now?

ANDREI SOLDATOV, RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Well, I think it's because they've been, for all this years, they've been trying to profile every department, every unit of the FSB, and keep it updated. And they are doing this now. And we just broke this story last week about the build yourself inside of the FSB. And I think that triggered his reaction. So they decided to block our website on Sunday, they didn't want to wait even until Monday.

BURNETT: So tell me what some of the latest is that you know, I know, obviously, there are people with VPN, et cetera, within Russia that can get around that they would have to seek that out. So fewer people can see it but some may be can. But obviously it won't stop your work and it won't stop what you're publishing. And this information is so vitally crucial right now of what you are seeing within those intelligence services.

SOLDATOV: Well, they are reporting what is going on right now, because the role of the FSB is crucial. The intelligence actually was crucial for Putin's decision to go into Ukraine. That is why we reported to Baltic, which has started in the security services. We still think that we can make our information available for the Russians. We use social media, Telegram, Facebook, Twitter. We also have backup plans. We have other domain names we can use if we can be stripped off the domain name .ru. So we have to be still available.

BURNETT: And Andrei, when we hear the setbacks, obviously you talk about some of the purchase in the FSB that you have been reporting on. But also some of the morale challenges that we're seeing among Russian soldiers in the front lines, by the way, they have access to social media that Russians don't because that that has not been shut down in all of Ukraine except for Mariupol where there's no communications. What are you seeing there? Are you seeing any of those soldiers on the front line or any of this breaking through to them?

SOLDATOV: Yes, exactly. It looks like right now, the Russian soldiers, they're using Ukrainian communications. And the breach means that their information is uncensored. And we are trying to understand what is going on because they have big problems with communications. And at the same time, the Russian military trying to create a new narrative, says the National Guard of Russia just announced that they wanted to award 40 soldiers for their bravery.

And well, this is clearly an attempt to build a heroic narrative about what is going on in Ukraine. But I don't think that people want to bet -- on the ground actually buy it.

BURNETT: All right, well, Andrei, I appreciate your time. I always do. I'm really sorry about this development. But obviously, I know that you are doing everything possible to continue to get the word out and get it around, as you say, in telegram and other domains. And we appreciate that and you're sharing it with us. Thank you.

SOLDATOV: Thank you.


BURNETT: More of our special edition of OUTFRONT is next, the CEO of Mariupol defying Russian demands for complete surrender. The Russian deadline is now just about 12 minutes away. So what now? I'll ask the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor.


BURNETT: Breaking news, we are just minutes away from Russia's deadline for the surrender of Mariupol. They said that that would have to happen by the top of the hour. Ukrainian officials have flatly rejected that demand, with the deputy foreign minister saying quote, there can be no discussion of any surrender or of laying down arms. Now it's unclear what the Russians will do once the deadline formally passes. OUTFRONT now William Taylor, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

And Ambassador, you know that that that statement was of course, right, though, can be no discussion of any surrender of putting down arms. We've already informed the Russian side about it. This came out at the top of this hour, instead of wasting your time to write an eight-page letter, open the corridor, referring, of course to humanitarian corridors. So this is a flat out rejection of the Russian demands, which were eight pages. And, you know, you're going to pass this formal, quote unquote deadline in just a few minutes. What do you think the Russians do now?

WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: So they will try to do some things that they've done in other places that is trying to put their own people in, try put a puppet governor in or mayor, trying to take control the city council. And what you see on the part of the people living in Mariupol is a strong resistance.

You see it in Kherson even where they've all -- where the Russians do occupied the city, the people of Kherson they resist, they're in the streets, they civil -- they will not allow this to be happen. They will reject this puppet governor. And so I met and that's the same thing that will happen in Mariupol.

BURNETT: Now the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Ambassador, said that Biden has quote, no plans to visit Ukraine when he travels to Europe on Wednesday, for that NATO Summit. Obviously, you know, we did see some prime ministers from Eastern Europe go three of them last week, and some Ukrainian officials appealed to Biden to do so also as a sign of solidarity. Obviously, it would be incredibly dangerous and raise credible, much,

much more macro risks. So I understand why it doesn't make sense. But they of course, are under a lot of pressure. But do you think it's the right call for Biden to categorically not do that?

TAYLOR: So turns out that I was in Kyiv the last time. I'm serving in Kyiv, the last time a sitting president was in that country. That was when George Bush was there in 2008. And it does mean a lot. It means a whole lot to a nation to a capital to people to have the President of the United States show up. And so of course that that would be a big boost. However, we understand that even now there are more shelling, that you just reported on overnight.


This is probably not the right time to send the President of the United States in there. So there are other things he could. He could go to the border, the Polish border with Ukraine. And we saw Secretary Blinken and his counterpart, the Foreign Minister Kuleba, go into Ukraine. You know, they walked across the border. They had a conference right there. So there are things that President Biden can do to demonstrate support and this trip to Europe is an opportunity.

BURNETT: So Ambassador, obviously, the U.S. and NATO officials have had trouble at this point in deciphering what if any progress is being made in negotiations, right, who's holding them between Ukraine and Russia and, you know, you've got turkey jumping in, Israel jumping in, and Switzerland, maybe jumping in and all of that chaos seemingly.

President Zelenskyy's set of negotiations fail, it could lead to a Third World War. There have been though now many meetings and virtual meetings. And it just seems when you look at some of the terms that, you know, the Russians keep still throwing that word denazification out there, which is, you know, absurd and meaningless on its face. Do these negotiations mean anything when they're still putting that in as a key term?

TAYLOR: No. That kind of talk makes no sense. However, there are some discussions, as you just mentioned, that are not clearly going anywhere until and unless President Putin says so. And President Putin is not going to say so, I imagine, until he realizes that he's losing or at least not winning on the battlefield.

And the economic sanctions are hurting very badly. They get worse. His people, his forces are stalled around Kyiv and in other places. When that happens, then he may take advantage of whatever conversations that have been going on these days. But the denazification and the recognition of Crimea, there's obvious non-starters in there.

BURNETT: Yes. All right, well, Ambassador Taylor, I appreciate your perspective. Thank you so much.

TAYLOR: Thank you Erin.

And next, we are just minutes away from Russia's so-called deadline for the surrender of Mariupol. I'm going to speak to a member of Ukraine's parliament who says they will never give in to Russia's demands.